After Lisa Wilkinson, 54, got laid off from her factory job in December 2019, she knew it would be difficult to replace it. She’s older and lives in rural Tennessee, where work is scarce.
She immediately began her search, but in March 2020, COVID-19 forced employers to shut their doors.
She applied for state and federal pandemic unemployment and received $300 a week plus back pay in June 2020—a lifeline, she said in an interview. Several weeks later, the benefits ran out, and she still couldn’t land a job. Then, in the midst of that, Wilkinson, her 79-year-old husband and her 82-year-old mother contracted COVID-19.
Wilkinson recovered, but her husband and mother did not.
“If you’re not a saver, you lose everything you got. And if you lost a spouse or member in your family—last year, this year—it makes it worse,” Wilkinson said. “You have anxiety, depression … and thoughts of where your next meal is coming from.”