Workers Feel Pressure from Coronavirus

Economy

Workers Feel Pressure from Coronavirus

By Trevor Keller

March 20, 2020 • South Central Region

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State Street in Madison

Madison's downtown State Street lays vacant under coronavirus social distancing.


It’s something you’d never expect to find in a city, the sound of silence.

A surreal scene that played out across Wisconsin this week: bars, museums, performance venues, all closed.

Savannah Bierma works part-time for the Pabst Theater Group in Milwaukee. They have cancelled all events through May 15. That means no work and no pay.

“I do not have paid sick leave. I do not have paid time off,” she said. “For the most part I live pretty much paycheck to paycheck. I have a savings account but it's pretty minimal.”

Help is on the way. On Wednesday, the governor waived some requirements to file for unemployment if an employee’s company shuts down due to COVID-19.

Also, the president signed an emergency measure to provide up to 80 hours of sick leave for some workers affected by the pandemic.

Wanda Lavender could use it. She manages a Popeyes restaurant in Milwaukee. She is stuck at home after her daughter came in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

“It's bad enough they can't go to school, but I also can't work so, with that being said, I'm kind of in a bad predicament,” she said. 

One Wisconsin company brewed up an ambitious plan to help its employees. Stone Creek Coffee closed all 13 of their locations Monday, but they plan to pay their employees in full during the shutdown.

“There's about 215 of us at Stone Creek right now,” said Drew Pond. “As a company we have committed to pay people through the shutdown so we're trying to limit the economic impact on our people because of course we all have to pay bills in spite of the fact that the world's kind of coming to do a slow halt here. Trying to do everything we can to minimize the impact on our people.”


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