FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WNCN) — Thousands of North Carolinians have lost their jobs this year, including military spouses in the area.
Interior designer Rachel Szabo worked remotely for a Chicago-based company earlier this year.
Her husband serves at Fort Bragg.
“With the military you never know when you’re moving or where you have to go, so it was great to be able to work remote,” Szabo said.
She lost her job in July due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“At the time I was four months pregnant on top of it, so I was like kind of a double whammy,” she said.
The unemployment money wasn’t enough to cover her groceries, so Szabo started getting food at the Armed Services YMCA.
“Once I realized it’s nothing to be embarrassed about, I realized they’re out there to help,” Szabo said. “I think more families need to feel comfortable enough to come forward and say ‘I do need help’.”
Michelle Baumgarten, who is associate executive director of Armed Services YMCA Fort Bragg, says there was a 40 percent increase in military families needing food this spring.
“We’ve given out 35,000 pounds of food here this year alone at Fort Bragg,” Baumgarten said.
She says the number has stabilized since then, down to about 75 to 100 families a month, but they’re still working to get the word out about the help that is available.
“I think there are a lot of really great resources on base that a lot of military families just simply aren’t aware of,” Baumgarten said. “There is support out there, don’t be afraid to ask, that’s why we are here.”
Baumgarten says about 25 percent of military spouses were unemployed even before the pandemic, mainly because of how often they move.
“We are here to help with temporary needs as well as to help with some of those underlying issues that do address food insecurity, such as that military spouse unemployment rate or the cost of child care,” Baumgarten said.
Fort Bragg Garrison Commander Col. Scott Pence says addressing spouse unemployment is a top priority for U.S. Army leaders.
“When the pandemic hit, many jobs were lost and some of those were off post so we can understand the immediate economic impact that is going to have on families,” Pence said. “We have to be empathetic toward our most vulnerable.”
Below is a list of resources for Fort Bragg families:
- Armed Services YMCA Fort Bragg
- Financial Readiness
- Army Emergency Relief
- Airborne Attic
- New Parent Support
- Employment Readiness
- USO of North Carolina
- Fort Bragg Religious Support Office
- Fort Bragg DoDEA Schools