Idaho Millennials and restaurant workers hit hardest by COVID-19
October 21, 2020
Below are excerpts from an article written by Margaret Carmel and published by Boise Dev on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Read the original article.
Austin Amaro had big plans for 2020, but then the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact Idaho.
He started hitting the books at the College of Western Idaho studying Human Biology while working full time at Red Feather Lounge on 8th Street. After years of working as a server, he hoped to slowly work his way toward a bachelor’s degree and launch a career in the medical field. Things were looking up.
Amaro, 25, made progress toward paying off his credit card debt, while studying hard in school and making a living on the way to long term stability. Then the pandemic closed his bar in March. COVID-19, and the public health orders to slow the spread of the virus, left him without income for five weeks while he waited for his unemployment benefits to be approved.
“Essentially I finished my semester while still mostly worrying about how I was going to not starve and not get kicked out of an apartment and also still get good grades,” he said. “I was worrying about so many different things.”
The pandemic-fueled economic slowdown hit Idahoans of all ages and occupations, but restaurant workers and millennials made up the majority of the 221,695 unemployment claims filed with the Idaho Department of Labor since the week of March 21. These jobs, which often have nontraditional hours and little to no benefits, also often offer low base pay – making workers rely on tips from customers.
Of those claims, a quarter came from those in the 25-34 age group, though that age bracket only makes up 13% of Idaho’s population. Another 20% of claims came those younger than 25, according to an analysis of unemployment claim data by BoiseDev. Foodservice workers filed the most claims nearly every week during that time period, with 18,929 claims statewide.
Restaurant workers took the biggest hit early in the pandemic when restaurants were some of the first businesses to close, but claim numbers from this group eased in recent months. During March 2020, food service workers only made up 4.5% of claims. But, they made up 22%, 23% and 20% of claims in April, May and June respectively. By August, the percentage dropped to 16%.
When Red Feather closed, Amaro used his last paycheck to pay his rent two months in advance and hunkered down with his savings to wait for unemployment or the ability to return to work. He eventually received unemployment benefits five weeks after he lost his job and returned to work at Red Feather’s sister restaurant Bittercreek Alehouse in early June.
The extra boost from the CARES Act helped him stay on track with his plan to pay off credit card debt and put money away. But, planning for taxes he will owe next year and the looming possibility of restaurants shuttering again as COVID-19 cases in Idaho rise has him cautiously saving for the future.
About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at uidaho.edu