Asheville Citizen- Times: Coronavirus: Workers, employers coping with drastic changes (22 March 2020)

Erin Jordan, an employee at Archetype Brewing, is concerned about making ends meet after the state mandated closures of bars and restaurants except for takeout or delivery.

Oddly, an upside to the housing crisis?

It’s not uncommon in Asheville for those relying on the gig economy to have multiple roommates to make ends meet.

In the new world that coronavirus has created, that’s become something of a blessing in disguise for Andrew Fletcher, a 37-year-old musician who’s seen his gigs disappear this month.

“At this point, it’s kind of nice to have roommates,” Fletcher said. “We’re all working together and pooling resources, so that’s kind of nice, really. It’s sort of an upside to the affordable housing crisis in Asheville — we have a built-in team.”

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Fletcher, who plays jazz piano and works about 200 gigs a year, also pulled about five hours a week working for the LaZoom bus tour company, which is heavily reliant on tourists. He’s got two roommates, and they’ve essentially taken in the girlfriend of one of them, to make a team of four.

“Some of us work in restaurants in bars, so we’ve been pulling out leftover food,” Fletcher said. “We’re trying to go into sort of a ration mode.”

Fletcher is worried that national legislation designed to offer relief to American employees may exclude independent workers like himself, among those who need some help the most. 

“For folks like us, who work on 1099s, a lot of us are the real paycheck-to-paycheck people,” Fletcher said of contract work. “The gig economy is really feast or famine, and winter is the famine. So a lot of people are coming out of winter with empty pockets ready to work all those weddings and private events.”

Fletcher is an ardent saver, and he stockpiled about four months of rent for the winter and has only dipped into one month so far. 

“I hate to eat up my savings just to keep myself alive,” he said, adding that he knows he’s luckier than a lot of folks right now. “People on that winter footing, where there’s no work in January and February, and then you roll into March and you’re looking at two more months of ‘winter?’ That is really tough.”