How The Pandemic Changed Our Lives - 3/21/21 - Segment 3

How The Pandemic Changed Our Lives - 3/21/21 - Segment 3

Video Transcript

- Welcome back. We get to the point on jobs during the pandemic. New numbers in the last week show Texas is adding jobs and lowering the unemployment rate, but beyond the numbers are continued stories of struggle. Brian New follows the year-long journey of a small business owner in Fort Worth who struggled the pandemic, or survived it, rather, despite all of the odds.

BRIAN NEW: When the pandemic hit and businesses were forced to close--

DANETTE WICKER: I'm a massage therapist and a nail tech.

BRIAN NEW: Danette Wicker found herself out of work.

DANETTE WICKER: And when they did the COVID pandemic shut down, I literally lost all my revenue, all my income in one day.

BRIAN NEW: One year later, the door to her small Fort Worth massage and boutique store is back open, but it hasn't been easy, and it's definitely not business as usual.

DANETTE WICKER: This is not, as we've seen, a year, 12 months, 18 months, this will be us cycling business wise for the next 2 to 10 years, with a new normal.

BRIAN NEW: Last March, Danette applied for a small business disaster loan, and filed for unemployment benefits. They were supposed to be the safety nets, until she could return to work.

Were they safety nets for you?

DANETTE WICKER: No. It turned out to be a lifeline to save me from drowning, but I already was drowning before they threw it. And I still had to keep grasping and grasping and grasping.

BRIAN NEW: Danette's small business loan barely covered expenses for a month, and when she went online to apply for unemployment benefits, she was told to call, but she couldn't get through. It was months before she saw her first unemployment check. Danette was not alone.

DAVID AGUIRRE: There's nobody going to be on the phone. Like, it's ridiculous.

BRIAN NEW: When David Aguirre lost his job as a car salesman, he was initially denied unemployment benefits. He tried calling hundreds of times, trying to fix the problem.

DAVID AGUIRRE: It was weeks, nothing coming in, and I'm sitting here, going, oh my gosh, the bills are still coming, but I got nothing going in--

BRIAN NEW: But while David eventually did get his benefits--

ELIZABETH GATEWOOD: I called them 1,500 times.

BRIAN NEW: To this day, Elizabeth Gatewood says she still hasn't received all of hers. Her appeal to the Texas Workforce Commission months later is still pending.

ELIZABETH GATEWOOD: It's incredibly frustrating, and you lose hope with it.

BRIAN NEW: Elizabeth, David, and Danette are all back working, but like 41% of Americans, they say they're making less now than they were before the pandemic.

DANETTE WICKER: It's totally flipped.

BRIAN NEW: Danette says the only reason she's been able to stay in business is not because of any federal relief program, but because she adapted.

DANETTE WICKER: I've totally pivoted to retail, being how my business can be financially successful.

BRIAN NEW: Before the pandemic, 70% of her business was massages. Now, 70% is virtual shopping, using FaceTime to give customers who may not want to come in a personal shopping experience.

DANETTE WICKER: And the first one I did, the camera was right side up, or upside down, and it was pitiful. So I've come a long way. It's too easy to just come in and be defeated. It's not like I'm skipping through the tulips every day, but I figure out each day what it is I could achieve that day to grow my business. I'm not stagnant and I'm not dead. I'm not where I want to be at all, but I am moving forward.

BRIAN NEW: Earlier this month, speaking in front of a state Senate committee, the executive director of the Texas Workforce Commission admitted that despite extra call takers and added call centers, getting ahold of a TWC employee by phone is still a problem today. The unemployment rate here in Texas has dropped in half since last April, but is still double the rate of what it was pre-pandemic. In Frisco, Brian New, CBS 11 News.

- Spring break one year ago marked a turning point for most schools. This is when the majority of children finished their school year as they knew it, and some students haven't stepped back into a classroom since then. Ginger Allen sat down with teachers who are looking ahead with hope.

GINGER ALLEN: We asked four school districts to provide us four teachers. They did not know each other, and we broke our questions into three categories. Looking back and the learning loss, right now, mental status of the kids, and looking ahead, the lessons learned.

Inside the walls of this high performing arts school in Dallas, theater arts teacher Guinea Bennett Price says her students fall into three categories.

GUINEA BENNETT PRICE: We have the kids who are going to sort of straddle the fence anyway, you have to pull them along more in this environment. Then there are the ones that this work, this art is their lifeline. Nothing's going to stop them, virtual or in-person, from getting what they need. And then we have the ones that's just in their blood, I'm going to absorb it no matter what.

GINGER ALLEN: And these other North Texas teachers all agree. Much of the learning loss this year will depend on the type of student. Paige Houghtaling teaches seventh grade math in Richardson.

PAIGE HOUGHTALING: There are some students are doing amazing virtually, that are doing outstanding on assessments, but there are students who are struggling.

GINGER ALLEN: A recent analysis by a Texas think tank found only 29% of third graders meet grade level in reading, 15% of fourth graders meet grade level in math, and 12% of fifth graders meet grade level in science.

HUMBERTO MACIEL-RAGLADO: I can't speak to the accuracy of the data.

GINGER ALLEN: Humberto Maciel-Raglado regalado teaches math to middle schoolers in Grand Prairie.

HUMBERTO MACIEL-RAGLADO: We can't generalize the same loss for every student. They're all dealing with something different.

GINGER ALLEN: Math is an area they agree is most concerning, because the skills build on each other. And as a fourth grade teacher Jorge Davilla points out, manipulative. Hands on materials are important.

JORGE DAVILLA: I think some of those students that are going online are missing out on that benefit.

GINGER ALLEN: Other studies tagged today's students the Lost Generation. Watch how these teachers react.

This is being called the Lost Generation. Who agrees, just by raising your hand? None of you.


GINGER ALLEN: You refuse to call them that?

HUMBERTO MACIEL-RAGLADO: You would say the Lost Generation? You're already counting them out before giving them those opportunities.

GUINEA BENNETT PRICE: What I see is a really wise group of people, resilient group of people.

GINGER ALLEN: You all [INAUDIBLE] you did not want to hear them called the Lost Generation. Are you more concerned about the mental health of this generation?

GUINEA BENNETT PRICE: Normally, there are a lot of kids needing the counselor and considering suicide. What I'm seeing now is students trying to prop each other up, and a lot of them supporting each other.

JORGE DAVILLA: We've had students here, they're fourth graders, they've lost family members, they're still here, they're still working on their math, they have so much perseverance and so much fight in them. That's what I see.

GINGER ALLEN: Ms. Houghtaling also sees hope, as her district has started SEL Mondays, Social Emotional Learning.

PAIGE HOUGHTALING: So it's just different ways to cope with mental health and different coping strategies for middle school kids.

GINGER ALLEN: And looking ahead, that may just be one new teaching technique born out of these tough times.

GUINEA BENNETT PRICE: Some subjects are actually fun and easier to teach on Zoom. For instance, we're working on our plosives, right? And I'm concerned about ending consonants and you finishing the sound. Well, if you're right here, in here, and you're saying bulb, and you're not really-- if you just go bulb, I can see that you didn't release that air. I'm right there.

PAIGE HOUGHTALING: I would say for math, I love PearDeck. It's a way for me to see, real time, students doing their math work. So when we're on our Zoom, I can see students who are making mistakes, and I can fix it as they're working. Whereas when I'm in person, I have to walk the room, make changes.

HUMBERTO MACIEL-RAGLADO: We were struggling before, with the paper and pencil, why would we want to go back to something when we made things a little bit simpler for them.

GINGER ALLEN: One year later, these four say, inside their school walls, they're trying to make up for learning loss, addressing the mental concerns, and looking ahead with new and improved technology.

JORGE DAVILLA: We have to be creative, and it's going to be a challenge. But we're up for the challenge.

GUINEA BENNETT PRICE: I'm like, yes, thank you, come on, future. There's hope.

GINGER ALLEN: Ginger Allen, CBS 11 News.