wolves 0420

Another 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment this past week. That means, without counting the pre-virus unemployed, that the number of people dropped from their jobs in the last three weeks is now a greater population than any state in the union except California. Add in the previously unemployed, or give it another week, and there we will be: an army of economically depressed people too big to fit the borders of any one state.

So far, the seven people who work at Pat’s are not among this number, and it is my fervent hope that we can avoid becoming casualties of both the economic and viral pandemics. That is by no means certain, as I realized this morning while listening to a newscaster lament the loss of things such as prom for high school seniors and toted up yet another job lost to Pat’s this spring.

Every year Crested Butte High School hosts an after-prom to keep students safe, and the young adults are given themed t-shirts in four team colors for a series of games and activities that I think lasts until breakfast. No go this year for the kids; no go this year for Pat’s.

Last year, after we’d already printed the shirts, Lake City had to cancel a race held on the summer solstice, due to concerns of an overabundance of snow and distinct flooding possibilities. This year the organizers are giving it no more than the next two weeks before deciding whether to pull the plug once again.

This is a major fund-raiser for a tiny county’s emergency medical services, so we have suggested to organizers that if it doesn’t happen, maybe we could add something to the printed shirts to commemorate the problems and sell the shirts to supporters even without a race. We have the capability to help them pre-sell so that we aren’t printing shirts no one will buy. It’s not a fund-raiser if you spend more than you bring in.

But with the equivalent of the largest state in the union now unemployed, who might have the money to support every cause out there that now finds itself in financial straits, many of them dire?

While I have been slurping busily from my own bowl of alphabet soup, economists are paring their predictions down to just three letters: VUL.

What the White House is assuring us will happen economically is a V: a huge, steep, really scary drop to the bottom, followed by a precipitous (okay, the drop was precipitous; perhaps the up would be serendipitous) rise back to where everything was. No problem, nothing to see here, carry on.

Economists eyeing China, where the city of Wuhan was only just yesterday released from lockdown after 11 weeks in solitary, see this more as a U, with a much longer linger down at the bottom than anyone wants.

But it’s still early in China’s recovery, if that’s even where we are, and there are those who are predicting that we’re in for an L of a time: a drop down and here we stay.

If you use a serif font, there’s at least a tiny curve upward, eventually, at the far end of that L, and in defiance of gravity what goes down must surely go back up sometime, right? That’s what we all have to hope for, anyway.

While the VUL (vulgar? vulture? vulgate? vulpine? Vulcan? vulnerable, probably) is completely out of my control, I would like to triumphantly announce a tiny — and still very incomplete — mastery of some of my soup.

I feel reasonably confident that I have reached the 5% mark and am getting close to being among the 1 percent of the country that might actually understand the Employee Retention Credit.

I have decided that moneywise it could be about a wash with the Paycheck Protection Program; the appeal would be that I do not have to rely on a bank that may or may not be able to deliver; the drawback would be that it unfolds over a much longer period of time. Which maybe isn’t a drawback if we can limp along on a steady intubation rather than requiring a quick infusion. That’s today’s project.

In the meantime, to get to this point of perhaps being able to make an informed decision, I went through four banks, two accountants, numerous instructions written in the most obtuse IRS-ese imaginable, the questionable assistance of Region 10 — and finally Janet Wolf.

Let me tell you about Janet Wolf. I know next to nothing about her: not what she looks like, not her age, not her place of residence (probably somewhere near Durango), what she does for fun or her favorite food. This is what I know: she is tenacious.

Monday morning, in near total despair over the PPP, I called Colorado Senator Michael Bennet’s southwest regional office in Durango. I would have sent an e-mail, at which I do much better, but all I could find were phone and fax numbers. So I called, and while usually reasonably articulate and fairly functional at impromptu speaking, I floundered. And forgot to leave my phone number.

Yesterday morning I got a call from Janet Wolf, constituent advocate for Sen. Bennet. She went to the trouble of tracking me down, can you believe that? I can’t.

Since I had located a bank that will assist with my PPP application (fourth try’s the charm), I had moved on to trying to decipher the ERC. Like everyone in front of her, Ms. Wolf shook her head (I assume; we were on the phone) and said she had no idea what that was. She dutifully wrote down my questions about it, and then we hung up.

But get this: she kept going until she got answers — or at least direction — for my questions. She e-mailed me four times yesterday, offering different points of information each time. So today I am able to have an informed conversation with my accountant about what my best options are. Do you know what a relief it is to say that?

It doesn’t get us anywhere close to out of the woods, but thanks to Ms. Wolf (lupine rather than vulpine) I have located the trail of bread crumbs.

When she first called, she apologized for taking so long to get back to me. I told her, in all honesty, that based on my previous experiences of contacting elected officials, I wasn’t expecting to hear from anyone at all. I will further confess, I had no idea the bright spot of my wallowing in the deep end of the federal government assistance pool was going to come from a politician’s office.

But it did, and thanks to Janet Wolf, who lives up to her title of constituent advocate, I feel a ray of hope today.

One thought on “Rising

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