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The Wait is the Hardest Part Months ago, I received an email from the Idaho Department of Labor. It was a press release saying that in the first week of the economic shutdown, it had seen a 1,400% increase in unemployment claims. I’ll never forget that email because it showed me just what kind of trouble Idaho faced, regardless of how it fared with the spread of COVID-19. The news has only gotten more dismal from there. Substantial amounts of money have passed into the hands of departments of labor around the country, but they still must obey state and federal laws when it comes to vetting unemployment claims and disbursing funds to people in need. That process has gotten slower, even as the urgency to do something—anything—increases. Tracy Bringhurst was on a mission. She wanted to collect the voices of people who have been affected financially by the pandemic, and discuss their experiences with the Department of Labor. Their stories are harrowing: Many of them have waited more than two months for a response to their applications, let alone receive benefits. Rent is due, they’re out of a job, and when they pick up the phone to call the state agency that can help, they’re put on hold. Many of them have never even spoken with a DoL representative. Read Tracy’s story on page 4. Then, on page 7, Sydney Kidd writes about her trips to the Boise Towne Square Mall and the Village at Meridian, where shopping has resumed, but the experience has greatly changed. As Idaho’s economy slowly reopens, commerce may be back on the uptick, but unquestionably, the pandemic has left a mark on how people conduct it. On the topic of commerce, this week’s issue also includes a list of businesses and organizations owned or managed by Black people. Curated by Boise Bucket List and others, it includes independent artists, restaurants, barber shops and more to celebrate and promote the endeavors of African Americans in Boise. Read Sydney’s report and check out the list, also on page 7. —Harrison Berry, Editor

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