JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Candi DeHart has worked as a waitress at Denny’s in Northeast Florida for the last 13 years. She said the restaurant she works at closed its dining room Thursday ahead of Gov. Ron Desantis signing an executive order to suspend food consumption on-premises.
A sign on the door Tuesday said they are still delivering food.
DeHart, who makes the majority of her income in tips, said she is expecting one more check and then she’s not sure when her next paycheck will come.
“My panic mode kicked in and I thought, how am I going to pay my bills? How am I going to pay my lights? How am I going to feed my kids?” said DeHart. “I am not looking for any handouts, or ‘poor me.’ I just want to go back to work. That’s it. I just want to go back to work.”
DeHart has several mouths to feed. Her two sons live with her and she’s also caring for her 9-month-old grandchild.
“I have a regular customer right now that gave me $60 on my last day of work just to tell me, ‘We care about you. We want to help you out,’” said DeHart. “I’m just trying to keep it together. It’s not just me going through it. It’s everybody. If I need to get another job while we’re waiting, then that’s what I need to do.”
Restaurants, bars, caterers and hotels in Northeast Florida represent roughly $4 million in daily wages – not including tips service workers get each day, according to federal data.
The website that processes unemployment claims in Florida has posted on their website that they’re experiencing unusually long wait times because of COVID-19.
JEA said it will not disconnect water for late payment, and the chief judge in Duval County has stopped the enforcement of evictions until April 3, according to a city spokesperson.
A spokesperson for the Mayor’s office said in a statement ‘If JSO is called to enforce an eviction for non-payment, they will not enforce it. Keep in mind, this is only for non-payment.”
DeHart says the adjustments have helped. It’s one less bill she feels she has to worry about.
“Everybody is trying to keep a positive attitude about the situation. We all believe that God is going to get us through this, but just not working and not knowing how we are going to survive or take care of our kids. That’s our main focus right now,” said DeHart.
There are resources available for people who need help. Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund advertises delivering essential human services to residents disproportionately burdened by this public health crisis. You can call a free 211 helpline for assistance.