Nearly half of respondents believe it will take them three years or more to get back to where they were financially a year ago – including about one in ten who don’t think their finances will ever recover, according to Pew Research Center. The day spoke to three people about how the pandemic has affected them and how much help the federal incentive offers.

Shawn Henning, 57, of Pawcatuck, was working up to 60 hours a week in a pizza restaurant in Norwich when the coronavirus pandemic hit the region last March.

As many small mom and pop restaurants were closed or cut short due to loss of business, Henning quickly decided to drastically cut his working hours.

Henning had spent 30 years in prison for wrongly convicted of a crime he did not commit before he was exonerated and released three years ago.

“When the pandemic hit,” he said, “it got me thinking. I was locked in a grave the whole time. People in my circle have died of COVID. I thought, “I’m not going to be out here in a 60-hour week.” I’ve shortened my hours so I can make up for my missing life. “

Henning rents an apartment with a view of the Pawcatuck River. He loves everything water related – kayaking, boating, swimming and being a “beach goer”. He grew up in Groton and frequented Misquamicut and other nearby Rhode Island beaches. Once the pandemic has subsided and it is safe to travel again, he and his girlfriend will consider moving to a place like San Diego with warmth and water.

However, fewer hours worked meant much smaller paychecks to pay for his $ 1,000 monthly rent, as well as groceries, gasoline, and daily expenses. He said his $ 1,400 stimulus check for the American Rescue Plan will help pay bills and “it’s not much”.

Henning said people are complaining that the government is giving people too much money, “but the government caused this crisis.” He said that if the government had ordered shutdowns ahead of time and masked mandates, the crisis would have been mitigated. He is concerned that people continue to deny the virus is real and refuse to wear masks.

When Henning was released from prison, initially in an intermediate house in Groton, the homeowner invited him to volunteer at the Gemma E. Moran United Way / Labor Food Center in New London. He volunteers at the center almost every day and loves how many people help their neighbors during the pandemic, especially when pop-up mobile pantries are planned.

He also sees firsthand how many people need the help. The shop at the restaurant he works at is closed and the owner has had to close a second location.

“It’s hard,” he said. “That’s another reason why I keep doing what I do by volunteering with Gemma Moran,” said Henning. “The people out there hurt and they need places like Gemma Moran. People need help to feed their children. It’s sad that people need this help, but it’s a nice thing that people are volunteering for the mobile pantries. “

c.bessette@theday.com