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Some in West Michigan forced to take up second jobs with inflation, unexpected expenses

Jon Benson of Delton says his two jobs as a billing clerk and a delivery driver help him tackle his bills. Still, he's struggling to make ends meet.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — At 61 years old, Jon Benson, who lives in Delton, said taking off work to care for his sick wife was a financially difficult decision, but also necessary.

"My wife had a stroke last November, had a heart attack in March, had a heart attack in April, had open heart surgery in August, had another stroke since then, I had to go off of work for four and a half months to take care of her," said Benson. 

"I was without an income for four and a half months, it destroyed me financially. I had to refinance my home, it doubled my house payment, doubled my interest rate, but it was the only option that I had," he said.

Having multiple bills piling up, Benson works a second job as a delivery person through Uber Eats and DoorDash. Starting around three months ago when bills started piling up, he delivers food throughout the Kalamazoo and Plainwell area. His first job is as a billing clerk at the JBS Beef Plant in Plainwell.

"Right now, I got a fuel tank that's about empty," said Benson. "And I'm worried about how am I going to put $400 into that because I don't have $400 to put in there. I gotta worry about a light bill that I'm two months behind on. But I'm doing Uber at $20 an hour, if I'm lucky, I get $20 an hour. "

Benson says working gig jobs was one of the only ways he could make a second job work.

"Most places want me to work a lot longer than that, where they want me here at this time, tell this time," said Benson. "And I might not be able to do that."

David Robb, co-owner and operating manager of Express Employment Professionals in Grand Rapids says they're starting to see more people like Benson coming in looking for extra work.

"Yeah, we've definitely seen some increases in that" said Robb. "I would say really since COVID. So since people started returning to work in late 2020, it's either people looking for maybe that second job or maybe people looking maybe for their first job, but something that's less traditional."

Robb says while companies are looking for more people through the labor shortage, they're also wanting people to work full time.

"Many companies are hiring, but they're mostly hiring for full time jobs, a lot of them maybe have overtime or wanting people to even work more than full time because they're short staffed. So, it is can be challenging for a lot of employers to bring on that part time person when they actually need full-time people," said Robb.

Robb has a piece of advice for those currently in their job search.

"You know, definitely always use your network," said Robb. "Sometimes there might be openings out there or unique opportunities that you don't know about. So, tap into your network."

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