As the coronavirus crisis stresses almost every facet of American life, we’re featuring the stories of people who are struggling to stay afloat, finding unexpected financial opportunities or simply changing the way they’re thinking about money, the economy and our country’s social safety net. To do that, we need your help — we want to hear how the coronavirus crisis is affecting you economically. Please share your experience with us.
As 40-year-old Adam Bee approached his one-year anniversary as a New York City resident, he felt more and more confident that his decision to move there was a good one.
Bee had recently moved to the big city to start work as a sort of consultant, and business was taking off. He had just led a successful work retreat, and his client bookings were reaching new heights both in number and frequency. The uptick allowed the Tennessee native to rent a bigger two-bedroom apartment — which meant he could see clients from a home office — and gave him the money to finally purchase a monthly health care plan in March.
But as the novel coronavirus started to spread early that month, businesses shut down rapidly, perhaps none more rapidly than Bee’s. As a sex coach — he works with individuals and couples to be more in sync sexually and spiritually — Bee saw his income dry up all at once, even before stay-at-home orders were issued for New York state.
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“It was my decision to shut things down and cancel the remaining classes I had scheduled,” said Bee, whose coaching sessions were held in person. “It just felt like the ethical thing to do.”
But the hit was significant. At the peak of his success, he was bringing in between $8,000 and $12,000 a month, charging clients $3,500 for a set of five sessions. (In a global city like New York, the demand for his “sacred-intimacy” services — and clients’ ability to pay for them — was a key part of Bee’s calculation to move there.) In his mind, there wasn’t an immediate way to still do his work safely and in person while justifying that kind of cost, especially with other people finding themselves out of work by the millions because of the pandemic.
“I was in a complete place of fear,” Bee said. “For the first two weeks of this, I just kind of stared at the wall.” He gave some thought to looking for work in his previous fields — politics and marketing — before realizing that those options, too, had likely thinned considerably as a result of the cratering economy.1 Between the wails of ambulance sirens, he’d break down in tears at times, thinking about just how dire his situation was: “I was going to be homeless in a matter of days.”
Ineligible for unemployment, Bee has done what he could do to eliminate spending. The bronze health care plan he’d gotten days earlier for $476 a month with a $5,000 deductible? He scrapped it entirely and followed that up by applying for Medicaid (his application has been approved). The virus has made Bee more or less terrified of walking into a grocery store, so he limits himself to one trip every three weeks now. That has also helped him save money, though his diet these days has gotten pretty mundane, consisting mostly of grains and beans.
The biggest financial help for Bee was a $10,000 loan from a friend to cover his Upper East Side rent until his lease expires. “That was pretty fucking special,” he said of his friend’s generosity. Bee plans to hunt for a cheaper living situation once the lease runs out this summer.
The other bright spot has been the slight rebound in Bee’s business. After those initial despondent weeks, he eventually concluded that it might be possible to do his coaching virtually, as opposed to in-person only. With that in mind, Bee spruced up his website, and by the third week of March, he began holding virtual sessions. That first week alone, he coached more than 100 people. “My web traffic is more than double what it used to be,” he said.
This isn’t to say that things are back to how they were before. Bee is charging a mere fraction of his old rate — $750 for five sessions — so it takes him five times as many virtual bookings to make what he earned for in-person meetings. “I’m having to work more now than I ever have in my life,” he said.
Bee is cautiously optimistic that his in-person clients will return once society is closer to normal again, adding to his burgeoning online business. “I’ve got clients in five states and a couple different countries now,” he said. He sees a light at the end of the tunnel that wasn’t visible a few weeks ago.