• The Unemployed States of America takes readers deep inside the decimated American workforce.
  • Faye Barnhurst is a 22-year-old concert booking agent planner based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • After losing her job at a promotion company at the end of June, Barnhurst was approved for only $100 a week in unemployment benefits.
  • She saves money by splitting rent and expenses with her boyfriend, and is considering going back to finish her college degree since the nightlife industry will be slow to recover amid the pandemic.
  • This is Faye Barnhurst’s story, as told to Meira Gebel.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

I worked as a booking agent for a concert promotion company in Salt Lake City called S&S Presents, which manages entertainment talent for over a dozen venues. We started to realize in the middle of March that we were going to have to shut down completely. It all escalated so fast: Shows and tours were getting canceled one after another, and venues were closing for the foreseeable future. By the end of March, the majority of our employees were laid off, except four, including me. 

For a few months after everything shut down, I worked to try and put together socially distant shows and events, to find any way to get some money in. But with everything going on — the pandemic, shelter-in-place, and Black Lives Matter protests — people didn’t seem interested. Because of that, my position was furloughed at the end of June, right before my 22nd birthday. 

By the time I was applying for unemployment, the extra $600 weekly pandemic benefits were about to expire. 

At the beginning of quarantine, while I was still working remotely, I tried to save as much money as possible in case I was laid off. When that happened, I applied for unemployment immediately, even though the extra $600 a week was no longer available. I was approved for $100 a week — a significant cut in my income compared to the $30,000 annual salary I had before.  

Luckily, I moved in with my boyfriend in February before this all started. We’ve been able to share our expenses and it’s made it a lot easier, for now. But I’ve almost run completely through my savings.

I’m going to have to blow through my savings to pay rent next month. 

A few days ago, I got a notification from Utah’s unemployment office that I need to start applying for jobs, otherwise I won’t get benefits anymore. My company said they won’t have a position for me until next March. So I’ll probably have to pick up part-time work, even though I don’t want to because of public health and safety concerns. 

I was in my third year of college at the University of Utah, working toward a graphic design degree, when I left to take a full-time job and pursue a career in the nightlife industry. But now, since I’m not sure my job will hire me back after all of this, I’m considering going back. I might reapply to school in the spring.

Still, I’m not sure whether I should try and get another full-time job, or get a part-time job serving and go back to school. Everything is up in the air, and the uncertainty is frustrating. 

Since I’ve been unemployed, I’ve had time for creative projects that I left on the back burner. I’ve been teaching myself Adobe Illustrator and have been focusing on photography projects I never had time for when I was working full-time. This whole experience has forced me to think positively, and has allowed me to reevaluate my career and how I spend my time. 

During the first few months of the pandemic, I was in a constant state of anxiety.

Now I feel like I have a chance to breathe. 

Before the pandemic, I was really active in the nightlife community, going out and going to shows. Then, all of sudden, I couldn’t do any of that, and I became really depressed. So I started to go hiking and connect with all the nature we have in Utah that I never took advantage of before. 

I’ve started working out at home — something I have never had time for in my life. I’ve also been trying to journal, and take time for grounding activities like hiking and camping. 

If I don’t get my full-time job back booking shows, I am thinking of doing more DIY-style bookings, instead of working with an established venue. I’m trying to see this downtime as a chance for a fresh start.