Barbara Eckes

Barbara Eckes stocks shelves in August at the Michaels store where she works in Eau Claire. Eckes, who was furloughed from the part-time job in March, was thankful to be called back to work in May.

When 2020 began, Barbara Eckes, 61, worked part time at a Michaels craft store, and she worked as a contractor at nursing homes and assisted-living facilities giving massages. But once the pandemic struck, she was down to her $327 monthly pension from service in the U.S. Army. We first spoke with Eckes in June.

September: 'Slow getting back in'

EAU CLAIRE — I’m still working at Michaels. Sometimes I get 20-24 hours; this week I got 10. It’s not back to what I’d like to be working, but it’s something.

We’re getting Christmas trees in already and I assume I’ll get more hours as we get closer to the holidays, but we just never know because we’re all part time.

I started doing a couple massages again at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in like the last few weeks. That’s going OK, but it could be better. I have to wear a mask and wipe everything down when I’m done, but at least I can get into a couple more places.

It’s very slow getting back in. I know there’s COVID going around, so I understand the situation. But it’s frustrating. You’re hoping it will get more back to normal, but it looks like it’s sliding back the other way.

My mom is in assisted living in Marshfield and we just found out that anybody can see her now for up to an hour.

My sister lives in Washington state and hadn’t seen our mom in over a year. She got all the way here and was with my mom yesterday only to find out last night they were back in quarantine. The assisted living called and said they were back in lockdown because Marshfield is getting hit with so many COVID cases. Now we only get to talk to our mom through the window.

My financial situation is getting better, but you still know you’ve got bills to pay and you can’t just go out to eat or buy stuff because you want it. You’ve really got to watch your pennies because you just never know. Next week I might only get 10 hours again. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

I found out about the Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program, so I signed up for that to help me pay my rent. And three months later I still hadn’t heard if I was approved. They told me I didn’t put any of my tax information down, but there wasn’t even a question about how much I made last year. It was like I got furloughed because of COVID and I had nothing coming in.

So once my money finally came in from unemployment, then I had to put it toward my three months of late rent.

Now if I could just get back into my hobbies. I love making greeting cards.

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos on it, but I haven’t really done anything since June. I just have no ambition to do it.

October: ‘If you need anybody to work, call me'

I worked at Michaels today and now I don't work 'til Friday. I get about 4½ hours a day when I work. 

Once the holidays start coming around we'll get more hours, but then in January it will drop back off to eight or nine hours a week.

I had a call last week from one of my clients that I do massage on. I was supposed to go over there Wednesday and she called Tuesday and said, "Just to let you know we're in lockdown again." Someone had come into the place and was COVID positive, so they all had to quarantine again.

Massage was my biggest source of income, but now that's back to basically nothing again. I'm doing one massage a week right now, but other than that my people are still in lockdown.

It's a lot of sitting at home and doing nothing instead of working.

It's tough. It's kind of like, "Geez, do I have enough money to buy gas this week?" Thank God gas went down this week. It was $2.04.9 last week and now it's down to $1.91.9.

Then, with Kwik Trip having their rewards program, I had 45 cents off a gallon for up to 30 gallons, so that helped.

I think about this stuff all the time. I understand that Michaels has to divide all the hours up, but it's hard.

I tell them every day before I leave, "If you need anybody to work tomorrow, call me."

October: 'It is what it is'

I saw there's some virtual meeting tonight where people are complaining about wearing masks.

I wish people would quit complaining and just wear their masks and then maybe we wouldn't have half the problem we have.

It's just something you have to live with. It is what it is. But I'll be happy when things are kind of back to normal.

I can't stand politics. It's like, you know, didn't your mom ever tell you, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

They lie about everything. Why don't you just tell us what you're really going to do and then do something about it.

I don't think some of the social media out there is telling the truth about things either, so who do you believe? I just choose not to watch it.

I really don't know if the election will have an impact on me or not.

I can tell you I won't vote for Trump, but I absolutely will vote.