Managing your money during a pandemic

By Michael Thomas
Medill Reports

Managing your money during a pandemic can be difficult, and many were not prepared for this economic crisis. Financial advisor Nicole Lujan of Southern California says the time to start planning your financial future is now. “Preparing for your financial success is always smart and is something you should start now,” she said.

Photo at top: A stack of credit cards. (Michael Thomas/MEDILL)

Issues filing for Florida unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic

By Samone Blair
Medill Reports

Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) issued a statement Monday calling for the U.S. Department of Labor Investigator General to investigate the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s failure to implement unemployment benefits that were expanded by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020, citing that only 28% of requests for the benefits had been processed.

While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has dismissed Sen. Schumer and Sen. Wyden’s request as partisan, systems designed by the department have had difficulty processing the millions of unemployment requests filed by Floridians since mid-March. Gov. DeSantis even compared the system to a “jalopy” that tried to race in the Daytona 500.

Local officials like State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-47) have dedicated their efforts to informing Floridians of how to file claims in this difficult time. “This governor has painted a very rosy picture of the unemployment process, blaming the people of Florida for any problems that are taking place,” said Rep. Eskamani.

Rep. Eskamani hosts a weekly Facebook Live briefing to answer questions about the unemployment process. Before a recent town hall, she received 11 pages of questions on a broad range of topics, ranging from technological issues with filing on the mobile site, to difficulty receiving backpay after waiting several months for benefits, and to inconsistent messaging about the requirements for independent contractors.

Rep. Eskamani has donated her legislative salary via Venmo and Cash App to Floridians whose unemployment claims have not been processed yet. “I felt like it was inappropriate for me to get paid when so many folks aren’t getting paid from their tax dollars,” said Rep. Eskamani

Photo at top: The wait queue to enter the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s CONNECT website, which is where Floridians file for unemployment benefits. (

Lessons Learned from COVID-19

By Jenny Ly
Medill Reports

Back in beginning of 2020 when coronavirus first hit mainland China in the city of Wuhan, Chinese cities were running out of face masks.

The shortage eventually hit Chicago’s very own Chinatown, thousands of miles away, as local pharmacies were experiencing the same problem. Families were rushing to buy face masks by the bulk to ship to loved ones overseas.

At the end of Jan. 29, there was only one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Illinois and 165 cases nationwide in the U.S. according to the Center for Disease Control.

When the deluge of COVID-19 cases hit the United States, the roles quickly reversed, opening up many discussions about supply chain and dependency on China for manufactured products, such as personal protective equipment. Hospitals and healthcare workers in certain parts of the country considered “hot spots” were running low on PPE, sparking a mad rush for procurement in an effort to combat the quickly spreading coronavirus.

Photo at top: 3M face masks in Shanghai, China. (Photo courtesy Ross Friedman)

Michigan high school students offer free virtual tutoring amid COVID-19 pandemic

By Bre’onna Richardson
Medill Reports

High school students from International Academy in Bloomfield, Michigan are offering free online tutoring and reading programs so that no student gets left behind. Their ultimate goal is to solve educational inequality. You can visit the group’s website here. You can also visit their Instagram page at @helpinghandssfs.

Photo at top: Helping Hands co-founder, Adrianna Kallabat, virtually tutors student in math. (@helpinghandssfs/Instagram)

Maine police officer, Brunswick resident speak on local demonstrations

By Dave Peck
Medill Reports

The state of Maine is almost 95% white. The town of Brunswick is roughly 90% white. But in the wake of George Floyd, protests have appeared around the country, regardless of demographic. This week, I spoke with Felix Abongo, a participant at last week’s protest, as well as a local police officer, to hear their thoughts on racial issues in America.

Photo at top: Felix Abongo marches in Portland, ME alongside his brother, Phil. (Lydia Caputi/Trinity)

Update: Surviving the Parkland school shooting

By Nicole Girten
Medill Reports

He shot into her classroom first.

Ninth grade English teacher Dara Hass sat at her desk in the corner of her classroom, positioned diagonal to the door of room 1216. While her honor students sequestered themselves in small groups to work on a writing assignment as Hass looked over that year’s submissions for the Broward County literary fair in South Florida.

It was Valentine’s Day, the first time in years Hass made dinner reservations to celebrate the holiday with her husband. Two kids complicated things. The couple planned to go to a local restaurant, The Cook and the Cork, known for its wine selection. Hass wouldn’t make it to that reservation

At first, she thought it was a drill. The school had warned to expect a shooter simulation, complete with the sound of gunfire, so when the first shots sounded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Hass jumped up, turned around and turned down the blinds for the wall of windows in her classroom, as per protocol. “The kids were screaming,” Hass said. “So when I turned around to say, ‘Guys it’s just a drill,’ that’s when I saw the injured students. And I realized it wasn’t.”

One student didn’t make it out of his desk chair, pushed back by the force of the bullets, his back on the desk behind him as he bled.

Hass called 9-1-1 and texted her husband to do the same. The room didn’t have closets or anywhere for the kids to hide. She crouched in her long blue skirt, watching as students put pressure on fellow classmates wounds.

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Young activists find their voice in Manassas protest

By Yousef Nasser
Medill Reports

On Monday, Virginians marched to the General District Court in Manassas to protest the killing of unarmed black men and women by police officers. By the end of the protest, chants turned to cheers, as a handful of young protesters were invited to sit down with the police sheriff to discuss issues in the community.

Photo at top: Prince William County police officers look on as protester Javah Monteiro delivers an impassioned speech to the crowd. (Lucy Ricardo/MEDILL)

A world without sports

By Tony Garcia, Yousef Nasser, Josh Skinner and Allegra Zamore
Medill Reports

In a matter of hours, the sports world changed. This half-hour documentary recounts those harrowing days leading up to the cancellation of the NCAA Basketball Tournament and how COVID-19 changed the sports landscape as we know it. From Texas to Germany, from collegiate swimmers to a sports psychologist, we set out to tell the stories of those in the sports world affected by the coronavirus.

Photo at top: A World Without Sports.(Leila Nasser)