I think Gawker said it best in their recent headline: “Scranton Is America’s Most Financially F*cked City.”
Exactly how f*cked, you might ask?
Imagine you’re one of Scranton’s city workers. Maybe you drive a truck. Maybe you process paperwork in an office. Maybe you fight the very fires that occasionally threaten to burn Scranton to the ground.
You’ve worked long and you’ve worked hard. You’ve given your city years of your life and your experience. You’ve finally made it up to $19 per hour — a very fair wage for the area — and you feel good about being able to support yourself, your family and serve the public.
[Insert dramatic pause here.]
And then, due to a city budget crisis, your mayor lowers your wage to $7.25 per hour until further notice. Your wage, police officers’ wages, firefighters’ wages, truck driver’s wages, and yes — even his own wage. (You know things are bad when even the city mayor voluntarily decreases his pay to minimum wage.)
Yep. Welcome to Scranton. Only a few short minutes from my home town.
Can you even imagine the anxiety these city workers must be feeling right now? How will they support themselves and their families? How will they pay their bills?
I posed this question to my Facebook friends yesterday. My friend Amber said that perhaps the employees would at least be eligible for unemployment compensation.
Well, unemployment compensation only works when you’re…well, unemployed. These city workers are working their full-time hours for seven dollars and change. According to Scranton’s Times-Tribune, no one’s even sure if they can receive any type of unemployment funds…and, even if they can, they might have to pay it back:
The reason city employees aren’t rushing to the unemployment office may be because whatever compensation they receive may turn out to be a loan. Mayor Chris Doherty has pledged to retroactively compensate city employees once the city’s cash crunch is resolved. Anyone who takes advantage of partial unemployment compensation would have to pay it back.
Also, whether they would qualify for unemployment is not a sure thing.
Spokespersons for the state Department of Labor and Industry declined to discuss unemployment eligibility requirements, even in a general sense, concerning partial unemployment compensation.
There are two primary anxiety triggers here: being strapped for cash (and all of the emotional [and perhaps physical] stress that it brings, and uncertainty.
The state of not knowing. Not knowing what the future holds. Not knowing what tomorrow holds.
Will they ever receive their proper pay again? Will they be eligible for unemployment compensation? Will they be eligible for anything? If they’re not lucky enough to have savings on hand, how will they buy groceries next week? How will they pay next month’s rent or mortgage?
I’m not here to make a political statement about budgeting or managing finances. I’m here to remind everyone that the decisions we make — as leaders, as parents, as friends, as writers, as workers — have an impact. So many of the Scranton-related news stories are focusing on where the city is headed and how the city is going to bounce back and where the city is going to get money from.
But that city is full of city workers. Scranton might be financially f*cked, but its sidewalks don’t get anxious.
Its workers do.
For tips on how to deal with uncertainty, check out this blog post over at Tinybuddha.