Pandemic forces ex-supervisor to find new niche

REINVENTING YOURSELF: April Ignacio, a former restaurant supervisor, says there are a number of opportunities even in the midst of a pandemic, especially if one is not too picky about available jobs that help pay the bills. When not working, she rides to ease the stress and anxiety of staying home for months. Photo courtesy of April Ignacio

(Editor's note: This is the second in a series of stories about workers, along with their families, who have been able to get back on their own feet after losing their jobs as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic and who later received temporary help from the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.)

April Ignacio, 41, came out of a group Bible study with not only renewed spirituality, but also with a job offer, months after she was furloughed from the job she loved so much.

Furloughed in March, she permanently lost the job in September after receiving news that the Tumon restaurant where she worked as a supervisor would not reopen.

This means that even after most COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and tourists start coming back, she won't have the restaurant to go back to.

But in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, she said, there are still companies that continue to look for new employees.

"There are jobs, but don't be too picky," Ignacio said. "Any legitimate job that you can do, any job that can help feed the family and pay the bills, take it. You don't need to be picky. Getting into a new job, even if it's not your ideal job, is much better than not having a job at all."

Ignacio, a mother of four, went from being restaurant supervisor at Terry's Local Comfort Food in Tumon to a sanitization employee at a janitorial services company called Paradise Earth, she said.

Grateful for the opportunity

Despite the shift in career path, she said she's grateful to the company for hiring her in these challenging times.

"I was anxious to get back to work. My husband remains employed but it's always good to have extra income to pay all the bills," she said.

Her new job involves sanitizing office spaces and surfaces, a job niche that the COVID-19 pandemic has opened up.

"The job itself is easy. It's not a job I'm so passionate about because it's not what I was used to, but I am happy and thankful to have a job at all during this pandemic," Ignacio told The Guam Daily Post. "With the holidays approaching, this will also allow me to buy gifts for family besides paying the bills."

Similar to the plight of 30,000-plus workers affected by COVID-19, Ignacio has been receiving federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which will expire soon for her and most Guam workers after reaching their 39-week mark.

The federal PUA program that the Guam Department of Labor administers, she said, is a big help to many families such as hers.

Ignacio said she had been with Terry's Local Comfort Food since the day the restaurant opened in Yigo, and then moved to Tumon.

"I left for a year to work for a franchise company, but I went back to Terry's. So it's really sad that they're not opening again because of COVID. I am thankful for the restaurant," Ignacio said.

Tumon, once bustling with tourists and local employees working in the tourism industry, remains nearly a ghost town as COVID-19 travel restrictions keep tourists from traveling to Guam.

A job offer

Ignacio said she joined a Bible study group and one of the people at the study asked her if she was still looking for a job.

"I said 'yes,'" she said, and she followed up with the company.

She was able to start working in October, mostly after office hours.

"My message to others who also lost their job, don't stop looking for a new job. Grab every opportunity. Don't feel so sorry for yourself because that feeling will not get you anywhere," she said. "I wish everyone success."

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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