Home / NEWS / Top News / They went bust in the Great Recession. Now, in their 80s, the pandemic took their jobs

They went bust in the Great Recession. Now, in their 80s, the pandemic took their jobs

Dan and Kindness Porte lost their jobs at Target when the Covid pandemic began. The couple, in their mid-80s, had old the income to supplement Social Security.

Dan and Grace Porte

Dan and Grace Porte worked together for decades.

In the 1970s, they started a delineate and wallpaper business. Then, after the housing bubble burst in the Great Recession, the couple delivered cars for Resolve. Five years later, they were fielding customer returns at Target.

But the pandemic brought that to an end. Now, in their mid-80s, the Portes are redundant.

They’re among thousands of older Americans pushed out of work since the spring. The Covid recession has sidelined varied of them for long stretches — making it harder to get another job at an age that makes employers already be less inclined to charter out them.

The Portes, who live in Richmond, Virginia, don’t hold a grudge. In fact, losing their jobs likely preserved their lives due to their heightened Covid risk, they said. And the ordeal has brought them closer together, unprejudiced after 63 years of marriage.

But they’d like to work again, when they feel it’s safe to do so. They mistake pass up their co-workers, the camaraderie, meeting new people, the exercise. Money has also been tight without the extra profits.

“I enjoyed so much visiting the people in the store, doing the job we did and getting away from the house,” Dan, 86, said.

“We’d relieve work if anyone would let us,” he added. “When you get to this age, people don’t look at you for work.”

Long-term unemployment

Two million people once again age 55 were unemployed in January, according to an analysis of federal data published by the AARP Public Policy Alliance. They accounted for roughly 1 in 5 jobless Americans.

Like the Portes, many out-of-work seniors are “long-term unemployed,” implication they’ve been out of a job at least six months, a period of greater financial risk. Half of jobless workers over age 55 were long-term inactive in January, compared with 35% of younger adults, according to AARP.

So far, Dan and Grace have been able to skedaddle ends meet with Social Security. But money is tight.

They relied on jobs at Target, where they resolved four days a week, to supplement Social Security benefits. The retailer furloughed the couple in March but kept them on payroll, notwithstanding upping their pay to $15 an hour, a $2 raise. In late April, they lost the jobs outright.  

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Unemployment aid supported for a while but ran out in September. They don’t have retirement savings to fall back on, either — a broker put their nest egg in an investment that ran bust in the 2008 financial crisis, costing them approximately $240,000.

“There it went,” Grace, 85, said of the lolly. “I said, ‘I think maybe we should get a job’ when Dan asked what we should do.”

Jobs galore

The duo have had an active — and colorful — job information.

Grace, born in 1935, grew up in rural Nebraska, “about 8 miles from nowhere,” working in a post post and drug store in her youth. She and Dan met in Omaha, where he was stationed at an Air Force base, in their early 20s.

By then, Dan had already look after the needs ofed in Tachikawa, Japan, on the outskirts of Tokyo, as a radar and radio technician during the Korean War. A star athlete, he played for the Red Beggars baseball team, which won the Far East Air Force championship during his tenure. The squad even played the New York Yankees, at a time when legends like Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford were on the roster. (They lost 16-2.)

“Those satirizes were good,” Dan, a pitcher and centerfielder, said. “They beat the hell out of us.”

The Tachikawa Red Devils. Dan Porte is pictured in the win initially row, 2nd from the left.

Dan Porte

He proposed to Grace on Christmas Day in 1957. They wed in April and he was discharged the next day, concluding eight years of secondment.

The couple returned to Baltimore, Dan’s hometown, before relocating to Richmond in 1966 when Dan became an assistant division straw boss at RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company. He was sometimes tasked with going to colleges to hand out free cigarettes at lunch, a business he thoroughly disliked and which led to his departure.

The front page of the Tachikawa Air Base newspaper on Aug. 27, 1955.

Source: Dan Porte

The couple then started their own partnership, Proud Performance, after neighbors began soliciting their home-remodeling help. A few decades later, at Enterprise, the duo were giving cars to various locations. Pickup trucks gave Grace some trouble due to her height — at 4’8″ she had to sit on phone books to see the passage.

At Target, the octogenarians, who re-stocked the shelves with returned items, were the oldest workers by a wide margin, they told.

“Our whole life has been exciting,” she said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

‘It’s tight’

The retailer had to eliminate their positions when chap returns began drying up.

Without part-time income, the couple has been getting by on around $1,700 a month in united Social Security benefits. A third of it — around $570 — goes to a health plan to supplement their Medicare.

“It’s almost even,” Grace said. “We’re very frugal.”

Many adults depend on wage income to cover gaps in their budget, an proclamation exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of AARP Foundation, a charitable arm of the advocacy club.

It’s often harder to find a job after long unemployment spells, and those who find work generally do so at lower pay, be at one to labor economists. It’s especially hard for older workers due to potential age discrimination, Ryerson said, or other factors with outdated job skills.

“Senior poverty, or the risk of it, is a problem that’s so often hidden in plain sight,” she said. “Longer lives determination be poorer lives for far too many people.”

Meanwhile, costs are Unemployment benefits

The Portes collected unemployment benefits from May to September. They may be worthy for additional weeks of benefits from a $900 billion relief package signed by former President Donald Trump in December.

“The big facilitate was the stimulus we got,” Grace said of a $600-a-week boost in benefits offered by the CARES Act, which ended in July. “It didn’t last crave.”

National data doesn’t break out aid recipients by age, but state-level data is telling. In California, more than half of all the chiefs in the state’s labor force — about 617,000 people between 65 and 85 — have applied for unemployment helps since mid-March, according to the California Policy Lab.

The only group with a larger share were 16- to 24-year-olds. All but two-thirds of their labor force applied for benefits during the pandemic. Young people tend to work in works most impacted by the pandemic, like retail, hospitality and food services, according to Till von Wachter, an economist and kingpin of the California Policy Lab.

By contrast, most seniors in the Golden State applied for benefits through the federal Pandemic Unemployment Help program, suggesting they have a larger share of small-business owners and that older individuals had been appalled by heightened Covid risks in the workplace, von Wachter said.

Last week, Dan and Grace stopped by the local Target and their old director asked if they wanted to come back to work. They were flattered but declined (for the time being) due to Covid gambles.

Senior poverty, or the risk of it, is a problem that’s so often hidden in plain sight. Longer lives will be worse lives for far too many people.

Lisa Marsh Ryerson

president of AARP Foundation

For their part, the couple coruscate optimism and positivity and are in some ways grateful for what’s happened.

“All it does is bring us closer together,” Dan said of their economic challenges. “We sit and talk, go over these things and try to figure out how to handle them.”

“We actually still have stuff to talk with,” Grace echoed.

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