AuthorJaffe, Sarah

Before COVID-19 came along, Jazz Salm had spent most of her adult life working in the service industry. The lifelong Florida resident was good at waiting tables and liked the pace. Since she was also a musician, she relished the flexibility this work gave her to travel and play shows.

Then the pandemic hit. Salm had just moved to Miami to be near her partners family and taken a new job at a Chili's. She had worked precisely one day as a server out of training when everything shut down, which meant she was not eligible for any benefits.

"I was completely financially just shut off," Salm recalls in an interview. "We spent all of our money moving. The only connection I had to my family, because we didn't have Internet yet at our house, was my phone." Applying for unemployment via phone was a nightmare in itself, because the sheer volume of applications kept crashing Florida's system. "It took two weeks to get through the application process," she says.

A $250 grant from the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United), an advocacy organization for service workers, helped Salm with her phone bill. But her whole world was still turned upside down: "Your entire routine goes to crap. After that, then your mental health goes to crap. Everybody, I'm sure, went through that with the whole lockdown. Everything just completely flipped."

After her restaurant shut down, Salm applied for work at a nearby Walmart, which was still open and hiring. But a routine temperature check found that she had a fever, and she was told to not come back without a negative COVID-19 test. So she waited in a five-hour line at a COVID-19 test site; she saw three people pass out and helped the third one get up.

"That's how I didn't have to wait another three hours for my COVID test," she says, because the attendants saw her helping and slipped her in alongside the woman who had fainted. But it took fourteen days to get her test results; by that point, Salm was fed up with her home state and what was left of its social safety net and ready to give up on her frayed relationship with her partner. When a friend of hers in Valatie, New York, offered her a place to stay, she packed up her things, got in her car, and drove straight up.

"I was just like, 'I'm getting out of Florida.' It was absolutely horrendous," she relates. "Just everybody was miserable and scared."

So Salm became a home care worker, looking after her friend's grandfather-in-law. She's happy to have landed...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT