In depth on how the COVID-19 Pandemic caused unemployment rates to skyrocket

Special Reports

BAY COUNTY Fla. (WMBB) — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unemployment rates to skyrocket to numbers our country hasn’t seen since the great depression.

In Bay County, nearly 10 percent of the population applied for re-employment assistance from March to August.

Kirk Menzie lost his job again in March. Just three months after losing his job as a sales rep.

“I got a couple weeks of unemployment going and then I found work,” said Menzie. “I was working at a beach bar – everything was good and then COVID hit.”

He’s not alone. 

Back in March, Bay County had a 44-percent unemployment rate and that rate dropped to 13 percent in April – a rate that is two times higher than what bay county saw after Hurricane Michael.

“It has become quite the task to be able to just grocery shop because you don’t know from week to week,” said Menzie. “Is that money going to be there? Is it not going to be there? There’s no planning for everything.”

The worries don’t stop there. Menzie said by the time he receives his unemployment claim, he must pay the electricity bill, the insurance bill, and the mortgage, and after that, his money is gone.

“We went from two 40 hour plus incomes plus me being a commission guy to just her 40 hours a week,” said Menzie. “It’s rough.”

Menzie is also a father of 6 .

He’s currently putting two of his children through college and has a 13-year-old daughter.

He said even though she’s young, she sees the issues.

“He hears mom and dad having discussions about what bills can and can’t get paid or who’s not going to get paid this week cause we’re just going to juggle and I hate that she has to go through that,” said Menzie.

Menzie said his daughter should only have to worry about being a kid, but no matter what happens he and his wife will do everything they can to put a smile on their little girl’s face.

“Money is not what makes a family, the family makes a family,” said Menzie. “So we love her and we do everything we can for her. She may get disappointed that she doesn’t get to do some of the things she wants to do but we will make up for it in the long run.”

Menzie is one of nearly 16-thousand people in Bay County applying for reemployment assistance and all those people are coming to Career Source Gulf Coast for guidance.

“It is not going to last forever this impact,” said Brittany Rock. “Yes the times are very tough right now but we will see them through this.”

Rock is the director of communications at Career Source Gulf Coast. She said she has clients who come in every two weeks and claim their unemployment – Menzie is one of them.

The staff here helps get claims filed and keep them current.

But ultimately, they are patient because the staff knows their clients are dealing with a lot.

“No one was expecting this virus to hit and cause them to lose their jobs putting them in places of uncertainty,” said Rock. “Whether it’s how am I going to pay my bills, what am I going to do about child care. You know all these concerns that are tied to having an income or having employment.”

Finding a new job in this time is a battle of its own.

Some companies are still not hiring or in Menzie’s case, the problem is having to travel to interviews and paying out of pocket for extra expenses like hotels and gas.

“You just trudge along,” said Menzie. “That’s the best way I can say it, just trudge along with it. They’re not going to get me down.”

As the months go on, the unemployment rate in Bay County is slowly decreasing, coming down to a 7.7 percent rate in July. But as the staff at career source gulf coast says the people of Bay County are resilient and will make it out of the tough times better than they were before.

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