Many Americans across the nation were unexpectedly laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kateleigh Mills with Oklahoma Engaged reached out to Oklahomans who lost their jobs as the virus spread to learn how that impacted their decision to vote.
JONATHAN COX: My name is Jonathan Cox. I’m a database administrator here in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. We started 2020, great. I truly, honestly didn't expect to be laid off. I’d been at my current job - this would've been my 13th year. You know, we've been through a lot of downturns in the oil and gas industry.
You know, prices bottoming out pretty low. So January, you know, if you would’ve told me that I was going to be unemployed, I really - it would be a real hard sell.
In fact, it was people kind of thought I was joking when we let the my coworkers know that, hey, I was going to be laid off. They were like, 'What? No way, that that and that makes absolutely no sense."
Being unemployed during a pandemic is definitely a trip. Things move at a snail's pace because when you go to file for unemployment, normally you would just go down to the unemployment office. Well, everything was being done online and the systems backlog that Oklahoma had was just crazy. It actually took me nearly a month to get my first unemployment check. That's quicker than quite a lot of others. But still, when you go from a steady paycheck to no paycheck, there's a - it hurts a little bit.
The first time I was unemployed I was laid off from a call center, probably the end of 2003. So I'm, you know, literally in my you know, my early 20s, I don't have a wife. I don't have a kid. So it wasn't like the end of the world. Compared to being at a point now when you have a wife, two children and a mortgage and car payments, you know, just because you are not working doesn't mean those things stop. You know, my kids still got to eat, my truck payments still needs to be made. You know, my son, he's four and he's kind of an inquisitive little guy. So he asked me, you know, “Why aren't you going to work?”
And you trying to explain, you know, unemployment to a four-year-old just doesn't work out. You know, to him. I got fired. So it didn't change my vote because of who I was going to vote for. Again, you know, looking at the political landscape during this pandemic, you know, it's it's been just a disaster, I feel like, for a lot of people.
ALLIE TABBERER: My name is Allie Tabberer. I live in Oklahoma City. So the start of 2020 was generally fine. Oh, for like the first three months. But I started getting nervous about COVID-19 and potential effects on everything else. In late February. What I didn't expect was to get laid off. I worked for a company that specialized in life events, ticketing and donations for life events. And when all live events across the world shut down quickly, the ripple effects came down swiftly.
It was a very scary feeling. I had never I had never lost a job in that kind of way. I had always chosen to go to the next thing. So I was scared. I was so scared. And on top of losing my job, I'm also a parent to a five-year-old son. And it's been a very hard six months, and I still don't have a permanent permanent position with insurance and all the good things that come with permanent employment.
I had always been comfortable in, like, having my own beliefs, but I had not always been comfortable and really talking about them, right. I grew up in a family that - that as I became an adult, I began to have different political beliefs than like my parents.And I consequently had, like, kept it fairly quiet, like on social media and in other like non one-on-one communication about my own political beliefs. But feeling the effects of everything in such a granular level on my family - crystallized everything I believed in. It made everything incredibly clear for me. It didn't necessarily change my beliefs, but it I felt like it reinforced them with steel.
I've joked to a few friends that I became radicalized by this election and this experience into fighting what I am fighting very hard for, what I believe in and the way that I'm currently engaging in that fight is by doing those phone banks, doing those tax breaks, talking to voters in a remote way. And I'm looking forward to continuing that kind of thing even after November 3rd this year.
This story was produced for Oklahoma Engaged, an election project by NPR member stations in Oklahoma supported by the Inasmuch Foundation, the Kirkpatrick Foundation and Oklahoma Humanities.