ST. GEORGE — The people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have many faces. They can be first responders, medical staff and business owners. But they are also men and women who have served their county in the armed forces.
For one United States Marine – a Southern Utah resident who served two tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003-2011 in the infantry – the past few months have been as challenging as any combat he had experienced.
Now without a job, dipping into savings to pay bills, and put food on the table as a father of four children ages 14, 13, 12 and 8, 34-year-old Manny (last name withheld) dreams of a day when life will get back to normal.
The journey into struggling financially has been a slow bleed for many people during the past few months. Prior to the virus outbreak, Manny worked in sales for a local company. In February, the company was challenged financially and let him go.
To add insult to injury, Manny had just started on a new career path in digital media and design when that goal was put on hold when his school began shutting down.
“There were no hard feelings getting laid off,” Manny said. “They just couldn’t afford to have the sales department any longer.”
Economists say looking for a job under stable economic times can be hard. But following the outbreak of COVID-19, things became impossible with millions now out of work.
“When school shut down, it sent me into a depression,” Manny said. “School was something I was looking forward to going and drawing every day.”
Piled-on bad times upon bad, Manny’s wife had been in school to start her own new profession, but this required state certification which she could not take because of the virus outbreak. Even though she had a job lined up, she could not be hired without the certification.
Challenges keep mounting.
One of Manny’s children, his 13-year-old son, has DiGeorge syndrome. He was born without a thymus and cannot filter out harmful viruses that have rendered the family unable to take the chance of leaving their home even for the basic necessities.
DiGeorge syndrome, also known as 22q11. 2 deletion syndrome, is a syndrome caused by the deletion of a small segment of chromosome 22. While the symptoms can vary, they often include congenital heart problems, specific facial features, frequent infections, developmental delay and learning problems.
“Even starting a new job now is not that great of an option because I could bring something home to him and that could kill him,” Manny said. “He is also autistic and dealing with all of this is hard. It seems like everything, in a nutshell, is being thrown at us in the last month or two.”
Hunkering in place, Manny and his family are doing the best they can, he said. As an artist, he has tried to sell pieces of his work.
“We are sliding by,” he said. “We have burned through our savings and we are trying to make it until this is over.”
Like many, Manny is relying on using credit cards, building more debt, and faced with interest that will have to be paid back.
Although it seems like swimming upstream, Manny said he is generally optimistic. But this isn’t his first challenge in life. In 2018, his home in North Carolina was destroyed by Hurricane Florence.
Because Manny is considered 100% disabled, there is financial help from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. But he has not filed for income tax in this category since 2015 and is not eligible to receive the current round of federal government stimulus funding.
“I was told to contact the VA or the IRS who aren’t open,” he said. “They want you to go on the internet which tells you to put in your last tax return five years ago and put in your ID number but I don’t have that. My wife is in the same boat because she has been a student.”
The other hurdle with Veterans Affairs, Manny said. He has to travel to Salt Lake City for services even though Las Vegas is closer.
“The VA hasn’t been any help at all,” he added.
Pat Lisi, commandant of the St. George Marine Corps League, Utah Dixie Detachment 1270, told St. George News that Manny is exactly the type of person we all need to help.
“He asked me … if I know any programs for disabled veterans that offer financial assistance for times like these,” Lisi said. “I do not, but I offered to donate … and asked him if it’s alright if I contact the Marines in the detachment. So here I am.”
Manny can be contacted at this link. He is eager to get back to work and remain a productive member of the St. George community.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.