“Eight years ago, I got married and had two boys and was divorced before my youngest was 2. I had a baby and a toddler and I was out on my own. I never had anything in my name and I learned you couldn’t even get a phone bill without having previous credit. Two years ago, I had $80 and no credit.

“We just bought a condo in December and I was finally in a place where we were living normally. I didn’t have to go to food banks. Then all of the sudden, the pandemic hit.

“My son has [respiratory issues] and when I found out [about COVID-19], I was like, ‘O.K., my kids have to stay inside.’ I didn’t even think of the financial side at first. Then I was like, ‘Wow. I’m one of the only people not getting unemployment.’ I tried everything I could. I did unemployment and got denied because I’m an independent contractor. I didn’t get my stimulus money, either. Reading all these articles talking about how Americans are getting supported in all these ways and I just kind of ended up out of luck in every category.

“I contacted my mortgage company [for relief]. And then four days after my mortgage was due, they sent me a letter saying I was in delinquency. I cashed out on my retirement to pay it. In my divorce settlement, I had gotten a portion of what my ex-husband had made, but I had lawyer fees from two years in court. I had to cash out [what was left] to pay my mortgage.

“My oldest son is in kindergarten and my youngest is in preschool. I used to be a preschool teacher so I didn’t really have a problem with [teaching them at home]. I think I did a much better job mentally being home with my kids than most parents.

“I belong to a mom’s group on Facebook. All these moms are talking about hiring a tutor. I think [keeping schools closed] will just further the educational gap. Wealthy kids can afford to be educated and poorer parents cannot. I don’t know how I would work and home school.

“I don’t really know if it’s safe for my kids to be in a roomful of kids. I think expecting kids to wear a mask all day won’t be successful. They won’t absorb what the teacher is saying because they rely on the teacher’s facial expressions.

“My boyfriend is an essential worker. We decided not to get together in person because he’s an essential worker. It was weird all of a sudden being the only adult because my mom is at a high risk, too.

“I’m a hair stylist. I’ve been with them about seven years. My salon just opened a couple of days ago, but we have a lot of restrictions. We can only have five people in at once, but we have 10 stylists. We can only have one client at a time and we have to leave time in between them.

“Normally, 10% of clients want their hair done that month. Since it had been so long, everybody wants it at once and we have limited space. If I don’t have time for my client, they’re just going to go to someone who does have the time. Quite a few of my clients did an at-home hair color and I’m afraid I’m losing a lot of coloring business.

“We’re a really small place. The woman who owns our salon moved here from Poland. One day, the place was closed because the owner hadn’t paid her taxes. Her husband is a contractor and bought a space in town and fixed up the place and surprised her. The salon just kind of happened out of thin air. We were a little worried [about closing again].

“We had to temporarily close again because of the riot [threat]. Lake Zurich has organized their own protest and the police warned businesses that people that have bad intentions might take advantage of the protest.

“I’m definitely not making as much as I should. I’m working a whole day and only having three clients when I would’ve had 10 or 12. It’s less than what I would make if I received unemployment and less than I would with normal work.”

Rachel Meredith
Hair stylist, Studio M Hair Salon
Lake Zurich, Illinois