“My Economy” tells the story of the new economic normal through the eyes of people trying to make it, because we know the only numbers that really matter are the ones in your economy.
Back in March, Veronica Coon, a hairdresser in Henderson, Nevada, started an online barter group to help people trade hand sanitizer, cleaning products, face masks and other products in high demand during the pandemic. It quickly became a community where people not only trade goods, but also offer donations, share information and send words of comfort to people in need.
Six months after it began, Coon said that kind of activity remains, but some of the products people want have changed.
“Right now, people are looking for more personal home items,” she said. “People are putting up, ‘I’m looking for patio furniture,’ or ‘I’m looking for a swimming pool and this is what I have to barter.’”
However, Coon said certain products have stayed in high demand throughout the pandemic: face masks and disinfecting sprays and wipes. “That’s probably the biggest thing that people ask for,” she said.
With the help of nine admins, Coon said she’s been able to cut down the amount of time she spends moderating the group to about one hour a week. “I try to go on once a week into the Facebook group and just post, ‘How is everyone doing?’” she said. “I feel it’s important to do that, not just as somebody who started the group, but as somebody who really cares. I like going on there and making sure that everybody’s still doing OK.”
Though she temporarily lost her day-job as a hairdresser when Nevada’s governor issued a stay-at-home order, Coon said she’s been busy this summer meeting pent up demand for haircuts. “Getting everybody in the first eight weeks, I was working six days a week,” she said. “Now I’m back down to my four days a week and it’s been great.”
Overall, Coon said she’s hoping for a return to normalcy soon. “It’s hard to breathe with the chemicals that we use and having to wear a mask,” she said. “I understand it, it’s not that I don’t understand it, it’s just difficult. I wish that we [could] just get back to normal.”
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Are people still waiting for unemployment payments?
Yes. There is no way to know exactly how many people have been waiting for months and are still not getting unemployment, because states do not have a good system in place for tracking that kind of data, according to Andrew Stettner of The Century Foundation. But by his own calculations, only about 60% of people who have applied for benefits are currently receiving them. That means there are millions still waiting. Read more here on what they are doing about it.
Are we going to see another wave of grocery store shortages?
Well, public health officials are warning that we could see a second wave of the virus before the end of the year. And this time retailers want to be prepared if there’s high demand for certain products. But they can’t rely totally on predictive modeling. People’s shopping habits have ebbed and flowed depending on the state of COVID-19 cases or lockdowns. So, grocers are going to have to trust their guts.
What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?
A report out Tuesday from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.
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