Since a $600-a-week benefit lapsed, her savings have been dwindling.

Since a $600-a-week benefit lapsed, her savings have been dwindling.


Christy Miller says there are three things that shape her identity: making people laugh, making people strong and lifting heavy objects. She can’t do any of those right now, and she isn’t sure when she will be able to again.

Ms. Miller, 49, is a standup comedian in New York, where comedy clubs have been closed since March. She is also a personal trainer and an amateur power lifter — activities she has had to give up because gyms, too, remain closed in the city.

For Ms. Miller, the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits from the federal government that lapsed at the end of last month didn’t just allow her to pay rent and buy food. It also freed up the time and mental energy for her to learn video production, podcasting and other skills to help her survive the pandemic-driven shutdown of her industry.

“I would give up the $600 a week any day for this coronavirus to go away and get back to work,” she said. “But the $600 has allowed me not to be homeless, to learn more computer stuff that I never would have learned or had the time to learn.”

None of those new ventures are paying the bills yet, though. She saved as much of her unemployment benefits as she could, and has enough to cover rent through the end of the year. But other bills are another matter.

A stopgap $300-a-week federal supplement is in the works, but it’s not clear when New York will begin paying it, or whether it will be enough to keep her going. And there is little guarantee that her business will bounce back before her savings run out.

“If they don’t fix this pandemic thing, I may have to leave New York because I can’t afford to stay here,” she said.



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