I’m a 24-year-old single woman. This is how Congress’ Stimulus bill will (kind of) help me.

COVID-19 literally sucks. Lock downs suck. Everything sucks. But its a good thing our lawmakers are working tirelessly to make this whole thing a little bit easier for us, right? 

Well, it depends on who you’re talking to, and  what you would define as helpful. There are many many American’s that were not able to afford a small emergency on a good day, let alone in a pandemic. It hasn’t exactly been a good day (or month) for anyone; at the time this piece was written, 10 million for unemployment in the two weeks before this piece was written (mind you, we only have 200 million working-age Americans, soooo…that’s not ideal).  

Not right. Well, kind of right?

So try compounding that very comforting piece of news with the complexities of suddenly becoming an orphan or a widow or a vilomah. And, that’s just a piece of what we do know; the unintended consequences of social isolation can be so broad-reaching that one would think you to be a fool or unhinged if you showed no sign of worry.

There is a chance that you could fall into a third, category, however: you could be hopeful. Hope is as old as time, as American as apple pie, and is the foundation of our democracy’s inception. The odds didn’t make a whole lot of sense in the beginning, they don’t make sense now. But, our country has a long track record of defying those sorts of things.True, we sometimes get a bad rap for being stubborn, selfish, and uncritical. But, in times like this, we can have the potential for so much more. 

And so, I couldn’t think of a more apropos topic to inaugurate  The Personal Is Political than to tell my story, or at least a snippet of it, through the lens of policy.

Be sure to subscribe to The Personal is Political. Who knows, you might learn about a policy that is relevant to you, too.

The first wave

As a result of COVID-19, I got laid off.

A lot of people in a lot of different industries are finding themselves laid off for a lot of specific reasons, but here how that happened for me: In mid-February, I signed onto a 12-month contract as a Project Coordinator in the Government Affairs division of a pretty big nonprofit that is known for its work with seniors. My job was pretty simple: to network with the people that had relevant expertise, and to do research, writing, and PowerPoint polishing for the full time staff. That way, the folks at headquarters can help the state offices bring home the bacon with legislative wins on retirement security (i’m sure that’s boring to at least one of you. But it was a party, for me at least). Retirement security stuff has been gaining some buzz in our field, for a little while. So, the nonprofit needed contractors to come help the states capitalize on that support. Stuff with a lot of buzz and attention from bigwigs means a lot more bills moving around, and a lot more contractors to help out. No buzz? No bills, no contractors.

Here’s a little bit of context for you to see how quickly everything went down.  On one Monday in March, we’ve gotten word from the CEO that we would be working from home the that Friday – just to ”test things out.” I  pack my things on Thursday evening, and brought the computer home with me.  on Friday morning around 4 am, I got acall from my contracting agency asking me to call them at my earliest convenience. I thought to myself, “Wow, this is excessive. Its like I’m about to get fired or laid off or whatever.”

So, I called and, well, she told me I got laid off (or whatever). She tells me that a courier would be arranged to bring me my things, and I should not attempt to reach out to my supervisor, my coworkers, or even think about going back to the office. And, just like that, the gig was over less than a month after it even began.

After I got off the phone with the woman from the agency, I honestly went back to bed (hey, I called at like 5 AM). But, don’t worry because I had the privilege of getting up, putting my big girl pants on, and dealing with the weird thing that adults like to call bills. Yes, bills.

Housing.

Currently, I live at home. I had plans to move out in the near future. But, the word “had” is doing a lot of work in that sentence, mind you.

Before the sci-fi armageddon that has been 2020, my mother and stepfather intended to move. There lease was up, and, while we were all in the packing spirit, I figured I’d lease my own apartment in town. But, because of obvious employment issues, any immediate intentions that I had of moving out are fakakta.

I feel I was actually lucky (though luck doesn’t exactly feel accurate here) that  the change in my financial situation occurred a month before I was slated to move, not a month after. If it were the latter and not the former, we’d have a different policy issue on our hands.

A Personal note #1: There is a moratorium on evictions/foreclosures for all homes paid for with federal money, and for everyone that gets their housing through a federal program. 

Literally as this blog post was being written, my states’ governor announced an executive order issuing a moratorium on foreclosures, evictions, and repossessions for both corporate and residential property. The bank that I so happen to use is actually pretty good; Ally is offering home loan forbearance for 120 days with no impact on your credit. But some banks like BB&T, Huntington national, and PNC are doing 90 days, and woe betides the poor fool who is financing their home through Chase or Citi or just a garden variety predatory lender in a state that hasn’t issued this kind of moratorium. Because you are guaranteed absolutely nothing.

Healthcare

The discourse surrounding healthcare reform in this country is, shall we say, loaded right now. And, while you may be surprised to hear this, coming from an avid Rachel Maddow watcher and NPR listener, I am not actually an expert on Health Care reform. But, I am an expert on my own health needs, and I am more than qualified to talk about that. So I shall!

Not to break the fourth wall again, but, I am sitting at my desk currently, trying to find the most accurate and succinct phrase to describe losing your healthcare coverage when you take costly, critical, and regular medication. The phrase I settled on is this: it blows. And, despite how “accessible” ACA plans are now,  there is still a snag for the folks that need it.

Political and Personal Point #2: If you leave your job for any reason – including a layoff – you qualify to enroll in an insurance plan through the Obamacare marketplace.

Thanks, Obama!

So, at the time Iwas laid off, I had about 20 days to find a  healthcare solution (and maybe a new doctor!) before I ran out of medicine. And, I had about 3 options.

 First, I could go into the marketplace and enroll with a new plan, participating plan, so let’s take an honest look at the numbers. Like I said, I personally have a need to see a doctor at least once a month and take medicine every day. Out of pocket, the doctor is $198, and the medicine is $60. In the marketplace, the least expensive plan’s premium was a little over $200. But, having that been said, the deductible would be $7200 before my insurance plan even thought about doing co-payments. So, pretty much for the entirety of the few months in which I would be unemployed and using Obamacare, I would be paying the same price that I would if I didn’t have insurance at all.

As a second option, I could pay $400 for COBRA, but, like, it would still be cheaper to pay my doctor the $198 she asks for and call it a day.

Thank God I’m 24, so I’m still young enough for option 3: hitching a ride on my step-father’s health insurance. But I am well aware that, while this is an option in my life that luckily did not require me to have to find a whole new practitioner to prescribe medication to me, this is not necessarily an option on the table for other folks my age. And, time is definitely running out for my Get Out Of Jail Free Card.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m grateful that we have a marketplace because the alternative would be, well, nothing. Besides, nothing can be very well replaced by something unhelpful – noncompetitve pricing for pharmaceuticals, that cause common medication to be expensive, for example.  That being said, I do believe we can go so much further with something like a public option. But that’s another blog for another day.

Personal Note #3: The $1,200 Economic Impact payment may not apply to me. The same for Unemployment Insurance.

I feel like that Stimulus Check is the elephant in the room. So let’s talk about it.

I, an adult citizen that worked, has paid and filed taxes in the past year, am eligible for the $1,200 check. But I know people in the exact position as me that are not eligible, just because they’re immigrants – taxes be damned. And, if my mother had claimed me as a dependent because I live in her house (and occasionally, eat her oreo cookies) I  her taxes, I would be rendered ineligible.

I thought I’d at least be eligible for the $600 that the CARES act is tacking on to unemployment insurance checks. But, I’m not entirely sure, given I don’t meet the state’s criteria for having worked with my employer for a minimum of 30 days. Generally, I would call and ask, but that has not gone as well in terms of me hearing something other than holding music.

But let me be fair: There are a lot of people who are suddenly looking for a job. 10 million at last count. 20 million, as an estimate for the tallest peak. That means a lot of us are calling the same people asking for the same thing, and spreading the people answering the phone very, very thin. 

Is there a chance that, perhaps, we could use public-private partnerships to manage the sheer volume of UI claims the state is getting? That way, we can manage to be respectful of both the state and the claimant’s time? I don’t mean to sound like Captain Obvious here, but I’m sure you’ve asked yourself, like, at least 18 times: why aren’t there enough people to answer the phone? 

Also, after that long process, what happens if you don’t meet your state’s qualifications?

What happens if I don’t?

The skim

I feel like “uncertain times” is the new “thoughts and prayers.” It’s one of those phrases that we just kind of let fall out of our mouths as a certain nicety, but we don’t really know what we mean when we say it.

But look – a lot of people really aren’t sure what’s going to happen for their lives in the next few months. The next few months of this crisis will define us, but we can define it, too. We can shape it with our thoughts, insofar as we actually  loud mouths, our insistence on the best (and only the best) that our public servants have to offer, a firm learn and think critically about the problems that we’re facing. we can shape it with our mouths, by being vocal about the things that are impacting us, and asking our elected officials to do more. and, we can shape this crisis with our prayers, paired with a dogged commitment to hope for a better country and a better world, tomorrow.

5 thoughts on “I’m a 24-year-old single woman. This is how Congress’ Stimulus bill will (kind of) help me.

  1. Melvin Rucker says:

    This is a great post! Though you say that you’re not an expert, you provided some useful information that a lot of our peers can use. This article is staying in my pocket lol

    Reply
  2. Sara Yenzer says:

    This really shows just how many unique situations there are out there, and it makes me fearful of how many people will fall through the cracks. I am an example of how the student loan provisions in the bill won’t apply to me because I consolidated my federal student loans a few months ago (to get out from under the 5% to 9% interest rate Uncle Sam was charging me.) Fortunately, my current situation allows me to continue to pay. But how many people won’t be able to?
    V, I hope the next wave of relief helps people with circumstances similar to yours, and your situation improves! 💙💛

    Reply

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