As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Alissa and Freudys Perez, a married couple from Kissimmee, Florida, are both out of work.
On March 28, Alissa was furloughed from her job as director of public relations and marketing communications at Marriott International (Grande Lakes Orlando). Less than two weeks earlier, Freudys had been temporarily laid off from his job as a banquet server at Marriott as well.
Alissa, 37, and Freudys, 28, have two children together, Aaliyah, 5, and Manny, 4. And now that neither of them is bringing in their usual income, the family is on the verge of financial hardship.
"I was not surprised," Alissa says of her job loss. "Furloughs were announced in phases. That particular week, I was already on a reduced work week from five days down to two days, so I was aware that I would eventually be furloughed as well. If anything, I was relieved because the anticipation of 'when' was over."
Throughout the furlough, Alissa will continue to be paid for one day a week in order to maintain her family's insurance benefits. Currently, the company expects her to be able to return to work on May 22, but "of course, it's subject to change," she says. Freudys hopes to return to work as well when places start reopening, but it's unclear if he will get his job back.
Currently, the family's only income is the 20% of Alissa's salary that she's still earning. She isn't comfortable disclosing her exact salary, but says that the average amount someone in her position typically makes is about $118,000 per year. Freudys previously earned minimum wage plus gratuity, Alissa says. His gross income fluctuated, but typically ranged between $200 and $1,000 per week when he worked full-time.
Freudys applied for unemployment at the end of March, but was denied benefits. "His claim said ineligible, which we are now appealing," Alissa says.
In the meantime, the family is "surviving on our savings and my paid vacation time," Alissa says. She expects their emergency savings to last about two to three months. After that, they will be "struggling financially," Alissa says. "We won't be able to pay the minimum on our debts and necessary household expenses."
They're worried about being able to keep up with their mortgage, but have a plan in place for the time being. "Immediately, I called our mortgage company and worked out a forbearance plan, which allows us up to six months to pay our monthly mortgage payment without incurring late fees or impacting our credit score," Alissa says.
She was also able to defer their car payments for two months, "which allowed us more time to pay," Alissa says. "These steps are not eliminating our responsibilities ... but at least they're allowing us extra time in hopes that we do get back to work by June."
In addition to keeping up with their bills, the couple want to make sure their credit score doesn't suffer. "We have worked so hard to increase our credit score over the years," Alissa says. "I would hate to be delinquent on the accounts."
As far as their day-to-day expenses, the couple plans to "spend less on eating out, but more on groceries," Alissa says. Also, "we are definitely spending less on entertainment, less on beauty, including nail appointments and makeup, and less on daycare since my son is home with us."
For Alissa, figuring out how to homeschool her kids has been the hardest part of being out of work.
"The first week was the most stressful because I had to get acquainted with the homeschooling process for my daughter," she says. "It wasn't even about the fact that I was furloughed, it was more about adjusting to the new 'normal' at home with two kids."
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the couple are happy to use their time at home to work on their professional development.
In order to expand their knowledge within their industry, Alissa and Freudys completed a free online course in hospitality and tourism management from Florida Atlantic University. The class provided a helpful overview of marketing practices and revenue management, Alissa says. She "found the guest speakers especially helpful as it provided real-life perspective versus only academic perspectives."
"It was hard to do with two kids at home ... some nights, we stayed up until 3 a.m. but we accomplished it together!" Freudys posted on Facebook.
Loss of income aside, there have been "more surprising upsides to life in quarantine than I can count," Alissa says.
"Aside from maternity leave, we have never had an opportunity to be home as a family," she explains. "I have never been more involved in my daughter's homework than now. My kids are also closer. They have bonded on another level since they are stuck at home with each other."