The U.S. COVID public health emergency ends: How did the pandemic change American life?Play
The U.S. COVID-19 emergency declaration is over.
Over three years, Americans saw their lives forever changed.
"I just can't stress enough how different this is than it's ever been," Valerie Ewald, a recently retired nurse, says.
Today, On Point: Checking in with Americans we heard from during the pandemic about life now.
Valerie Ewald, nurse for 24 years. She retired last month. We spoke with her in January 2021 during a COVID surge in LA County.
Alexis Brown, student engagement coach for 16 to 21-year-olds for the non-profit SER Metro-Detroit. We spoke with her in May 2020.
Erin Bailey, a single mom with four children. We spoke with her about life during the pandemic in October 2020. Find Erin's GoFundMe here.
Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst.
Chris Guerrieri, life skills teacher at Palm Avenue Exceptional Student Center in Jacksonville, Florida. He spoke with us in 2020 about life as a teacher during the pandemic.
Pavlos Sierros, the owner of Forgtmenot, a popular bar in New York City's Lower East Side. He spoke with us in 2020 about turning his bar into a grocery store.
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: For the past three years, I have been sitting here in this strange, quiet little glass box that is the On Point studio. And I've been listening to you and how you've been weathering this pandemic. And I am utterly grateful to you from across the nation and almost every walk of life you've bravely shared what you lost.
Lost loved ones, lost learning, lost jobs, lost homes, lost trust and faith in the common enterprise that is the United States. Here are a few of the stories you shared. I see that a nurse died in New York City this week. And in the same hospital, they're showing pictures of nurses wearing trash cans for their PPE.
LISTENER MONTAGE: So I went to the hospital. They admitted me. I said goodbye to my husband. They wouldn't allow him in. And I pretty much don't remember very much after that. But I do remember them saying, We're going to put you on a ventilator. And then I remember thinking, I'm not going to live. I'm not leaving this place.
This new collective grief that people are just figuring out how to name, that they are waking up going, I am crying, I don't know why or there's this heaviness.
And I will always remember that night because Jonah said to me as he was going to bed, I'm going to go crazy. I'm going to go crazy if I don't go to school. You know, he was, I think, 11 years old at the time. And he was right.
You know, due to COVID-19, a lot of shelters have kind of closed down or they limited the amount of people that are allowed into the facility. So I was just worried about even having anywhere to go with me, having my kids.
I feel bad for my family because I feel like my medicine is consuming all the resources that we have and it's vital. And these are the problems that millions are facing across the country. ... In a pandemic and an emergency and something you did not create. You shouldn't have to decide between your final medication and food or rent or whatever your child may need.
CHAKRABARTI: Today marks the first day the United States moves forward out of the shadow of the federally declared pandemic public health emergency, which ended at midnight last night. The pandemic story isn't over, of course, but I also believe that loss, too, is not the end. So today we're going to check back in with some of the people who joined us in the past three years to hear how they're doing now and how they're moving forward. We're going to start with Valerie Ewald. She's a retired nurse from the UCLA Santa Barbara Medical Center. She served as a nurse for 24 years. We talked with her back in January of 2021 when Los Angeles County was experiencing a massive surge in COVID cases. Here she is back in 2021.
VALERIE EWALD [Tape]: You just always are wondering how it's going to be. Am I going to walk into it and find out that we couldn't get enough staff for this shift and that we're going to be going over the California state ratio law? Is the ER going to be hit with this surge of patients and are there going to be codes throughout the hospital that we're not really sure how we're going to get to all of them? It's really, it's so hard. I mean, I feel like a broken record. I'm sure that over and over you keep hearing nurses saying and not just nurses, all health care professionals. It's real. It's real. And if you can just hold on. Just hold on.
CHAKRABARTI: Well, Valerie joins us once again. She's in Los Angeles. Valerie, welcome back to On Point.
EWALD: Hi, Meghna. Thanks for having me.
CHAKRABARTI: How does it feel listening to what you said back in 2021?
EWALD: It feels really weird. Also, I worked at UCLA in Santa Monica. I just have to say that. Not Santa Barbara.
CHAKRABARTI: Oh, I'm so sorry. Oh, no, no, I'll fix that.
EWALD: Okay. I love Santa Barbara. It feels really strange, especially since now I did retire kind of early. I'm 58. I always thought I'd work till early sixties. And those last couple of years drained me too much and stopped working last December. And it's really strange now, sitting in my living room. Usually I'd be at work right now. And I'm just chilling out and I'm still thinking about all my coworkers who are still there. It's very strange. But I think you mentioned before there is still a loss and ... it's changed all of us, I think, in this country, unfortunately, not necessarily for the good.
CHAKRABARTI: So do you think you wouldn't have retired early if there had been no COVID pandemic?
EWALD: I don't think so. I think I would have held on. And a lot of my coworkers are looking at getting out earlier than they used to do. I mean, I think there's always jokes when someone retires that younger people say, Oh, I want to retire. You're so lucky. But people in their thirties are saying that to me, seriously. They're looking to get away from the bedside.
Other nurses who really should expect to work another ten or 15 years are checking their accounts. ... The environment of work, it's a different thing, apparently. It was different for me and what they're all saying, yeah, it's just more adversarial. People seem unhappy.
CHAKRABARTI: Do you mind if I ask just to sort of get a sense as to what you experienced, especially during those really big surges that happened in L.A. County. I mean, how much death did you see? How many people did you see die?
EWALD: We saw a lot. And what we saw was that the sad part was that the families couldn't be in the room with them. You know, we had such strict visitation rules. They changed at times, and we would sometimes have elaborate rules where, you know, one person could come in for an hour at the end if someone was passing, but they had to agree to self-quarantine for two weeks afterward, which there's no way for us enforcing.
And then there was always so much just adversarial and talk back and forth between health care workers and families about those kind of things. And I don't know, maybe at the beginning of the pandemic, obviously, we didn't know about the pathogen, we didn't know about transmission. You know, maybe we could have been less direct and let more people in, as long as they were in proper PPE.
And that's one thing that really bothers me. So many people dying without their families, or maybe just with one person in there for a brief period of time. And just the negative communication that quite often happened between we health care workers and the families, because, of course, they were always trying to come in and see their families.
CHAKRABARTI: Do you think you're a different person now than you were in January of 2020? And if so, how have you changed?
EWALD: It might seem silly, but really, I'm trying to enjoy my own good friends and my family's more my family, more nature. I mean, there was a time when they closed the parks and beaches and you could just go for a walk. So, I mean, I am trying to really enjoy my life more. And that's true. And I'm trying to be nice to any people, just everyone, especially customer service people, because I think it's just hard for everybody everywhere.
CHAKRABARTI: Yeah, it doesn't sound silly at all. Enjoying the elemental aspects of being alive seems very sensible to me. It's a totally understandable response to what you've been through. I wonder, you were talking about many of your colleagues also thinking about leaving the profession or retiring early. I mean, are there lessons that you want the entire medical community or health care community in this country to learn and take forward?
EWALD: Yeah, I mean, we need better public health and it's all about the money, but we need better funding. We need more nurses, more doctors, more respiratory therapists. We need more social workers, councilors. So much. That was one thing that we really needed during this time and, you know, so much preventative care. But I always think had the schools had been better funded. It would have been easier for more of them to open up earlier. But that's my takeaway, is really preventative care too, better public health.
CHAKRABARTI: How are you doing overall? I mean, how's life? And what do you want to do? What are you thinking about for yourself in the next couple of years?
EWALD: Oh, you know, I do want to volunteer in some sort of health care facility. This year has been just to get the house in order and do some stuff. But there's a free clinic in my little town, and I want to do that. Maybe go on some medical missions.
CHAKRABARTI: In that moment that we played, when you joined us back in 2021, you said that you keep hearing nurses and health care professionals just saying like, just hold on, just hold on to themselves. To get through every single day. Can you talk more about that?
EWALD: We knew there had to be an end in sight. And, you know, you can get by with it. You know, quite often nurses, they do 12 hour shifts. It's only 12 hours. It's only 12 hours. We can do it, you know, one task at a time and it will get better. I think I also was talking just about, you know, just the community of the world. Hold on. We're going to get through this.
You can keep masking up for a while and keep trying to get vaccinated if you are okay with that. I think I was feeling with that too. It'll be over. Unfortunately, it's changed us all. The divisiveness. Are you a Vaxxer or are you an Anti-vaxxer? We're all in these little cubes. Everyone's afraid to admit they were wrong or that the choices might not have been the best choice.
CHAKRABARTI: ... It makes me remember that back in the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of the celebration and honoring of health care workers as heroes. Looking back at that now, what do you think?
EWALD: People still say thank you a lot to me. And that's amazing. And that was good. But pizza parties and the rallies on the street really aren't what we need best. We need better health policy in this country, you know, for not just nurses. For all health care workers. So we can provide safe care and, you know, keep us all as healthy as we can be.
CHAKRABARTI: Today we're checking in with a few of the many Americans who shared their stories across the past three years of the COVID-19 pandemic. We're going to find out how they're doing now, what's changed in their lives and what they hope for as the country moves forward. Jack Beatty, On Point's news analyst, has been listening along with us. And hello there, Jack.
JACK BEATTY: Hello, Meghna.
CHAKRABARTI: So, you know, we just heard from Valerie Ewald, the now retired nurse in Los Angeles. And it just your thoughts.
BEATTY: Well, I was so glad that you saluted her as an epitome of the hero heroine of this story. Can't be said enough. People on the front lines, people whose motto, you can hear it. Just hold on. Conveys the desperation and the gravity of what they were dealing with. You know, I'm struck with the metaphor you've used again and again in discussing the pandemic. That it was a mirror, a mirror of the American condition.
And here are just four things I think we saw in that mirror, you know, the neglect of public health. One statistic. Of the $3 trillion spent on health care in the United States on the eve of the pandemic, only 3% went into public health services, which are, you know, neighborhood clinics, the whole panoply of services, communications and so on. Only 3% of that. It's improved some, but not enough.
Second, the dearth of lifesaving supplies. In March 2020, the government had 13 million N-95 masks stockpiled. Now we have 352 million. In March 2020, the government had 12,000 ventilators ready. Now it has 150,000. So there's been improvement there. Three, when we look in that mirror, we see the lack of trust. Trust in government and social trust.
One study published in The Lancet hypothesized that if levels of trust in government worldwide were what they are in Denmark, there would have been 13% fewer infections. And if social trust worldwide were what it is in Denmark, infections might have been cut in half. That is to say, if people believed in one another, showed solidarity in one another. But the crisis in social trust cost us and cost us dearly. And finally, did we see, do we see in the story of the pandemic, the future?
Especially if it turns out we may never know this was a lab leak to begin with, because what is that a metaphor for? It's a metaphor for Frankenstein. It's a metaphor for science poisoning the Well, somehow. And think of that in terms of the world of AI. You know, a lab leak can create millions of deaths. What can some sort of leak from a future laboratory do to us? It's a very, very frightening, possible reality we see in that mirror.
CHAKRABARTI: Point well taken, Jack. You know, I'm thinking your warning about the Frankenstein possibility of science and technology should be heard by everyone. But, you know, also, I'm thinking about in the COVID pandemic, we saw about the possibilities of science, the positive possibilities of science when a country bands together in the very, very rapid development of the vaccines for COVID. So the mirror is exactly right. The mirror reflects the best of us and the worst of us.
And if I could also just take a quick second here. You mentioned the low stockpiling of supplies and the importance of trust. Just to trumpet our own horn a little bit. If people subscribe to the On Point podcast and go into our podcast feed, you will see that we actually spoke with the man who used to manage the nation's strategic stockpile. We talked with him about what's actually in it, why it may not be as comprehensive a stockpile as we needed at the time. That was a really interesting show.
And of course, we did an entire series about the importance of trust, as you point out. Again, so, Jack, stick with me because I want to talk with you a little bit later in the show again about sort of the health, the political and social health of the nation as we move forward a bit later in the show. But let's get back to checking in with some of the people who shared stories with us over the past three years. One of them is special needs teacher Chris Guerrieri. He's from Jacksonville, Florida, and he talked with us in the summer of 2020. And at that time, Florida was gearing up to send students and teachers back to school in-person in August. And here's how Chris felt about it then.
GUERRIERI: Here in Florida, where the pandemic is out of control. It's terrifying. So when children report on August 20th, I can't guarantee I'll be in the classroom.
CHAKRABARTI: Well, we checked in with Chris again to see whether he did end up going back to school. And here's what he told us.
GUERRIERI: Of course, I went back and it was the hardest school year I ever had. To give you a little scale before I was teaching two classes, our kids would rotate from teacher to teacher. Well, that first year back from COVID, I was teaching all the classes. So I was teaching all the subjects, all the teachers were doing. And we were self-contained. Our kids never left the classroom. That wasn't a good year for anybody.
Each desk had their plexiglass shields on. I was instructed to teach from my desk. We were six feet apart. We didn't have electives. I mean, it was a miserable year for everybody. And you know how much learning can go on when both the teacher and the students are miserable? I just feel like my district and my state really said to me, you know, you're just a widget. You know, you're a easily replaceable cog. Good luck.
CHAKRABARTI: So that's teacher Chris Guerrieri in Jacksonville, Florida. He's been teaching for 22 years now. And he also told us that he just got his teacher's license recertified, but it's going to expire in four years. And he told us this week that when it does expire, he's done with teaching. Well, let's move to another listener who spoke with us back in May of 2020. She's Alexis Brown, and she had just graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, with a degree in sociology and urban studies. Again, she talked to us in May of 2020, and here's what she said.
ALEXIS BROWN: First of all, the dream was to walk across the stage on April 30th. That was the goal. That was the plan. I really wanted to get an internship with Detroit. Like I said, I graduated in urban studies, so I wanted to get internships in their planning department or one of their departments, and then eventually get a job with the city of Detroit. So that was the dream. But, you know, with the pandemic, things didn't really go as planned.
CHAKRABARTI: Well, Alexis Brown joins us once again from Detroit, Michigan. Alexis, welcome back to On Point.
BROWN: Thank you for having me.
CHAKRABARTI: So how did it feel to hear yourself back from toe to toe just now?
BROWN: It's kind of like an out-of-body experience. One, I sound like a little kid, but it kind of brings back those memories. And kind of like the sadness of not being able to walk across the stage after, you know, committing four years to a degree and not having that, you know, that celebration.
CHAKRABARTI: So what happened then, after you graduated in the summer of 2020 and later that year?
BROWN: It was a little depressing. ... Kind of stuck in the house because, you know, everything closed down and not really getting to experience, you know, my summer. But ... the celebratory experience of graduating college, it kind of kind of felt like everything was on hold.
CHAKRABARTI: And how did you see your city change around you in 2020, 2021? Because you wanted to work for the city of Detroit, right?
BROWN: Right. Yes, I did. It kind of felt like a ghost town a little bit. Being out and just not seeing people. Not seeing it as vibrant. ... It kind of felt like a ghost town.
CHAKRABARTI: Ghost town. Okay. And how does Detroit feel now?
BROWN: It feels more vibrant, to be honest, as things have been lifted and people are back outside. ... A new life has been giving given to the city.
CHAKRABARTI: Okay, good. So tell us more then, about what you ended up doing with your life and career. Because I remember back in May of 2020 when we first spoke with you, you were planning to get a master's degree since you just finished your undergraduate degree. Did you go on to graduate school?
BROWN: I did go. I went for a semester and completed the semester and decided that it was not something I wanted to continue to pursue. For a big reason of it being because it was online, it was virtual, and I just did not enjoy the whole virtual learning experience. Which then gave me the opportunity to just kind of sit and think, okay, is this really what I want to get a master's in? But it really was because of the virtual learning.
CHAKRABARTI: And so what did you pivot to then after that?
BROWN: I still haven't gone back since then. I'm still trying to trying to decide on a major, on a career that I really want to do. I don't want to just jump into something. So I haven't done the pivot yet. I'm thinking about public policy, education policy. Just part of how I saw, you know, the education system go through COVID, how to handle it. I kind of want to go into that maybe and change the way in which we do education.
CHAKRABARTI: Well, can you tell me a little bit more about that? Because I understand that you actually did some work as a paraprofessional at an elementary school, right? Can you tell me what you saw during that time?
BROWN: I was at an elementary school in the city of Detroit. And so I just saw the disadvantages that our students were getting due to COVID, but also just because of the education system to begin with. So like not having, you know, adequate technology to do the virtual learning. Just seeing how kind of behind they were to begin with before that. And then with the COVID happening. So not being able to ... receive the learning that they need to receive in the way they need to receive it, if that makes sense.
CHAKRABARTI: How did that have an effect on ... you? Right now, you're a student engagement coach for 16- to 21-year-olds.
BROWN: Yep. I'm a student engagement coach at a nonprofit and working with 16 and 20 year olds and seeing where they are at, as well. I can tell how the education system has let them down due to COVID. But also before that. Especially with being in the city of Detroit and knowing that, our students and our kids are not receiving the best education they could. Compared to schools, you know that we are adjacent to in the suburbs. So just seeing how the education system has let them down. Pre and post COVID.
CHAKRABARTI: Do you feel like they're even more disadvantaged now because of you know, like you were just talking about the challenges of getting an online education? Resources. I mean, do you see them as struggling more?
BROWN: Very much so. I work with kids at an Alternative High School. So they are students that have been essentially kicked out of Detroit public schools due to either, you know, bad behavior, but a lot of them because they were behind in credits due to COVID. So they're seniors that were projected to graduate, but they only have a sophomore junior standing because they weren't able to complete their courses due to COVID. Mm hmm. ... So now they're, you know, 17, 18 at alternative high school, you know, wanting to graduate ... But they only have sophomore credits.
CHAKRABARTI: If you had a chance to speak to Michigan State elected leaders or the head of the Department of Education in the United States. I mean, what would you tell them?
BROWN: We have to do better for our kids. But tell them that we need to create a more individualized like strategy for our students. We can't do a one size fits all because it doesn't. ... They need more resources, it's not fair that they don't receive the resources, the basic resources to begin with. They need more resources on top of that. They really do deserve, you know, equity over equality.
CHAKRABARTI: Well, Alexis, I hope you don't mind me asking, but you got COVID a couple of times, and I believe you lost a family member from it also.
BROWN: Yes, I did.
CHAKRABARTI: Your uncle?
BROWN: Yes. Yes. I lost my uncle, honestly, in the beginning of it. I want to say he was one of the first ... that we lost in Michigan. And, you know, they were trying to say, you know, we don't know if it was COVID, It might have been complications. But he was young. He was young. So it didn't really make a lot of sense. From that, it kind of made me, I'll say for my age group, more weary or more cautious than a lot of other people in my age group. Because I saw firsthand, you know, that this is as real as they say it is. And yes, I did end up getting COVID twice, but luckily, I felt like it wasn't as bad as the stories I heard because I had the vaccine, and I had the booster. But I still went through some horrible symptoms.
CHAKRABARTI: Do you think the pandemic and all that you've experienced because of it has changed you as a person?
BROWN: Yeah, it definitely has. It will be wrong for me to say it hasn't. It definitely has changed me. I would say a little more cautious, definitely just more intentional about how I spend my time and who I spend my time with, like making sure, you know, I'm with people that I feel loved and valued. Because ... tomorrow is not promised.
CHAKRABARTI: What does the way that the United States handled the pandemic, politically, economically, socially ... what does that make you think about your country?
BROWN: Honestly, the first word that comes to mind is disappointed. Disappointed and angry because I just feel like it was not handled well. If things would have moved a little bit swifter, a lot less people would have died. And I just feel like the resources weren't as available for us in urban areas.
CHAKRABARTI: And so what do you want from future leaders in terms of the next pandemic or even before the next pandemic?
BROWN: Honesty. Transparency. Just better ways at getting the information across. You didn't know what was real and what wasn't. And that was scary.
CHAKRABARTI: Do you still have hope for yourself, Alexis? I hope you do.
BROWN: Yes, I do. I do. I have a lot of hope for myself.
CHAKRABARTI: We are checking in with several of the many Americans who shared their stories over the past three years of the COVID 19 pandemic. We heard from folks from all walks of life and all across the country. And as the pandemic public health emergency in the United States is officially over, as of yesterday, we wanted to know how people are doing now and what they want for their lives moving forward.
So here's another person that we first heard from back in April of 2020, Pavlos Sierros. He's the owner of Forgtmenot, it's a popular bar in New York City's Lower East Side. And again, when we spoke with him back in April of 2020, at that time, he told us that he had to get creative to keep his business running.
PAVLOS SIERROS: I was sitting with my partner ... having I think it was a whiskey. So we're thinking of what to do and turns around and says to me, Why don't we just do a grocery store? Plus, my brother owns a big supermarket in Astoria, Queens. That's where I grew up, so I figured, you know, I have the supply chain anyway. Why don't I just do it, you know? ... So I brought in lumber and we just filled the shelves and that was it. There's definitely a Trader Joe's and the Whole Foods within ten, 15 minutes for me. But there's huge lines and some people just don't want to wait to just come get their stuff. But obviously, I can't compete with the big chains, you know what I mean? We do our best, but also we have full liquor. We sell a lot of gin and tonics to go Bloody Mary's, margaritas, whiskeys. You know, some you can't get in a big store.
CHAKRABARTI: And of course, New York was in that long running lockdown at the time and suffering a lot from COVID. So how's he doing now? Well, we just caught up with him yesterday and he told us that it was not easy during that time to keep his business afloat. But because of the pandemic, he's now changed his entire business model.
SIERROS: We were losing money. Even delivery. We weren't even breaking even. But you know what? You got to keep it going. You got to keep it going. Once you stop, it's really hard to get it back. A lot of people stayed home. We never stayed home. We just kept pushing. We worked for free and negative for so long. You know, eventually you come out of it, but it got really bad because all I had is restaurants, because I had all my eggs in one basket.
And the government came one day and said, Everything's shut down. Everybody in construction, people were making money and they weren't able to survive. I wasn't. I'm not doing this ever again. Ever. Now I'm diversified everywhere. So if something happens, because I guarantee you they're going to do this again. So now you do more businesses. Different businesses ... they say nothing to you.
CHAKRABARTI: So what does diversified mean ... now? Well, he has four restaurants in New York City. He's also just opened up a brewery in Greece and a few hotels in Greece as well. Let's now turn back to Florida, where Erin Bailey lives. She's a single mom of four kids, ages 13, 11, ten and nine from West Palm Beach, Florida. And we first spoke with her in October of 2020. And here's what she told us.
ERIN BAILEY: Before everything started, we were doing well. I had actually started my own lawn care business and also did things like car detailing, car washing, house cleaning, basically any kind of odd job. I had went out and wanted to do my own business and got the business cards and started doing the advertising online. And then once the quarantine started, people didn't want anyone around. They didn't want anyone near their property. And then also, it would be hard because the schools are closed, which was my childcare. So finding someone to watch the kids was really impossible. I mean, regular childcares were closed as well, but I couldn't have afforded one of those.
CHAKRABARTI: So that was Erin Bailey back in October of 2020. And she joins us once again on the show. Erin, welcome back to On Point.
BAILEY: Thank you.
CHAKRABARTI: So after we talked to you in October 2020, you were able to start a GoFundMe page that helped bring in enough money to keep a roof over your head. What's happened since then?
BAILEY: Actually, we ended up having to stay in an Airbnb for like five months until we found something because we had got evicted before the GoFundMe helped us. Like it happened right when it was starting up. So we were living in an Airbnb for like five months and it was very stressful and we finally were able to, thanks to the GoFundMe, buy a mobile home. Because the rents down here had skyrocketed. Like I'm talking doubled, tripled since before the pandemic. But that has had its own issues. The GoFundMe helped us get the place and then survive for the first year.
But ... the resources that they have to help you. They've been great. They've helped us, you know, survive until now, like literally now. But they didn't really give enough warning that they would be getting cut off. And so those of us who don't know how to use the system that well weren't well enough informed.
CHAKRABARTI: Oh, okay. Because the child tax credit had ended before, but now the COVID relief money and all the other supports that came along with that public health emergency declaration. Erin, are you worried about possibly getting evicted again?
BAILEY: Yeah, we are actually in the process.
CHAKRABARTI: Getting evicted from your mobile home.
BAILEY: Yep. Even though we own it.
CHAKRABARTI: So you could be getting evicted from the place where the mobile home is?
BAILEY: Yes. But then they would be able to actually keep the mobile home and sell it. Which it's worth way more than what I owe. So it's better for them if we get evicted because then they can make that profit.
CHAKRABARTI: What are you going to do, Erin?
BAILEY: I have no idea right now. Literally. During the pandemic, like after that first year, we lost our car. It broke down. It was too expensive to fix. I couldn't find anything within walking distance. And I couldn't ride the bus because then I would be too far away in case something happened to the kids. So I just now got a car this month because of taxes. I was getting ready to get us back on our feet and we got hit by. Well, the funding has ended. Best of luck.
And, you know, the churches that also do assistance, most of them are saying that they can't help once you're in the process. But I thought that's what the assistance was for. And then, like Adopt A Family, they're another organization. They said, Oh, well, we can only help you if you make this amount of money every month. And I'm like, Well, people who make that amount of money every month, what needs your help? It's the people who are struggling that need the help. So it makes no sense to me. I don't know.
CHAKRABARTI: What aspect of the pandemic really had the biggest impact on you and your family? Because I mean, we focus a lot on the disease of COVID itself, but so much else happened to people as well. I mean, how did it change your life? What part of the pandemic changed your life?
BAILEY: Well, it was hard enough on the kids being cooped up for so long, because when you put four siblings together in one roof for a long time, they wanted to tear each other apart and still love each other at the same time. So it's like Sweet and Sour Patch kids, you know what I mean? Like one minute they're fighting and the next minute they're cuddled up watching a movie. But I mean, it's just really hard on them when they can't get out and do things and play and socially interact.
It makes it hard when they are finally able to get out there. It's almost like they sort of either go crazy or they wall up and they're afraid to talk to other kids. I had two that was wilding out and two that were more shy and it was harder for them to make friends again. So shutting them up for so long was definitely not good for them. And then plus, you know, they see their mom trying to struggle and trying to find work and trying to find these different ways to make money.
For things they need. Because kids need things all the time, whether it be they want to do cheerleading like normal kids in their class or my son wants to play football. All these things cost money when we're already struggling. Like we had to go a period, without our food stamps because it's a process to get any help is ridiculous. It's like they make it so hard. So some people will just give up.
CHAKRABARTI: How do you make it through every day, Erin?
BAILEY: You got to take it a day at a time and hope that you don't go crazy. Every day is different. And it's always a struggle. I mean, literally just in the last six months. In order to get any help, I would have to sit on the phone for 4 to 6 hours on hold every day. That was time I could have been out trying to do an odd job or trying to find a normal job closer to the house. So I would have to take time away from my kids when they got home. Once the call centers had closed to go out and try to find that work, when I could have been spending it was my kids. But they make it so hard.
CHAKRABARTI: Given all that you have experienced and are continuing to live with, how do you think your country and its leaders did in this pandemic? How did they do enough to help you and what's your message to them?
BAILEY: I mean, I really believe that most of them were doing the best that they could do, and they don't realize how hard it is to get the assistance that they're trying to give to us because they're in a position where they don't need it. So they don't see firsthand how hard it is and how emotionally taxing it is to go through those processes. So they have no idea. Like, I know that they think, okay, this is great. It's going to help all these people.
But in reality, a lot of people who need the help don't end up getting the help because either it's too complicated or there's too many little restrictions that make no sense. It's like, oh, well, you don't make enough money, so you don't qualify for this. Well, that's the point. I don't make enough money, so I do need this. Like, I really wish that they would spend more time, actually. Going along with family or people who have to go through these programs to see how hard it is to really get them. And if they could make that process a little bit easier or change it in a way that they won't require it so often. Then I think that would really help everybody.
This program aired on May 12, 2023.