By Ralph Dickerson
The unexpected loss of income creates financial hardships for many people.
“We all know people that work there that we are related to or are friends with, or sometimes both,” Hancock County Judge/Executive Chic Roberts said. “They are concerned about when they go back. We are just like them. We share their thoughts and concerns.”
One such person is Jerry Jones. He works in maintenance at Aleris, and has worked there for over 26 years. The shut down caught him by surprise.
“We do not have a positive coronavirus case,” Jones said. “I do not know if they are trying to protect us from that.”
Jones said he knows from watching the news the three big automakers in the U.S., Ford, Chrysler and GM, closed their production facilities for several weeks. He said because of the coronavirus, the plant was unable to have meetings to discuss the situation. Though Aleris announced the shut down as lasting a minimum of two weeks, Jones thinks it will last longer because of so many other businesses and government agencies closing for longer periods of time.
“I don’t think two weeks will be it,” Jones said.
Though Jones does not have kids at home, his two stepsons, whom work at Aleris, recently purchased homes.
“Things will be tighter for them than it will be for me,” Jones said. “They are nervous.”
Jones said the company is helping with employees filing unemployment. He said the company gave them forms to fill out, and the company is turning in the paperwork for them. He said the company is e-filing the information.
“We should get an email from either the company or the unemployment office with further instructions,” Jones said.
Jones said the workers receive not only unemployment benefits, but also sub pay from their local union. Added together, it equals about 80-percent of their pay. Jones said he is unsure if it is based on how many hours an employee works each week, or on the 32-hours per week workers are guaranteed. If it is based on the guarantee, then their pay will be based on 28 hours per week.
Aleris also hopes the closure will be short.
“We are doing what we can for all who are affected by this, and want to get everyone back to work quickly,” Aleris Director of Communications Jason Saragian said in a press release. “These are very dedicated and committed employees, and we will remain in close contact with our automotive customers in the coming days so that we can ensure we are back up and running at Lewisport as soon as possible.”