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Outbreak Diaries: Americans Waiting For Economic Relief Amid Coronavirus Crisis

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Ten years - 10 years of job growth is over. It took just about a month to end one of the best runs in American economic history and to erase the employment gains made over that time. Checks have begun to arrive from the Treasury to help Americans with their immediate needs - up to $1,200 to keep people afloat.

RJ KAPIAH: We just received our stimulus checks earlier this week. So this is RJ (ph) and Hope Kapiah (ph). We live in Americus, Ga.

HOPE KAPIAH: I honestly didn't think this was a real thing - that we were all getting a stimulus check. I'm using some of mine to go towards a summer course for grad school.

R KAPIAH: I think I'm going to spend it on a concrete pad out back. I really want to try and keep it local as much as possible. Hiring a contractor could potentially pay three or four people for, you know, a few days.

NATASHA SANDERS: My name is Natasha Sanders in North Hollywood, Calif. I received my check this week. I don't know exactly what I'm going to do with it. I'm probably going to just keep it.

CHRISTOPHER GONZALES LACORTE: Christopher Gonzales Lacorte - I have been back to work. Unfortunately, it's only one day a week because the restaurant...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ned (ph)...

GONZALES LACORTE: ...Is only doing to-go orders.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...They're trying to get in touch with you.

GONZALES LACORTE: The other thing is that I did get my stimulus check, the $1,200. Because of how things have been going, all of that money went straight to rent. I've applied for food stamps. I've applied for grants through the restaurant associations of America, all the different organizations that are having different grants to provide for the restaurant and bar workers. So it's just a different world that we're living in.

LOUIS LITELL: I am fortunate that I have a well-paying job. Joanne (ph), however, was laid off just before the lockdown. This is Louis Litell (ph).

JOANNE LITELL: And Joanne Litell. We're from Bloomington, Ill.

L LITELL: Joanne manages an apartment complex that we own.

J LITELL: Yeah, we have eight tenants, and almost all of them are living paycheck to paycheck. And several of them have actually lost their job due to COVID-19. Half of them haven't been able to pay their full rent this month. And right now, they're waiting for their stimulus check to come. And we are trying to work with them the best that we can, but we can only do as much as we can do. And more than likely, the stimulus check that we got is going to cover all of those bills that they weren't able to pay this month so we can stay afloat. But in all, it's not enough.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Those were just a few voice memos from our ongoing Outbreak Diaries project. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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