Around Disney, the magic no longer operates

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Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair (access the author's page)

"A world where your dreams come true". These days, Disney’s slogan does not reflect the day-to-day lives of many Orlando tourism workers facing downsizing and layoffs.

In September, Disney World, which announced it would reopen during the summer, announced a reduction in hours due to lack of visitors.

We almost feel isolated, says Ashley, a Floridian she met at Disney Springs, a commercial center at the entrance to one of the amusement parks, where taking a temperature and wearing a mask are required.

While she is happy to shop there without being crowded with tourists, this Orlando resident is well aware that this unusual setting is synonymous with economic hardship for her region.

Disney Springs, the shopping district near amusement parks.

Visitors are few to Disney Springs, the commercial district near the theme parks.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

Three weeks ago, Disney announced the cut of 28,000 jobs in the United States, mainly at its theme parks in California and Florida.

In Orlando, nearly 9,000 part-time workers were told they would lose their jobs earlier this month.

Among them, Charissa Ward-Spencer, waitress in a restaurant in Hollywood Studios park, whose shifts had been suspended since spring.

I've been working for Disney for fifteen years, it's not like it's a little temporary job, explains the mother of three.

The post of her partner Tarik was also abolished. To survive, the family is now relying on the small business he recently created and scarce government financial support.

It will be a stressful time. There is a limit to living on your savings.

Charissa ward-spencer

Charissa Ward-Spencer is looking for a new job, an almost impossible task in a region where the economy is dependent on tourism.

Charissa Ward-Spencer worked for 15 years in a Disney restaurant.

Charissa Ward-Spencer worked for 15 years in a Disney restaurant.

Photo: Courtesy

In September, for example, Universal Studios, the region’s other major theme park, announced that it would extend the layoff of more than 5,000 employees.

Of course, the job losses come directly from these parks, but it affects everything around. Think about hotels and restaurants, notes University of Central Florida political science professor Aubrey Jewett.

In Osceola and Orange counties, where many of the employees of large theme parks live, the unemployment rate in August was between 11% and 15%, while at the state level , this rate was approximately 7.5%.

Even though the Republican Governor of Florida has announced the lifting of many lockdown measures related to COVID-19, Aubrey Jewett does not expect the economic situation to improve quickly in his region.

Until people are comfortable, they won't come. Many people are not yet ready to take a plane, drive long distance, or stay in hotels.

Aubrey Jewett, professor of political science at the University of Central Florida

While waiting for help from Congress

In Florida, the key presidential state, EI claimants like Charissa Spencer-Ward get only $ 275 a week, for a period ranging from 12 to 23 weeks.

It doesn't even cover the mortgage. And I also have a car payment, food, electricity, she explains.

In the spring, Charissa could count on additional help from Washington. To respond to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, Democrats and Republicans agreed on a plan that ensured the payment of $ 600 per week to Americans who lost their jobs.

Charissa Ward-Spencer outside her Orlando area home.

Charissa Ward-Spencer has not been back to work since March.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

This program expired at the end of the summer and negotiations for its renewal have still not been concluded.

Earlier this month, Donald Trump announced he had ended negotiations with the Democrats, whose demands the Republicans deem to be exaggerated, pledging instead to approve a post-election aid plan. Since then, the president has again expressed his openness to discuss.

Charissa Ward-Spencer blames representatives of both parties in Washington for the failed talks.

It’s not helping us and we need help now. Not after the electionssays this former Disney worker, aware that the next few months will have nothing to do with a fairy tale.

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