UT students find work in time of crisis

Jennifer Errico

Editor’s note: This story is part of The Daily Texan’s coverage of how coronavirus concerns are affecting UT-Austin. Read the rest of our coverage here.

Like many other Americans right now, Jasmarie Hernandez-Cañuelas lost her job. But for those two weeks, she made a goal to not join the 17 million who have filed for unemployment. 

Hernandez-Cañuelas, like other UT students, has found work in a time of crisis. 

Prior to the closure of all bars and restaurants mandated by the city of Austin, Hernandez-Cañuelas, a government and Latin American studies sophomore, worked as a waitress at 24 Diner for the past five months.

“It was out of nowhere. I always work during spring break, and when I found out I couldn’t, it was a really scary moment,” Hernandez-Cañuelas said. “I can’t just not have a job, right? I need to work somehow.”

Hernandez-Cañuelas depended on her income to pay for groceries, school supplies, tuition and rent at 26 West.

After being furloughed, Hernandez-Cañuelas said she was fortunate to find an online job at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid through a friend as an attorney-client liaison. 

Although Hernandez-Cañuelas is worried about the cut in both hours and pay, she said she is grateful to have found another job to meet her financial obligations.

Gabby Gonzalez, a human development and family science freshman, took a leave of absence from her local H-E-B while attending UT, but immediately returned to work after being sent home to Burleson, TX.   

Gonzalez said her main motive to begin working again is to support her family. 

“I’m helping my mom financially with things like car insurance and rent,” Gonzalez said. “At the moment, I’m the only guaranteed source of income.”

Gonzalez said her personal financial uncertainty is another concern at the moment. 

“I live off campus, so I still have to pay my rent even though I’m not living there,” Gonzalez said. “My family owns and rents a house in West Texas which we relied on as a source of income to pay for my rent, but now, because of the virus, that’s not an option.” 

Despite not necessarily needing the financial help, Jacob Simantob, a business honors freshman, said after departing campus, he applied for a temporary position at Trader Joe’s in order to help serve his community.

“My thought process for applying to Trader Joe’s was there are a lot of people who shouldn’t be working right now,” Simantob said. “Most of the full-time employees at my Trader Joe’s are elderly, meaning they’re more susceptible to suffering from severe symptoms if they get the virus.”

During the pandemic, Simantob said no one should be working full-time right now and he hopes that by working part-time he can help to alleviate the stress on full-time employees.

Hernandez-Cañuelas said she would like to get back to her normal work and social schedule, but wants to help keep everyone safe during this time. 

"This whole situation is just really exhausting and unfortunate,” Hernandez-Cañuelas said. “But I’m willing to make the sacrifice of staying indoors for everyone’s safety overall, as I would hope most are as well."