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WUNC reports from Greensboro about Guilford County and surrounding area.

Out Of Work Because Of Coronavirus: Full-Time Freelance Writer

Courtesy Dan Epstein

"It just seems like the whole system was set-up to fail us."
Name: Dan Epstein
Age: 53
Location: Greensboro
Job Status: Full-time freelance writer, unsure of where his next paycheck will come from. His writing is primarily on music, pop culture, and baseball. In good years Dan has made $70,000, more recently it has been about half that.
Healthcare: Coverage through his wife's job at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Most worried about: 

His parents, in New York State: “I’m checking in with them every day. And my worst nightmare is they get ill and I can’t go see them or be with them.” His dad and stepmother are both in New York City, “Both are pretty high-risk, dealing with chronic and critical ailments.” His mom lives in Upstate New York.

Cash flow: “As far as we’re concerned, just not having any income coming in. I’m just trying to take it day-by-day because that’s really all I have control over. But when I start thinking about what this could mean, in the bigger picture a month, two months, six months down the road – it’s a pretty scary rabbit hole to go down … Right now we can afford a roof over our head, and we can afford to keep the fridge filled. Six months from now, if things continue, I don’t know that that’s going to be the case.”

Experience seeking unemployment benefits:

“So far that hasn’t gone well.” Dan’s unemployment application was rejected. North Carolina does now provide unemployment to self-employed, independent contractors, or gig workers, among other classifications of work. “Self-employed individuals are not considered full members of the economy, which I think is ridiculous,” Dan explains.

He may be eligible for up to $600/week of federal unemployment benefits, from the $2 trillion Cares Act. However, “I have no idea. I don’t know if I need to re-apply, or if my initial application will be reconsidered.

“There are emails I’ve sent that are getting no response. I’m not sure where I’m supposed to be applying. I would definitely classify it as frustrating. It’s maddening. I understand that this is an unprecedented situation, but any system is going to feel the strain. But it seems like even so, the bureaucracy was caught with its pants down.”


Jeff Tiberii is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Jeff joined WUNC in 2011. During his 20 years in public radio, he was Morning Edition Host at WFDD and WUNC’s Greensboro Bureau Chief and later, the Capitol Bureau Chief. Jeff has covered state and federal politics, produced the radio documentary “Right Turn,” launched a podcast, and was named North Carolina Radio Reporter of the Year four times.
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