As Scooter and I walked home from school one day last week, he gave me his bad news for the day. A friend had gone to a doctor's appointment and missed recess playtime with him, his made-up superhero had needed to run from equally made-up bad guys, and--my favorite--some kid had brought a frisbee from home and then thrown it into the street, where it was promptly squashed by a passing vehicle.
There was a sense of comfort in hearing the bad news from a six-year-old's day, especially in contrast to the very big bad news his parents have been dealing with. Trillian has been laid off. Quite unexpectedly, with absolutely no warning, not all that long after we'd convinced ourselves that her job was secure (there's already been a round of layoffs, her team had enough work to keep everyone scheduled at 50+ hours per week, and they're expecting to enter an even busier period soon).
Her company has handled this in a very ham-fisted manner. The person who spoke to her on the phone gave her some misleading information (and said more than he should have--if we wanted to sue for wrongful termination, he gave us enough ammo); she wasn't clearly told until the next day that the lay off was immediate and that keeping her on payroll until the end of the month is the sum total of her severance package. They may or may not be able to throw some hourly work her way, but it's not clear who will be making that decision. And it sounds like they won't be able to get COBRA information to her until sometime in May, after their payment of her coverage ends. The COBRA benefits will be retroactive to the beginning of May, but the sticky point is that I may or may not be covered by them--since Trillian and I are not married in the eyes of the federal government, this is a gray area. So the longer they sit on the information, the more likely it becomes that I will be without insurance for at least a couple weeks.
The silver lining, I suppose, is that Trillian detested this job. She had been brought on with the promise of a mix of the work she'd done before and the opportunity to expand her skill set. Instead, she was stuck with a bunch of editing work that nobody else wanted to do and which was really many steps back for her.
She's been working on some of her contacts for a couple months now. The plan had been to stay put until something definite was in place. Her best lead is with a large company where a former co-worker and friend has been dying to bring her on. Of course, that company put in a hiring freeze just as her boss wanted to hire Trillian. So now we're waiting to see what comes of this. The current bad news/good news is that the person who would need to sign an exception to the hiring freeze has not made any moves, but the hiring freeze is expected to end in mid-May. We're hopeful that even if we have to wait a month, things move smoothly after that.
In the meantime, we have our emergency savings. It hurts to dive into it, but this is exactly the situation for it. We've got 5 months at our current spending levels, more as we cut expenses and I attempt to pick up some tutoring, maybe substitute teaching and childcare too. Trillian already cut our costs on a couple extras, without us having to sacrifice much at this point.
The experience of even these few days has shown me how hard it will be for the economy to reach its previous state. For a few months, we'd cut back on our spending, suffering from the psychological fear brought on by all the news coverage. Just recently, having been reassured that Trillian's job wasn't going anywhere, we were spending a little more. Not tons, not lavishly, not cutting out savings, but allowing ourselves the occasional treat, continuing our Starbucks habit, planning vacations. All of that, just to get bitten on the ass. Now you can be sure that even if Trillian manages to get another job before we've been without a full income for a month, we'll be socking it away like mad, less inclined than before to spend on the extras.