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Montreal fitness instructor finds creative way to keep working amid COVID-19 pandemic
MONTREAL -- Up until one week ago, Jennifer Atoapoma, a personal trainer and health and wellness coach, was teaching 20 classes a week at studios and schools across the City of Montreal.
Now, she’s confined to her home like many other Canadians as part of the efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s scary in a way, but at the same time, I tell myself, ‘if you start stressing about things, you attract it into your life, so don't worry about it. Things will take care of themselves,’” she tells CTV News.
With the guarantee of a steady income suddenly vanished, Atoapoma is turning to social media to find a way to “stay sane.”
“I decided to do these Instagram Live workouts,” she said, noting many studios and gyms are doing similar activities online. “But I’m not charging anyone because I feel as though if I start charging people they are going to say, ‘well, we’re also not working, so we can’t do it.’”
Nevertheless, Atoapoma admits it's not sustainable for her to keep teaching her classes for free.
“I'm thinking of some way, somehow, asking if people want to give a donation,” she mused. “If they wanna donate $5, $10, they can just donate it and that's it; no stress, no pressure. You can do it if you want or not. I know I’m a good teacher, but I don't know how to ask people for money.”
Atoapoma notes she does have enough savings to get her by -- for now.
“If I don't get money in time, I’m just going to have what I have in my savings to pay my rent,” she said. “But am I going to have to keep using money from my savings and how long is that going to last? It’s scary in that sense. Lots of people are able to work from home, but I can't. So, I need to figure out how to make money from home as well.”
All the same, she says until she figures out how to reclaim her income, she’s happy to keep teaching classes for free on her Instagram.
“I would do it just because it's connecting us to the community,” Atoapoma said. “Even if we don't see people, it’s fun to see these screenshots from people who say, ‘I joined your class, thank you so much.’ That makes me want to do them more, but that doesn't bring money to my pocket.”
For anyone who suddenly finds themselves without an income due to COVID-19 and needs financial help, there are several federal programs available to workers:
- Employment insurance (EI) benefits: Provides up to 15 weeks of income replacement for people unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine.
- Emergency care and emergency support program: For workers who don’t have paid sick leave or EI, but are ill, quarantined or forced to stay home to care for children. Applications for this benefit will be made available as of early April.
- Emergency Support Benefit: Supports workers not eligible for EI, but are facing unemployment. Applications for this benefit will be made available as of early April.
“Canadians should not make health decisions based on their financial needs,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted. “As the situation continues to evolve, further measures will be announced to support Canadians, stimulate the economy and protect peoples’ jobs and livelihoods.”
Quebec has also introduced its own program to provide temporary aid to workers.
However, it only applies to people ordered to self-isolate by the government for one of the following reasons:
- They have contracted the virus or present symptoms;
- They have been in contact with an infected person; or
- They have returned from abroad.
In addition, these people must:
- Not be receiving compensation from their employer;
- Not have private insurance; and
- Not be covered by another government program.
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