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Students face difficulties with unemployment, COVID-19

While COVID-19 has affected everyone, college students are facing their own set of financial problems.

Most college students were unable to receive the stimulus checks mailed out from the White House due to specific requirements that had to be met, such as being an independent on tax forms and having a full time job. Luckily, through the CARES Act, students that were on Financial Aid once the pandemic hit were eligible to receive an extra $900. That’s a start, but when it comes to paying tuition, rent, and then considering gas, money and groceries, $900 is not enough.

“I’m one of those ‘working their way through college’ and I got children to feed on top of that,” said LaToya Ducksworth, a student at Jones College.

“Financial Aid helps me mostly, and we got that extra money on our account last semester, and I’m thankful. I got car payments and child care to worry about so anything helps me but even though I still got my job, my child care shut down for a few months because of coronavirus, so I had my baby to worry about. That was the scariest time, but it seems things are slowly getting back to normal,” said Ducksworth.

According to a New York Times article by Ann Carrns, the federal Labor Department clarified that “full-time students working part time may qualify for jobless benefits during the pandemic if they meet certain requirements.”

These requirements, that exist through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, refer to students who have contracted the coronavirus, are caring for someone who has the virus, and those who have lost work due to the pandemic.

The service industry seems to be the only demographic that has not completely shut down, though most all restaurants have had major restrictions and regulations such as no dining room seating and only carry out or delivery. Luckily, this leaves a small sliver of jobs open for students.

“I’m one of the lucky students who still has a job through Waitr, but most of my friends have not had this luxury,” said Olivia O’Neill, a sophomore at Jones College.

“I live in Hattiesburg and the majority of restaurants here have remained open for carry out and delivery. I feel very blessed to still be earning money and tips, but it’s a scary time because I’m having to come face-to-face with customers who may or may not have COVID-19. Thankfully food will always be a necessity, so I guess that makes companies like Door Dash and Waitr and Uber Eats ‘essential businesses,’” said O’Neill.

Though the Labor Department does not keep track of PUA claims by age, according to the Pew Research Center, more than a quarter of workers age 16-24 were without work in just May alone, and according to the Washington Post, over 1 million Americans filed jobless claims for 20 straight weeks.

Please visit the Mississippi Department of Employment Security to file an unemployment claim and to check eligibility at accessms.mdes.ms.gov or by calling 888-772-0061. For students looking for a job, please check websites like Indeed, Glassdoor and LinkdIn.

by Tori Ellis

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