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The restaurant business can be feast or famine. Large tips one day, cut before the lunch rush the next. Working at upscale restaurants shelters somewhat from these harsh realities, but even those working in the most elite restaurants couldn’t escape the pains of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chris and Kelly O’Quain were both furloughed from their positions at local restaurants in Lake Charles. Working on a “day to day basis” is their lifestyle and one that normally works well for the family of four.
Chris said things like sharing a car, budgeting for necessities and balancing work schedules can be a tricky act but they’ve learned to make it work.
“I work day to day like, ‘Alright, I have to make this much money. If I don’t make it today, then if I’m off tomorrow I have to pick up because we have this bill due,’” he said.
When news of restaurant closures arrived, he immediately began working on a plan of action that included filing for unemployment, food stamps and contacting United Way of Southwest Louisiana after learning about their Coronavirus Response Fund from the newspaper. “I did all the stuff just trying because I didn’t know what we were going to do. All of our money goes straight to bills.”
The couple tried to remain positive, like many people, thinking, “Hopefully this only lasts two weeks. We won’t get that far behind,” Chris said. “Well, obviously it’s lasted longer.”
While his SNAP benefits had yet to kick in at the time of interview, Chris said the Coronavirus Response Fund quickly came to his family’s aid covering his electricity bill and a large portion of his mortgage.
Chris said the icing on the cake was United Way’s compassionate employees and caseworkers who even followed up afterwards concerning possible additional needs. “That was such a blessing because no one else calls to see if they can help in any other way.”
Without the fund, Chris said the family would certainly be a month behind on all of its bills. Their worries are lessened and the next month is secure, he said. “We’re okay because of United Way. Both of us are. We’re going to be right at the cusp when we go back to work but we’re going to make it.”
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