Prior to the pandemic, Kit was getting ahead in life. They had a beautiful 950-square-foot apartment in Connecticut, which they shared with their partner and cat. They had a good paying job as an event planner at a college campus for a food-service company. For the first time ever, Kit was making ends meet and even managed to pay off some of those bothersome student loans.
Their job wasn’t a dream job. There were times Kit wished they hadn’t worked there. The atmosphere, particularly with fellow management and their bosses, was awful at times. Although the company paid a lot of lip service to the idea of supporting LGBTQ employees, Kit, who is trans, found the truth not to be the case.
Still, Kit tolerated the company’s lack of sensitivity for their love of the work and the people they managed, who were fantastic human beings. And, of course, they loved their apartment. Having come from a really poor background, Kit had lived in low-income housing, and the apartment was a huge step up.
The pandemic, though, brought a nightmare.
Kit is immunocompromised. From the start of when the news of the pandemic started trickling into national headlines in February, Kit knew this crisis was going to hit and it could kill them. Their bosses and fellow employees, though, weren’t taking it seriously. While their bosses were secluded in their offices. Kit, on the other hand, was in the middle of crowds twelve hours a day, six days a week. At any time, the possibility of getting Covid was there. It was nerve-wracking.
“And I was told, calm down, calm down. It’ll be fine. We’ll just keep an eye on it. Everything will be fine. It’s getting blown out of proportion.”
On the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, Kit was so stressed out that they left work early that Friday and told everyone that they wouldn’t come back until Wednesday. Kit left for Rhode Island to get a little air.
They were in Rhode Island on March 15th when the state locked down. Everything happened in a rush. On the way back to Connecticut, Kit’s boss informed them by text that the campus was shutting down in an hour, which was not enough time to get their belongings. They got back to their home and the office was already shut.
Kit was asked to work from home. It was as if the company was operating in a make-believe bubble of denial. Kit was asked to justify 40 hours of pay by showing 40 hours of work, but dates were too uncertain to even be able to discuss with clients. Still, to satisfy this request, Kit set about researching potential events that were sure to never materialize. This mirage of doing work lasted for a month.
In mid-April, Kit’s manager broke the news that Kit was furloughed.
With Kit’s partner already out of their teaching job and making only fifty dollars a week on unemployment, Kit being furloughed was a big financial hit for both of them. Kit applied for unemployment the next day, but the application became lost in the system with no reply.
In April and May, Kit was barely sleeping more than three hours a night. They just kept wondering what they would do when the couple hundred dollars in the bank account ran out. Then there was this terrible guilt. Kit kept on thinking how their situation would have been so much better if they had not paid off part of those student loans or chosen to have a spacious apartment. Neither Kit nor their partner now had enough money to pay the $1400 rent.
In actuality, rent should not have been a problem. The governor of Connecticut had passed several executive orders making it easy for renters who were having hardships to delay their rent for April, May, and June, and pay it within 60 days of the end of their lease. Kit reached out to their property the following Monday and sent all their documentations in with a letter explaining that they had been furloughed and didn’t have enough money for groceries.
April’s rent wasn’t a problem because they had already paid, but after Kit didn’t pay May’s rent, the apartment sent them a notice in the mail threatening eviction proceedings if rent was not paid. After nearly seven hundred emails requesting information on why Kit was getting an eviction notice from the property’s attorney, the property manager finally answered. Nobody knew anything, the manager said. Nobody knew what to do with the governor’s rent extension.
Kit’s stress kept on multiplying. Kit’s younger sister was positively diagnosed with Covid. Despite being only 19, Kit’s younger sister was having a very tough time with all the bad symptoms – the cough, the shortness of breath, the fever. She would regularly call Kit every morning just to tell them that she had made it through the night. It was so bad, that she had to stop and rest for twenty minutes simply from sitting up on the edge of the bed.
That Kit was immunocompromised made their stress that much worse. They were so nervous about the prospect of getting Covid that Kit sat down with their partner at one point and told them not to let the hospital put them on a ventilator because they had a very low chance of survival. Kit would rather the hospital gave it to someone who had a better chance of survival. Kit was thinking of the cost of funerals: burial or cremation. For someone so young, it was horrible to have to think about it.
At the same time, Kit kept getting emails from the head of the accounts at their job saying that Kit should be ready to come back to work and be ready to come back from the furlough.
“I didn’t really want to go back to work even before the pandemic. I really didn’t want to go back to work during a pandemic… I just felt like a taut rubber band at all times.”
The apartment situation hit a major escalation in June. The apartment property sent an email informing everyone that re-signing the lease would be dependent upon showing updated proof of income. Kit’s and their partner’s lease was up on July 31st, right after the eviction moratorium ended. It was a perfect storm created by bad timing.
A couple weeks later, Kit was finally approved for unemployment benefits and received a large lump sum that covered the past couple months and included the bonus. They finally had money, but it didn’t matter. They didn’t have income. And when they searched out other apartments, they encountered the same conditions on the leases. Nobody was accepting unemployment as income.
Kit’s parents offered for Kit and their partner to stay with them, rent free. All they had to do was earn their keep around the house cooking and cleaning. It wasn’t the greatest situation because Kit’s parents hadn’t been taking the pandemic seriously. Even when Kit’s younger sister had been diagnosed with Covid, their father refused to believe it was Covid.
With few options, Kit and their partner were sort of on board until one day Kit called their dad and heard the sound of mariachi music in the background. Their parents were hosting a quinceanera for their step-sister’s friend. That was the deal breaker.
To add on to the frustration, the week after being approved for unemployment, Kit was locked out of the account and nobody seemed to be manning Connecticut’s unemployment system. It was as if the system was set up to fend for itself. No one answered their emails or phone calls. They couldn’t contact anyone.
The weeks marched on, getting closer and closer to the eviction day. It was in the middle of the pandemic, and they had no place to go.
It was at this point, Kit and their partner reached out to their partner’s family in Rhode Island. Their partner’s family was loving, but everything came with strings. Kit and their partner pleaded with them, saying they didn’t know what to do. They could put all their stuff in storage, but there were two of them with a cat, and they didn’t know how to live until things got sorted out.
Their partner’s family said that one of them could stay in a 200 square-foot studio, but no cat. They had to pay rent, maintain the property, and deal with any issues the other tenants had with the property. That meant Kit would be sent to stay with their family.
The seriousness of the situation didn’t click with their partner’s mom until Kit sat down and said that they didn’t have a will, and then they told the mom what to do if Kit died. The heart-to-heart talk changed the situation.
That’s where they are now, the three of them – Kit, their partner, and their cat – living in a two-hundred-square-foot studio, waiting for some light to shine through the clouds. They’re trying to make the best of it.
Kit’s life these days centers around trying to contact unemployment. They sit on the line for four hours at a time and then get transferred to someone else who is not available. By then it’s the end of the day and trying to call back isn’t a feasible option.
Finding employment is a huge struggle. Kit is immunocompromised, so both they and their partner would have to work from the home. There is a lot of online work they’re qualified for, but other people are already doing it. There just isn’t enough work to spread around.
Kit reflected upon their situation. It shouldn’t have been so hard, not just for them but for others as well. The people in Kit’s industry are disproportionately Blacks and Latinx. All Kit’s former employees went out and got jobs as grocery store clerks because they didn’t know what to do, and those communities have been impacted hard by the pandemic.
“To a large extent the government has failed us and to a large extent, intentionally or not, we have failed each other as a country.”
There just has been a perfect storm of apathy and a lack of access to care. People have to keep on going out to survive.
“If we as a nation cared about the health of the workforce, the second biggest pandemic hit, we would have figured out universal health care, single payer health care, because that’s how you keep your workforce healthy.”
Read more personal stories from the pandemic by learning about Tara whose career was canceled with all the hotel events or how a therapist set realistic mental health expectations for the pandemic.