As stimulus money has started to flow to small and large businesses across the country, some workers are getting calls to come back.
Thousands have already been rehired in the airline industry, and it is estimated that the $15 billion allocated to the airline industry will result in roughly 100,000 airline workers returning to work soon.
One of those workers is a United Airlines flight attendant Julie Gilbert from Boston.
“It's been a real rollercoaster ride for everyone, definitely the past four years it has been a rollercoaster ride for me,” said Gilbert.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Gilbert was having a very difficult few years. In 2016, she was badly burned when her home caught on fire. Even worse, she lost her boyfriend and her son in the fire that day. Then after, recovering and finding love again, she lost her husband to cancer just months after they married.
“I took care of him while he was sick, so I was off a while again after recovering from my burns. Then I went back to work for just a few months. So, when the pandemic hit, I hadn’t established enough hours to collect unemployment,” said Gilbert.
Eventually she was approved to collect $100 a week, which was still nowhere close to enough money to live on. So, doing what she has learned to do, she fought. She spent her time protesting and pushing for Congress to pass a new stimulus package with help specifically for airline workers. From her perspective, it would not be a bailout to the industry but a helping hand for someone like her. In late December, when they finally did, her relief and joy were instant.
“I am back! I am a United Airlines flight attendant,” Gilbert exclaimed.
Flying is not only a part of her livelihood, but it is what has lifted her spirits during the toughest of times. While Gilbert is among an estimated 100,000 airline workers returning to work, a similar wave of workers being rehired is expected in the restaurant industry and at thousands of small businesses around the country. Experts expect as Paycheck Protection Program loans are disbursed, that second and third wave will start to be realized.
However, without additional action from Congress, all these workers could see layoffs again in March. So, Gilbert and others are relying on more action soon.
“The whole country is counting on you to help us,” said Gilbert. "We are in a once in a lifetime pandemic.”