Lansing workers return to new normal

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Across the Lansing area, workers have faced different challenges since March because of COVID-19. But for recent Mason High School graduate Reagan Bercaw, she said going back to her job at Plato’s Closet made her feel just as at home as she did all quarantine.

“For me, coming back (to work) was really nice to finally have something that I actually had to do,” Bercaw said. “I hated sitting at home.”

Bercaw, like many others, was laid off March 23 while Plato’s Closet in East Lansing was closed during Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order. Some employees resumed work May 14, but Bercaw came back June 1.

When she came back, Bercaw said it was a little bittersweet because of the unemployment income she was receiving.

“I’m not going to lie, a little bit of me was like, ‘I wouldn’t be too upset if they waited a little longer,’ just because of the money,” Bercaw said. “I was very concerned at the beginning because originally I wasn’t able to get unemployment because I was a dependent (claimed by) my parents.

“But I was more concerned because I was depending on the money I was getting for tuition next year. So getting the boost of extra money was nice.”

The boost Reagan is receiving is courtesy of the CARES Act adding an additional $600 to unemployment checks across the country. It also expanded the amount of people who could claim unemployment.

$600 boost is scheduled to end July 31, but created a situation where workers who made under approximately $40,000 a year, made more money at home than they did at their jobs.

Another worker who has been affected was Hunters Ridge Apartments leasing coordinator Katurah Atkins. Atkins was off work for three weeks, but did not claim unemployment because it was paid time off.

In April, Atkins said she heard about other employers implementing a shorter work week, meaning working less days per week and less hours per day, because of COVID-19. Atkins said she thought it would be smart for the country to consider this moving forward.

“It shows you (companies) care about your employees,” Atkins said. “In America, you can’t retire these days until you’re 84. I think that would be something that America should implement, however I don’t think it’ll happen.”

Michigan State University Federal Credit Union employee Kaylee White said her experience of at work during COVID has continued to morph like the rest of the world.

White said she did get a couple weeks off in late-March/early-April but was sent to a different branch after returning to work.

“It was quite interesting,” White said. “Everything at the time was so uncertain and confusing that there seemed to be no sense of direction.”

White said she “gained a new, profound appreciation for work and having a job” after everything settled into a routine.