BLACK LIVES MATTERAnti-Racism Action Kit

Personal Lockdown Update

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Thought it was time for another personal update. The last one was about a month ago.

First, me and my family are safe, healthy and relatively sane.

My client project did end on April 1st and I am officially looking for new projects.

I try to be grateful for what I do have and acknowledge there are many people who have it much rougher than I do right now. I can comfortably live off my savings for a little while while many others were paycheck to paycheck and are now scrambling for basic supplies.

It was as good as time as any to revisit my budget. I’ve blogged about this before but the basic idea is to break down personal and business expenses by monthly and yearly costs. Also started categorizing things into hard costs (rent, health insurance) which are difficult to cut and soft cost (Hulu, Netflix) which can be cut. Then I created a burn down chart based on savings, expected invoice payments, and (hopefully) some expected government assistance.

Normally as a gig worker I can not collect unemployment compensation but as part of the CARES act, these benefits have been expanded. The benefit is through the states, which for me is Pennsylvania, and the program is called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This program is not being ran through the normal state unemployment system and instead PA decided to stand up a new website. The website opened around April 17th (I believe?). Looking at my records I was able to file on April 19th and I recall there being massive technical issues on day one.

In fact there are technical issues as recently as yesterday. Every time I log in, I have to pick a new password. The password rules are bogus by the way, no more that 18 characters and very specific about what is and is not a special character.

Worse though is the process. You need to fill out a ton of forms and upload a lot of tax and financial documents to verify your income so they can calculate your benefit, but there seems to be no trust. Best I can tell someone is going to have to manually go through these applications and check all the PDFs uploaded.

In short, no money has been distributed. It’s been 10 days since I filed and I have not heard anything. The online “certification” form that we are are suppose to fill out weekly is not there; it shows an alert prompt saying it will “be ready to accept claims in a few weeks.” They may say benefits are retroactive but I know states have finite monies and with tax income going to shit and state expenses going through the roof, something is going to break down.

Again, I’m thankful for my privilege. I have savings to live off for a while. But let’s not forget, there are people out there starving and this program right now is bringing no relief.

In related money things, I was once told by a TD Bank associate that I should consider their business loan to help with breaks in consulting income. Well when the wind was turning I applied (March 23rd). To be clear, this would be a commercial, high interest loan, not a PPP loan (this was before PPP was even announced). I’d want to avoid dipping into this loan, but I figured it would be a helpful safety net to have. A few days later I got a phone call saying I would be approved for a $20,000 business loan and to expect a call from a local rep in the future. The second call never came but am email did (April 15th). It was a broadcast email seemingly sent to anyone asking for a recent loan.

Thank you for applying to TD Bank, N.A … Given this challenging environment, are you able to represent that your business is currently open and operating? If you respond “No” to this Question, then your loan will not be scheduled for closing at this time.

Well fuck.

Speaking of PPP loans, my take is that they are not a good fit for me. If I were to take a PPP loan through my business and pay myself, I would not be considered unemployed. Technically the law says they are forgiven if used for payroll, but I have no trust that forgiveness will be honored. I feel much easier looking towards the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (even with its shit implementation) since those monies are never considered a business loan. I know some say “apply for everything and give the money back if you don’t need it” but I had to make a decision weeks ago about how I wanted to handle this and at the time, everything I saw said PPP was only if you were paying yourself through a payroll system. Maybe that’s false or the restrictions have been relaxed but thats what I understood from reading the reports out there.

Other personal notes: I was sad to have missed MicroConf this month. It would have been my first time in attendance. I did appreciate the ticket refund they provided; legally they did not have to do that.

I’m also trying to make the most of things and enjoy some regular video chats with IndyHall and Philly CocoaHead folks. I was even able to hold our monthly Elixir meeting online a few weeks back. It was not the same, but it was good to see the regulars.

Day to day, I try to take walks with my sister to get some fresh air and exercise. I’m still doing well with my diet overall, though there have been a few more cheat days than I’d like.

For work, I’ve been putting productive time into Clubhouse while also helping host a few office hours to help others.

At night, I’m playing through Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Animal Crossing and MLB: The Show.

That’s it for now. Stay safe and do good works. 👋