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Stories from Americans struggling with the pandemic’s economic fallout

The U.S. is experiencing a sudden spike in unemployment not seen since the Great Depression. In about a month, 22 million lost their jobs, with many more cuts yet to come -- and a sense that even these staggering numbers don’t represent the full picture of economic devastation. Here are voices of struggling Americans out of work or forced to cut back their businesses because of the pandemic.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now, this country is experiencing a sudden spike of job loss not seen since the Great Depression of almost a century ago, 22 million lost jobs in about a month, with many more cuts to come, and a sense that these numbers don't fully capture what's really happening.

    We are going to focus on this extensively from a number of angles.

    Let's start by hearing from some who have lost their jobs or have had to shut down most of their business and are struggling.

  • Kamesa Carter:

    I'm Kamesa Carter. I live in Jacksonville, Florida. And before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was a substitute teacher.

  • Josiah Welch:

    My name is Josiah Welch. I live in Longview, Washington.

  • Jennifer White:

    My name is Jennifer. I am here in Las Vegas, Nevada.

  • Austin McMullen:

    My name is Austin McMullen. I'm 31 years old, living out here in Raleigh, North Carolina.

  • Sunyatta Amen:

    I'm Sunyatta Amen of Calabash Tea & Tonic in Washington, D.C.

  • Alana Calhoun:

    I'm Alana Calhoun. I was previously working for an interpreting agency.

  • Josiah Welch:

    I bought some food for myself and for my family, so they can have some food to survive. And, right now, I just — I just don't have nothing in my bank account. I just — not even savings. It's just — it's just been really tough.

  • Sunyatta Amen:

    Between both shops, we're used to serving 400 and upwards people a day. And so to go from that to no people a day was tremendously disheartening.

    You still have rent and you still have lights and you still have bills and you still have staff. It's intense.

  • Jennifer White:

    I was in sales for a major hotel company, and I was living on 100 percent commission. So that is completely pulled out from under me.

  • Kamesa Carter:

    I'm a single parent of two young men. So I just try to hold it together. And I have been talking with a lot of my creditors to make arrangements and to get extensions on a lot of things.

  • Alana Calhoun:

    I have always been, like, the breadwinner. You know, like, I have been the one to support my family. And just it's really hard right now, like, to think about everything.

  • Austin McMullen:

    I ended up getting immediately furloughed the day after I had moved everything in and returned my U-Haul, so I didn't actually technically get to work even one day.

    It was just a devastating knock to the stomach, that it was almost hard to, like, overcome. And I went to not a dark space, but, like, a self-reflecting, like, what in the hell am I going to do, for about a couple days after that phone call.

  • Sunyatta Amen:

    I hang my hat, you know, take a lot of pride in being an employer, and have so for years, and being able to offer health insurance and things like that through our business.

    It's heart-wrenching to have to say to half your staff, look, you guys have to stay home.

  • Jennifer White:

    Approaching your parents basically with your tail tucked between your legs, as an adult, saying, so, is there any way that you could help me through this, is not an easy thing to do.

    If it weren't for my parents assisting me, I wouldn't know that I will be able to have all the ducks in place to make sure I don't lose my home before this is over.

  • Kamesa Carter:

    Right now, I'm fortunate, in the fact that we are not in extreme dire straits right now. I fear that I'm not going to be able to pay our bills, that, eventually, we're going to become homeless. And that scares me.

  • Josiah Welch:

    You expect that, every two weeks or every week, you will get a check coming in, so you can stay afloat.

    But with all this, and people not having jobs, it's like that little anchor has gone. And it's just — it's just terrible.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we so appreciate each one of you telling your story.

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