WHEATLAND – Many people in the nation are finding themselves suddenly unemployed with the imposed quarantines and State health department’s forced closures. Every story is heartbreaking and every situation has become a challenge.
It has also claimed or altered some of the 9 to 5 workforce in Platte County. Many are scrambling to make ends meet which includes Amity Becker who is a cosmetologist at Jan’s Cut-N-Yak in Wheatland.
After dedicating her life to her craft for eight years after she graduated from UEC, the Governor, enforcing a Wyoming State health Department shutdown that included hair salons has temporarily put Becker out of the active workforce.
“One of my clients actually texted me,” Becker said, “and said, ‘I hear I’m not having an appointment this week,’ and I wondered what they were talking about. It was 6:30 p.m. March 24.”
It was hard to believe the text at first, and Becker a bit skeptical about the text checked the news and found out that she was, in fact officially out of a job. At least temporarily. The first thing that went through her head was not to call her employer, but to instead get herself centered.
“I had a miniature meltdown,” Becker said. “after I came in to rebook all my clients. It was not pretty. I was out in my car outside of the salon and just kinda lost it and started crying and just got to thinking, ‘what am I going to do?’”
Becker who had just a year ago gone through a flood and was forced to move back into the family home and rent out their basement. After a year, she had pulled herself up by her bootstraps and got back on her feet. She moved out in February, found a rental south of town and she looked for the happily-ever-after, and proof to people that an independent woman can make it on her own.
“So, my overhead is a lot larger than I’m used to,” Becker said. “All of bills had gone up, I am an independent person, or at least try to be. I don’t take help from people, and it’s a huge concern. You don’t know if you’re going to have an income to live on.”
A lot of younger professionals who are in the workforce less than 10 years have not yet established the 401(k) or the retirement nest egg that many of the older workers can fall back on. Many workers have just made it living paycheck to paycheck and when that money doesn’t come in, it can be an intimidating situation.
“It’s rough because you just don’t know when you are going to go back to work,” Becker said. “I have a rent payment, utilities, a car payment and car insurance, a credit card bill, phone bill and then unfortunately you have to eat.”
People plan their expenses based upon their income, and when a sudden storm hits, many are unprepared. Becker, instead of sitting around worrying and wondering, went into action on the very first day she was not working. The first thing she did was call all of her creditors and explained her situation. Many don’t realize that they are not the only ones going through this pandemic, but that it is global and every person, in some way or another is affected by it.
“I was so grateful to those people I called and was surprised at how they were so willing to help me defer payments,” Becker said. “I underestimated their level of understanding, but I pushed past the fear and had to do something.”
Becker is a home-grown girl and she grew up knowing the giving nature of the community, but at times said that she took many things for granted. She says that this pandemic has made her so much more grateful for what she has and hopes to never take it for granted again.
“I took for granted I had a job to go to everyday,” she said. “I took for granted that when I went to the store I took for granted that everything would be there that I needed. It’s an eye-opener. As an American I feel that I have been so blessed to have a life I’ve had, and at times I even thought my life was crumby because I was working two jobs, and I would give anything for that right now.”
Becker who has been with Janice Faris, owner of Jan’s Cut-N-Yak for eight years as the two have been associated with other hair salons before Faris opened her own.
Becker credits getting through the hard times to how she was brought up.
“I think it’s the way I was raised,” Becker said. “It’s what they instilled in me and my parents really tried to instill values, family values and American life… a good way to live, if that makes sense. I just think it really makes a difference.”
Although life has dealt her a seemingly crushing blow as it has in the past, and as it has for many others in our community, she has maintained a positive attitude and continues to put one foot in front of the other.
“I know it won’t be too long and we’ll all be back to work,” she said. “I’m pretty optimistic that life will be back to normal, however it will be a new normal for us, and what we’ve learned we will take with us to make us stronger in the next crisis.”
Becker, who listens to people’s stories every day of her life as a hair stylist and has great clientele because she has mastered the art of listening. She also has much to say, especially to the young generation of the American workforce that she is a part of. As one who has faced adversity all alone and wants to make it on her own, she offers advice to her generation.
“First of all, you must have faith,” she said. “And have hope. It’ll be done. It’ll pass. Storms always pass which is what my mom always told me. They might last a while, and it might be pretty tough and we might be learning a lot from it, but maybe that’s what we need. This is a chance to be a better version of what we were.”
In the wake of more businesses closing and layoffs, the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services encourages all displaced workers to come in and register for unemployment and even possibly a short-term temporary assignment is available.