Millions of Americans in Unfamiliar Situation: Unemployed, Some for First Time

The executive chef at a high-end North County steakhouse is furloughed, and his fast-paced life turned upside-down.

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On a normal Wednesday night, Justin Huntington would be prepping a prime porterhouse steak or a rack of lamb, then turning his attention to a surf and turf platter topped with crab and a Bearnaise sauce.

Instead, on this night Huntington is home in Scripps Ranch cooking fish tacos for his wife and two children.

“I don’t remember the last time we’ve had this many family dinners,” the Executive Chef said with a smile.

Hotels and restaurants have taken a huge hit in the pandemic. The California Restaurant Association estimates 60% of restaurants in San Diego County have closed completely during the public health crisis.

Huntington, who works at Bob’s Steakhouse at the Omni La Costa Resort, hoped to keep his restaurant open. He planned to-go menus and explored curbside pick-ups, but that survival strategy fizzled when the Resort closed. The Omni La Costa furloughed its entire workforce, including the 30 employees at Bob’s Steakhouse.

“I am still in contact with the staff, giving them updates if they need them, keeping in touch and seeing how they are doing," said Huntington. “I think a lot of them have applied for unemployment, as I have.”

Huntington logged on to the State Employment Development Department (EDD) website about three weeks ago to apply for unemployment and is still waiting for his first check.

“Looks like benefits are going to start arriving about next week,” he said.

While the family meals are nice, there's more than just food on Huntington’s mind.

“If this goes on for any length of time it’s going to get a little bit dicey and a little bit stressful with the money situation around here," he confessed.

Huntington also worries about when he'll return to work. And he's very concerned about the future of the industry he loves so much.

"I'm just wondering and thinking about what the industry is going to look like when we get through this.”

If you’re a California resident and lost your job during the pandemic and you can apply for state unemployment insurance at the EDD’s website. If you don’t have an online account, you'll be asked to create one. Then select "UI Online."

Before you apply for unemployment, gather these documents and information: your Social Security Card or proof of residence, the names of your employers for the past 18 Months, and your gross earnings for the last week you worked. Unemployment claims take at least three weeks to process.

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