Troy Brewer was working three jobs to support his family before COVID-19. Within two weeks, Troy was laid off from all three jobs. Now unemployed for the first time in 30 years, Troy is struggling to pull together the necessary resources to support himself and his three children.
“Before COVID hit I had three cooking jobs,” Troy said. “It wasn’t that I wanted to, it was out of necessity. After COVID hit, I was completely unemployed. COVID has definitely affected me and my family. It has changed our lives drastically.”
Adding to the stress of being laid off from three jobs in a matter of days, Troy struggled for two and a half months without a paycheck. He spent hours every day calling jammed phone lines and listening to busy signals as he tried to register for unemployment and other resources.
“I had to go on state assistance for food share because I couldn’t provide food for my family. Even just feeding my kids has been difficult during this time. No kid should have to go through that,” Troy said. He was finally able to access unemployment insurance in early July, meaning he will receive the federal government’s additional weekly $600 of assistance for just one month. Even this came at a cost to Troy’s family. “But once the unemployment money came in they cut me off from the food share program. The $600 federal assistance is ending this month and I still have no job, so I’m back to square one.”
Losing the jobs he relied on and enjoyed was a major blow to Troy after decades in food service and hospitality. The threat losing these jobs posed to his family was even more significant.
“I’m praying and hoping that [my jobs] open back up, but I don’t know. I might need to go into manufacturing, working in a factory. I’m gonna have to do something because I need to feed and clothe and provide shelter for my kids.” Troy said of the potential career change. “It would be drastic. You get comfortable and you’re good at what you’re doing. I like what I do, but I’ll do anything to support my family.”
Troy emphasized that disparity around work and wages are not unique to COVID-19, but that the pandemic has spotlighted old inequalities.
“There’s a lot that’s going on and the disparity is mad crazy for different groups of people.” Troy proposed that all workers should be paid a living wage and afforded universal healthcare as a starting point to level economic inequality. “It’s the humane thing to do, but the rich get richer and the poor stay poor. That’s not the way to be. From the 30 years that I’ve been working in hospitality, I say: ‘I’m always bringing something to the table, always putting something on the table. Why won’t they ever let me eat?’”
Before COVID, Troy was working to achieve these realities, participating in the Fight for Fifteen and Unions for All movements. In the present moment of pandemic, Troy says the most important thing to do is to stick together and keep going.
“Stay positive, no matter how things are going and no matter how tough it gets, just stay positive,” Troy said. “There is strength in numbers. If we unify and unite and stand together, we’re gonna make it through. I’ve never seen anything like this in the 50 years that I’ve been living. It’s important to just stay positive and we will get through it.”