SEAFORD — COVID-19 has impacted people in various ways.
For Steve Hammell, it has basically been a roller coaster ride.
“I lost my job right before they shut the country down, about four days before they shut the country down,” said Mr. Hammell. “It’s been a nightmare ever since.”
Having lost his job at a container company in Federalsburg, Maryland, as well as his mobile home rental near Houston and his car, Mr. Hammell — a 46-year-old New Jersey native who came to Delaware 14 years ago — was homeless until moving back to his parents’ residence in Seaford.
“I ended up technically being homeless, like not even a car to sleep in. I had to move back in with my mom and dad, which at 46 isn’t fun,” he said. “I’m happy. Thank God I have them, that they are still around and are decent parents that love me and take me in. If not, I don’t know what I’d do.”
He’s awaiting calls from prospective employers. “I’m still looking. I have filled out some applications but haven’t heard anything,” he said.
During this downtime, he’s become a political activist to some degree. He’s hooked up with WorkMoney — a not-for-profit membership organization dedicated to lowering costs and raising incomes for all Americans, making life more affordable.
“I support WorkMoney. I don’t work for WorkMoney,” said Mr. Hammell. “I kind of just support what they are doing. I can’t get my voice heard by myself that easily. (But) they can get the little guy’s voice heard.”
In early June, Mr. Hammell spoke by phone with staffers from the offices of U.S. Sens. Chris Coons and Thomas Carper. His pitch to the liaisons of two of Delaware’s three Democratic congressional representatives was for bipartisan support of the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan.
The plans are the Biden administration’s ambitious spending initiatives that carry an approximate $4 trillion price tag on top of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which met Republican opposition.
“I think the plan, it seems like it will provide a lot of jobs, like good, decent-paying jobs, which we need. I mean, there is not a whole lot of jobs out there nowadays where you can go and work just one job and make enough money to support your family, or you’ve got to work until (you) die, pretty much,” said Mr. Hammell. “You can’t retire anymore.
“I think all the roads and all the bridges need to get fixed. So the infrastructure of America has been falling apart for years. Nationwide, that will bring jobs to every state,” he added. “The Families (Plan), too, was, I guess, to do with the health care workers and nursing home workers, getting them better training and higher pay. I mean, if (you) made 8 bucks an hour and had to go take care of somebody’s grandmother that you didn’t even know, you’re not going to be too happy about it. You’re not going to look forward to going to work.”
For the record, Mr. Hammell voted Republican in November’s election. “That is correct. I did vote for Donald Trump,” he said.
On June 3, Mr. Hammell’s personal story of hardship and concern for the American worker were shared as an opinion piece with readers of Newsweek.
“So, when our elected officials put together the next round of bills, I want them to think of working people like me, people who want to work and get back on our feet,” Mr. Hammell stated in the op-ed. “I hope they will think of us, and not about their own electability. It’s why I voted for Donald Trump: I think Washington politicians forgot about regular working people. Trump lost, but I’m hopeful at least some people in Washington finally got the message.”
WorkMoney’s founder and CEO said the group’s participants concur.
“We have so many members like Steve, whose experiences show it doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat or Republican or neither. Hard-working Americans of all political stripes want members of Congress to stop playing politics, pass a big jobs bill and start delivering jobs that pay more and basics that cost less,” said Carrie Joy Grimes.
Mr. Hammell said his connection with WorkMoney began as he was searching the web for employment.
“It’s kind of strange how I got into it. I was looking there for a job. I was online a lot. Everybody was saying they can help you with this, they can help you pay your bills and help you get a job … and give you grants you don’t have to pay back to go to school … (or) surveys you can take to make money,” Mr. Hammell said. “I was trying anything I could to get by. I kind of stumbled across WorkMoney. They would ask you questions: Do you think the stimulus bill check is a good idea? Do you think it is enough? Different things about the pandemic. Text messages would come in.”
He responded to WorkMoney text messages for several months.
But then, “I kind of got fed up, when denied (unemployment). I had gotten a text message from WorkMoney shortly after that, and I kind of went on a spiel that nobody is helping anybody. People that deserve to have the unemployment benefits can’t get them, and the people that don’t deserve them got them already,” Mr. Hammell said.
Eventually, enough was enough.
“I was kind of mad and replied, ‘Stop!’” he said. “After a while, a WorkMoney member called me, … curious about my story and what was going on because they read my messages. We talked, and he thought it would be important with WorkMoney for me to get my story out there, and they could possibly help me in that by contacting reporters, newspapers, congressmen. It has gone from there. It’s been a roller coaster of a good thing. They’re really helping me get my voice heard about the real issues going on with a lot of the American people, not just myself.”
Mr. Hammell remains hopeful the federal recovery plans will be approved, but he understands today’s scope of politics.
“They are arguing amongst themselves. They are not losing any money. They get a paycheck every week, and they want to bicker amongst themselves instead of taking care of us,” he said. “I think they are a couple billion dollars off right now between the two sides. I’m sure we’ll work hard enough and have enough people to stand up and root for it that we’ll get it passed eventually. Hopefully, sooner than later.”
Ms. Grimes explained.
“Delawareans like Steve were hit with a gut punch by the pandemic, but they dug in and held on, and now, they expect Congress and President (Joe) Biden to finish the job and get America all the way through this,” she said.
“Steve and the rest of WorkMoney’s 2 million members won’t stop until Congress passes a strong plan that helps everyone get back on their feet.”