Sunday, March 29, 2020

Bout To Be Showtime In Kansas City

guardian |  In Kansas City’s poorest neighbourhoods, they wait and they watch.

The city’s most vulnerable residents wait for coronavirus to reveal itself as they watch its daily progression from the edges of the country to the heartland. But they face another wait too. For the money to run out, uncertain which of these two potential calamities will arrive first but dreading the day the two collide.

Chris Brown lost his job as a waiter as soon as Kansas City’s mayor ordered the closure of restaurants and bars. “I was lucky that I had a little money in my pocket when this happened. Not a lot. Maybe $100. But that’s more than a lot of people, especially in my industry. I know a lot of my comrades out there only had $20 in their pocket when the restaurant closed. I don’t know what they’re doing,” he said.

Until the end of last week, Brown and his wife, Alex Smith, still had a lifeline. Smith worked as a bartender at a hotel which remained open in a neighbouring county. But that closed on Friday and now the couple, both in their mid-40s, are down to the cash in their pockets with no savings and no health insurance.

“We took the little money we have and came down to get groceries so we at least had some food for the next few weeks,” said Brown outside the Save A Lot discount food store on Kansas City’s east side, one of the poorest parts of the city.

Coronavirus has been relatively slow to reach the sprawling plains of Missouri and Kansas, although deaths have been creeping up. But its impact is already felt among the hardest-up residents of Kansas City, which straddles the Missouri River dividing the two states. Both are reporting a spike in unemployment claims and they’re likely to go on rising with the Kansas City metro area under a stay-at-home order from Tuesday and more businesses closing.

Even when they were working, Brown and Smith earned only $2.15 an hour, the federal minimum wage for servers, plus tips.