Perspective - Stories of Social Distancing

Being an NJ Theater Employee and College Senior Means Double Anxiety

image from raw
by Katalyst International contributor Montana Peschler
As Coronavirus began appearing on the east coast of the United States, Mia Albert, a student and New Jersey resident, hung up her black t-shirt with bolded red letters reading AMC, along with the rest of tri-state bar, restaurant and movie theater employees. Albert has been working for the American movie theater chain, AMC, for two years as she is a frequent ticket stub ripper, guest director, theater cleaner and concession seller.
When the virus first met the Garden State, Albert struggled to find a new job since the theater was ordered to shut down by officials. Before the pandemic, her hours were frequently cut along with her co-workers. Albert is not surprised that the company is now facing bankruptcy rumors especially with no large income being generated.
During the beginning of the quarantine for New Jersey residents, communication between AMC and its employees remained adequate. Albert was given details and time estimates as to how long AMC’s shutdown would be. She mainly gathered all of the information she deemed important from the company’s corporate Twitter page.
“I haven’t heard any updates from my manager since the third week of the quarantine,” Albert said. “I’m assuming the next time I hear from them will be once the company decides to open again.”
After multiple unsuccessful attempts applying to grocery and convenient stores, Albert filed for unemployment. She is thankful that the filing process was smooth because “if I hadn’t qualified for unemployment or received the stimulus check, I would have no money in my [bank] accounts,” she said.
Over 850,000 unemployment claims have been filed in New Jersey but according to, not all jobless individuals are eligible for benefits. Even though Albert is receiving her money, many other Americans are not. The website highlights the troubles that many unemployed citizens have had due to the pandemic. These include difficulties applying, getting in contact with the labor department over phone and actually seeing money owed once being approved. The number of claims have overwhelmed the state.
As social distancing continues, Albert misses her friends. Although she is naturally introverted, “going from seeing friends and peers all the time at school, to now having no social interaction with anyone other than my family is weird,” she said.
Albert is a senior studying psychology at Montclair State University. Instead of the university canceling graduation altogether like many other New Jersey schools, Montclair State postponed convocations and ceremonies. Albert has had a difficult time transitioning to all online instruction since the university decided to implement that system in early March.
“Sitting in class and learning in person to [transitioning] to all online has been difficult for me,” Albert said. “I’ve been having trouble focusing and trying to get good work done, it’s also been stressful.”
Finishing up the final semester of college and obtaining an undergraduate degree is naturally stressful for any student. To put that stress on top of the pandemic, working hard throughout four years of university while holding down a job, should not equivalate to no large celebration and rite of passage.
“This stress has been heightened considering I’m a senior who is just trying to make sure I’m graduating at the end of this quarantine,” she said.
Finishing college is not the only accomplishment Albert hopes to soon celebrate. The celebration and reunion of friends is something she is looking forward to once quarantine ends.
“I for sure am excited for when the quarantine is over so I can finally see my friends and [some of my] family again,” she said. “We can all celebrate being out of quarantine and all the life events we missed like birthdays and graduation.”
However, Albert said she be will remaining cautious once the social distancing is lifted and is choosing not to see people who did not take this quarantine seriously.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges social distancing in order to help eliminate contact between sick individuals and contaminated surfaces. Impacted businesses have taken hits as unemployment applications continue to rise in the United States, while Albert’s employer is in talks about hiring a bankruptcy lawyer.
Although AMC is quite a large business with over 1,000 theaters across the globe, small businesses are not being forgotten during this health crisis. On New Jersey’s government website, a guide is provided for small businesses and loan resources. Grants are available under the A3845 Bill, which “will provide working capital and help businesses meet payroll” according to the website.
On, the U.S. Small Business Administration site, there are different resources for Coronavirus funding options in America. The website states common issues small businesses are facing during this time such as capital access, inventory and supply chain shortfalls, insurance coverage issues and more.
Small business funding options in America include the Paycheck Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (provides up to $10,000 in economic relief and does not have to be repaid), SBA Express Bridge Loans and SBA Debt Relief. These programs remain temporary during the COVID-19 outbreak.
American society will soon find its new normal and although job competition may be high, a slow economic reopening awaits. Albert recognizes there will be a shift of how day to day operations are ran at any job and hopes this crisis will ultimately improve businesses.
“I hope some places of business will take what they have learned and experienced during the quarantine,” she said. “[This way] they can further adapt to make things as safe as possible for people.”