Fort Worth, Texas – At least a dozen states have announced plans to either pause or roll back pandemic reopening plans.
Many people who thought they were returning to work are now forced to go back on unemployment.
For over two weeks, Warren Koguc, a bar owner in Fort Worth, Texas, was isolated in his apartment battling COVID-19.
“It was brutal. It was constant beating on your body,” Koguc said.
He believes he got the virus when he went back to work mid-May when bars in the state reopened nearly two months after being shut down.
Koguc has been furloughed twice.
“I really thought we should have waited a couple more weeks. You have to make that constant choice when you’re in this type of business between your health and safety and working,” Koguc added.
Bars in the state of Texas have closed again and Koguc, who is symptom free, is out of a job again.
Koguc was one of two million Texans who applied for unemployment from mid-March to mid-May.
Weekly claims started to drop when bars and restaurants reopened, but now, like COVID-19 cases in Texas, unemployment claims are on the rise again.
“I don’t know if or when I’ll be able to go back to work. I got about a month and a half, maybe two months before it gets super tight,” Koguc said.
Another bartender in Texas, Randee Heitzmann, just bought a brand new bar in February and was just furloughed a second time as well.
“Not what I would have done if I knew I was going to be on unemployment and not have to work,” Heitzmann said.
The extra $600 a week in enhanced unemployment expires at the end of July, leaving Heitzmann’s financial future in jeopardy.
Omar Yeefoon reopened for just four days before having to close Shoals Sound & Service in Texas.
“I knew that the flood was coming,” Yeefoon said.
The risk of staying open as cases surge was too great, forcing Yeefoon to lay off his employees for a second time.
“How do you turn around and ask for someone, you know, here we go again, I swear we’re going to make it this time. It’s really humbling,” Yeefoon said.
Americans out of work now have nothing but time.
Heitzmann is using her time to watch how elected officials are responding to the health and unemployment crisis.
“We’re sitting at home so the only thing that we have to do is watch you. So, the decisions that you’re making might not have repercussions for you right now, but they will in November and they will, the next time we vote after that,” Heitzmann added.
Several bars in Texas have gotten together and filed lawsuits against the governor, essentially asking him to void his executive order that forces them to shut down.