Amid recent spike in Omicron Covid cases, freelancers struggle to stay afloat: Bushwick Daily

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As New York City approaches two full years of existence in the pandemic, the Omicron variant of Covid-19 serves as a reminder to a part of life in the spring of 2020. Across the city, New Yorkers face anguish similar to those they experienced. encountered in the past because 31% of Covid tests were positive in the past seven days. Governor Kathy Hochul reinstated the mask’s tenure, and for some concert workers in North Brooklyn, the work became systematically inconsistent and unpredictable once again.

Photo provided by Rory Higginson

Rory Higginson is a freelance photographer and videographer working in nightlife venues across Bushwick. The surge in business he has seen following the initial waves of the pandemic was curtailed last month by the recent spike in cases.

Higginson contracted the Omicron variant the week before Christmas and was unable to take any concerts. Higginson tested negative on Christmas Eve, however, his labor declined over the following weeks.

“Some weeks all my jobs fail. Events are canceled, customers are getting Covid, and I don’t know if it’s going to get better, ”Higginson said.

“Finding new clients was easy, but inconsistencies of events were a bigger problem. Events cancel at the last minute, which means I don’t have time to find another gig for that night, ”he added.

While the nightlife industry has been hit repeatedly by the pandemic, its workers aren’t the only ones struggling to make ends meet. When the city closed in March 2020, hair salons were forced to close. As a result, many hairdressers who rented chairs in salons were out of work. Now, in the midst of the Omicron wave, work has slowed down again.

Photo provided by Katie Grossman

Katie Grossman was a hairstylist at the Hair Metal Salon in Williamsburg when the initial break from work went into effect. For more than a month, Grossman called the Department of Labor in hopes of being eligible for unemployment insurance. Even when she finally received weekly stipends and stimulus checks, the income was not enough. Grossman often relied on the sale of candles and jewelry to make ends meet. When the city reopened, Grossman began renting a chair at the High Horse Salon in Greenpoint. For a while, before this recent wave, it was smooth sailing.

“Things finally felt cohesive and stable,” Grossman said.

Now, however, salon work has slowed down. With growing concerns from customers and calls from patients, Grossman’s revenue declined.

“People book, but they don’t necessarily stick to their dates,” Grossman said.

Whenever a customer cancels their reservation at the last minute, Grossman only receives half of what they would have earned at the meeting. Her biggest financial problem right now is not being able to pay for the rental of her chair.

“Please cancel as soon as possible if [you are]feel sick. Stylists who rent stands will lose money when you cancel on the same day, which is why we have a 24 hour cancellation policy, ”said Grossman.

While self-employment is currently inconsistent, there are some outliers. Travis O’Brien is a freelance photographer, works in set technology and heads the Bushwick Art Department. O’Brien said Omicron makes a normal workday more difficult because he has to arrive 20 minutes early to get tested, sign daily waivers and participate in contact tracing. But, unlike others, O’Brien also said he’s seen more work than ever before.

Yet despite the increase in business at O’Brien in recent months, he has expressed that the life of a freelance writer, especially during a pandemic, is not a walk in the park.

Currently, his biggest financial concern is health insurance, which O’Brien says costs him over $ 6,000 a year.

“It’s hard work, with no benefit for the company. Every week is different with new people. The hours are constantly changing. Ten hour filming days are not easy, but it’s better than doing the same thing day after day, ”he added.

Brooklyn concert workers will likely continue to face inconsistent workflows and lose income as the city continues its fight to stop the spread of Covid. When there is so much uncertainty, it is important to support the people who are living paycheck to paycheck.

If you are self-employed, learn more about your rights and protections here.


The selected image: provided by Katie Grossman.

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