Like far too many residents of Floyd County, the Commonwealth of Virginia, Americans, and residents of other nations of the world, I have been underemployed for the past two months.
As a newspaperman who normally spends the latter part of March and the full months of April and May, covering courts and shooting high school athletics for The Floyd Press plus shoot videos for other clients, this would be a busy time.
But during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, I have stayed at home, mostly unemployed, in these times of school shutdowns, court hearings on hold, and events where my video cameras could have earned needed income canceled or postponed.
With income cut by more than 85 %, we have depended on creditors who understand the problems of the times and have worked with us to put off payments. Most creditors. Some still say “pay up or else” and then issue late payment notices to the credit bureaus that drive down FICA scores. Oh well, at age 72, who needs a credit score?
Court has held a few emergency sessions and I have another story or two (including a couple scheduled for this week’s Floyd Press). Big paydays from events like the Old Times Fiddler’s Convention in Galax bit the dust for this year.
As a “contract worker” paid for the jobs themselves and who does not draw a salary, I don’t qualify for regular unemployment and Virginia never figured out how the so-called “gig” program that was supposed to provide assistance for freelancers like me and the small businesses loan programs were applied mostly for keeping a payroll going and a one-person show like mine doesn’t have a regular payroll.
As a “part-time’ retiree, we at least have a small base income of regular benefit payments while too many others have it much worse and need more help. This pandemic and its effects have shown us we need to rebuild reserves and reduce our cost of living.
Eventually, the work will return. Circuit Court, which has been canceled for most Tuesdays over the last two months, resumed Tuesday in Floyd County. Jury trials are still continued, until further notice, and courtrooms are closed to spectators and others who do not have a legitimate reason to attend.
Court resumes with a substitute judge because current sitting judge Marc Long was injured in a fall at his home and most likely will not return to the bench before his mandatory retirement kicks in at the end of June.
It’s a start and gives us a little breathing room that, unfortunately, does not apply to others who remain out of work. While Gov. Ralph Northam is “phasing in” reopening of some businesses and restaurants, customers are showing reluctance to venture out, especially at eateries where only a small number can sit, with “social distancing” consume meals in outdoor dining areas that are few and far between in this area.
Will it get better after another week when “phase II” kicks in? Let’s hope so, for all our sakes, but we also need to remember that this pandemic is far from over and if infections start rising again, we will be back at home full time and not at jobs, producing income to buy food and pay the bills.
In the meantime, my hair continues to grow and needs attention. I needed a haircut when everything closed down but my barber has not reopened her shop yet and I will continue to remain shaggy, underemployed, and out of shape (because the gym is closed too).