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For Some Western Mass. Workers, It Can Be Scary To Be Out Of Work — And Scary To Return

Chris Dostal at Eye Physicians of Northampton in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Courtesy of Chris Dostal
Chris Dostal at Eye Physicians of Northampton in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Massachusetts had the highest rate of unemployment in the country in June, at 17.4%. That’s according to data released late last week by the federal government. One reason could be the decision to reopen Massachusetts businesses more slowly than some other states.

When restaurants were ordered shut in March, Kim Acevedo got laid off from her job as a waitress at Nadim’s Mediterranean Restaurant in downtown Springfield.

Acevedo is now back working 20 hours per week and collecting partial unemployment.

“It’s nice to be busy again," she said. "It’s nice to see the customers, especially our regulars. It’s so nice to see them.”

Chris Dostal is also back at work as an optometrist in Northampton after a two-month absence.

"We don’t see as many patients, just to keep the waiting rooms from being filled up and there’s a lot of cleaning that has to be done between examinations." he said. "So I’m probably seeing about 60% of the patients I was seeing earlier."

Dostal said he’s comfortable with the precautions the office has taken, and working is better than being unemployed.

"It’s just scary being out of work," he said. "That’s never happened to me before."

Acevedo said being out of work wasn’t what she found unnerving. It’s being back at the restaurant.

"I’ve gotta tell you, it’s very scary," she said. "It is. It’s very scary to have so much exposure to people I don’t know. I don’t know their background. I don’t know if they’ve been quarantining."

The owner of Nadim’s said its indoor dining is operating at about 30% of capacity. But he said his sales are only off about 2% from the same time last year because the takeout business is way up.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education and politics.
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