LOS ANGELES – After spending two weeks in the hospital battling COVID-19, Ethel Brooks is still fighting for her recovery.
She was sent home with an IV in her arm, called a PICC line, that will help deliver liquid nutrition for about six weeks.
“In the hospital as the days went on I saw how serious this was. I worried, am I going to end up on the machine?” Brooks said.
Her condition right now prevents her from being able to return to her job at Amazon. She had just started working as a shopper at a Whole Foods store in Beverly Hills when the pandemic broke out.
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While hospitalized, she used up the two weeks of COVID-19 sick pay offered by Amazon and is now completely without an income.
“I am not able to make ends meet right now. I am staying with my sister and it makes it difficult because we are a multi-family household,” Brooks said. “She’s out of work right now, I’m out of work right now. There are younger people here and it’s just like, what are we going to do?”
Brooks tried to apply for a program called the Amazon Relief Fund, but found herself jumping through hoops just to prove she had the virus.
It’s been a back-and-forth situation for weeks she still hasn’t been approved for any relief compensation.
“I am just shocked. I mean I don’t have to jump through a hoop to show up for work on time. I know if I don’t show up to work I don’t get paid. If I don’t work I don’t eat, I know this,” Brooks said. “It’s heightened my anxiety. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what is happening to my health from one day to the next.”
Brooks then tried to turn to the state for help, joining the millions of people who applied for unemployment and family sick leave pay in California.
But to her surprise her application was denied, and she found herself the victim of bad timing on top of everything else.
“I didn’t qualify for unemployment or for disability because I just moved back to California from Texas, even though I’m born and raised here,” Brooks said, adding that she also worked for Amazon when she lived in the South. “I wouldn’t care if a person had a job one day before this pandemic broke out. They are an employee of a company and should be covered.”
Brooks is now turning to platforms like GoFundMe for help. But the situation, the red tape and her continuing health issues make it hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
“I mean I have no options really. I went and I applied for general relief and that gets me $200, but who can live off that in L.A.? No one can live off that," Brooks said. "I have medications that were prescribed to me that Medi-Cal doesn’t cover that I still can’t get. It leaves you in a very helpless situation.”
As for Amazon, Brooks said she desperately wants to get back to work and contribute. And if she could sit down with CEO Jeff Bezos, she knows what she would want to say to him.
“In business people have to make hard decisions but this is just dropping the ball to me. These are not tiny mom and pop businesses. These are huge companies and they should be looking out for their employees with hazard pay and further benefits for people who are affected,” Brooks said. “Help us. Show up.”
If you'd like to contribute to help Brooks, you can visit her GoFundMe page.