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Petition urging Gov. DeWine to freeze rent, mortgage and bill payments during the pandemic has nearly 80,000 signatures

Updated: Mar. 17, 2020 at 11:51 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The city of Cleveland is pretty much on lockdown. The entire country is being urged to stay at home as much as possible to stop the spread of COVID-19.

While some Americans are fortunate enough to be able to work from home, thousands of others are out of jobs and trying to figure out how they’ll pay their bills.

Twenty-four hours ago, Emerald Wolford started this petition urging Gov. Mike DeWine to freeze rent, mortgage, and bill payments during the pandemic.

“I feel like if the government is going to step in and shut places down for safety of everyone then they should also be making sure that the people who are losing their jobs over this remain safe,” said Wolford.

Wolford is a stay-at-home mom and her husband works at a tobacco shop in Marysville. While he’s still open for now, she knows that could change.

“He doesn’t get paid until the end of the week typically so I’m really concerned that by the time he gets his check we won’t have any supplies and we might be quarantined by then and it’s just a struggle,” said Wolford.

She made the petition Monday morning and by Tuesday afternoon it had more than 75,000 signatures.

“Hours later people kept messaging me like oh it has 5,000 signatures now 7,8,9,10,” Wolford explained. “I could just refresh it and watch it grow it was crazy!”

Ricky Blasey worked as a bartender at Punch Bowl Social in the Flats. He said 24 hours after closing employees were told they were permanently laid off and if they wanted to work there after this is over, they’d have to reapply for their jobs.

“It makes you feel like you’re disposable,” Blasey said. “At least most places at least you’re gonna have your job when this is all over however long this takes. It’s definitely a slap in the face and we have to now seek out other employment which isn’t really easy right now, now that everything’s shut down.”

DeWine did expand the state’s unemployment insurance system to cover workers who are displaced, even temporarily, by the coronavirus, but Blasey said bartenders won’t get much from unemployment and he has a 4-year-old child to support.

“If no one’s got jobs, no one’s got any money coming in, how are we gonna pay our bills and that affects everybody,” he said. “I think it’s a necessity I don’t think there’s much to talk about.”

19 News reached out to Punch Bowl Social for comment and they sent us the following statement, “Every business across the nation is facing immense challenges that have real impacts on the very people they depend on,” said Rob LeBoeuf, Chief Administrative Officer of Punch Bowl Social. "In the restaurant and bar industry, we have been hit hardest. We didn’t do anything wrong, yet our businesses and workplaces have been shut down. We were prepared for a slowdown - no one was prepared for a shutdown. The city of Cleveland mandated the closure of our restaurant. By laying off our staff, they are able to immediately apply for unemployment, ensuring consistent income during inconsistent times. While we know we will rebound, we don’t know when that will be, and so cannot make promises about future employment.”

If you’re trying to figure out which bills you can afford to pay this month; if you live in Cleveland don’t worry about utilities right now-- the mayor has ordered Cleveland water and power not to shut off any utilities during the crisis.

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