A construction worker and father moved into a new apartment. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic left him without work and broke

Moving into a new apartment can feel like a big deal, especially when you're doing it for the first time. That's how it was for 32-year-old JP Purnell, a Spokane Valley-based construction worker and father of a 6-year-old boy. He moved into a new apartment on March 15 after spending a few months at a friend's place following a break-up.

"I was super excited. Everything was going really well," he says. "This is the first time that I've had my own place."

But over the course of that weekend, Washington state was quickly going on a statewide lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19. On March 13, Gov. Jay Inslee ordered schools statewide to be closed. Then, on Sunday night, all bars and restaurants were largely shuttered.

Purnell's employer, a friend of his who runs a small residential construction outfit, told him that weekend that local demand for construction jobs had dried up. There wasn't any more work.

Suddenly, the $600 a week that Purnell was bringing in from the construction job was gone. And with his son now at home all day because schools are closed and bills piling up, he doesn't know how he's going to make ends meet.

"I'm super stressed about how I'm going to pay the bills and everything and I can't buy any food either," Purnell says. "I saved up to get a place and then that took all the money moving into it and now I'm kind of struggling."

He's on food stamps, but the money won't get refilled until early April. And a message to his landlord about his situation has gone unanswered.

"My account is overdrawn and all that stuff right now," Purnell says. "I'm really concerned because I have nowhere else to go."

So far, he's relied on food banks and donors responding to posts in local Facebook groups to get food. But he doesn't want to rely on the generosity of others in the long term.

"I don't like relying on anyone else, it makes me feel bad, makes me feel bad as a parent," Purnell says. "But I don't know what else to do right now."

  • or

About The Author

Josh Kelety

As a staff writer, Josh covers criminal justice issues and Spokane County government. Previously, he worked as a reporter for Seattle Weekly. Josh grew up in Port Townsend and graduated from the University of Washington. Message him through Signal @ (360) 301-3490.