2020 brought job loss, unemployment struggles and a poor economy

Posted at 7:21 AM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 08:21:10-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — For a number of different reasons, 2020 will not be remembered fondly by historians and in tales around the campfire alike.

The year brought economic woes to hundreds of thousands in Tennessee and millions across America.

Truly, the worst economic situation the country has faced since the Great Depression.

COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns gutted local businesses, led to record unemployment in the state and caused so many people to question how they would pay their bills.

It started early, with the closures in March and April. It was an effort to snuff out COVID-19 completely.

"There's nothing going on. I've walked into the middle of the street several times today and not felt scared at all that I was going to get hit by a car, a crazy person or anything," Stephen Byrum said this past spring, a local filmmaker who took the opportunity to capture downtown Broadway at its rarest. The empty streets in daylight may never look so again.

Musicians were hit early and hit hard.

Those who relied on gigs still can't find the same reliability they once did.

Dreamers like Mandy McMillan found themselves without a stage. The set back caused her to miss out on a tour for her new single at the time, Dream Catcher.

"I was supposed to do a radio tour that was supposed to start in June," she said. "The playing portion has taken a step back."

She's since moved from Nashville and is pursuing music and other interests in her home in Canada.

It wasn't just downtown musicians who suffered. Traveling tour groups had to cancel everything.

Mark Oglesby was a tour manager for OneRepublic. Their tour ended abruptly.

He's switched to pursuing sales of a CBD-infused fizzy water called Mad Tasty.

"I was very, very fortunate to find a job in the beverage industry, which is sales," said Oglesby. "Something totally unrelated to what I was doing but I was able to go out and hustle and kind of create a niche for myself."

Still, the longing to return to work on the road is apparent in Oglesby's eyes. He and others are looking to find meaning elsewhere until COVID-19 passes.

Many businesses couldn't weather the pandemic. Including the popular Douglas Corner Cafe, an Eighth Avenue S. icon for music in Nashville.

"I don't know how to do a club of 20 people in here and you can't put musicians on stage," said Owner Mervin Louque.

Despite an outcry of support for the club, Louque decided to close down. He's trying to reopen a music studio in the same vein as Douglas Corner.

Unemployment difficulties struck many people across Tennessee. There were cases of fraud and many people had difficulty obtaining benefits.

Including Cary Reynolds, who went for months without a paycheck.

"This is emotional for me. I know I'm 100s of thousands of people in the state of Tennessee and throughout the United States who are dealing with the stress," said Reynolds.

A property tax increase added more fuel to the fire, as some wondered how they could pay increased taxes when the pandemic has already taken so much.

Even in tragedy, though, there were glimmers of hope and togetherness. Aid groups such as Project Connect Nashville fed people in North Nashville in the aftermath of the tornado.

They continue to do so to this day.

"So, the need is that we found after canvassing the neighborhood after the storm, there were so many elderly, disabled, maybe even prior to the storm, having trouble getting out of their house," said Laura Ingram, who was a volunteer at the time.

2020 will be remembered as a tough year. While people tried to squeeze some hope from the year, it will go down as one of the hardest the people of Tennessee have ever faced.