How people are spending their stimulus and unemployment money


James installing his air intake and his fuel injectors. Photo by: Daniel Hohu

During this pandemic crisis, the Federal Government has issued to every American a stimulus check; a $1,200 check that will help unemployed citizens and people who need it to survive. For James Masao and others, let’s just say that they’re glad to have a free $1,200.

“I am still working through this pandemic. But I’m not complaining about having an extra $1,200 in my pocket,” said Masao , a 24-year-old project manager. “I know this money is supposed to help with paying bills, but my bills are car parts and gas.”

The coronavirus has stopped all non-essential workers throughout the U.S. and the world. people are applying for unemployment for the time being until this pandemic clears up. For some people, they don’t have bills to pay so they have extra money to spend.

“Honestly I’m using my stimulus to make my car go faster,” said Masao. “The thing that makes me happy is modding my car. Some people are going to look at me and say that I’m wasting my money, but in my mind I don’t think so. In my case, money can buy me temporary happiness.”

Masao has spent his Stimulus check to buy car parts for his Nissan GTR R35. For a $100,000 car, one would think you wouldn’t need to spend money on parts for a car this expensive, but for Masao, he has a different vision in mind. Spending his stimulus check on new air intakes and fuel injectors, the total amount for those two items alone cost about $1,800 without the labor to install. To Masao, $1,800 is worth the extra horsepower.

“I was always looking to buy and install the parts to the car,” said Masao. “But it was a matter of the timing to do it. And now that I’m doing it, i should be pushing 580 to 590 horsepower, which would make me go almost 170mph.”

Everyone has different lifestyles and priorities. Non-essential employees are still having trouble with the unemployment website; but for the ones that got through and started to get their money, they have their priorities set out.

“I’m so glad I got through,” said 24-year-old Marcus Sumida,  server at Restaurant Kunio. “I have been budgeting myself with the money I had until my first check came in. I’m still saving the money from unemployment, but also spending some of it on nonsense.”

Marcus Sumida has been working at Restaurant Kunio for four years. Claiming unemployment for him, is like a paid vacation.

“Seeing my bank account go up without having to deal with difficult customers all the time makes me feel like I’m on top of the world,” said Sumida. “Hopefully in the near future, I can be the customer on vacation instead of the employee with this [unemployment] money.”

Stimulus checks and unemployment payments have been helping a lot of people throughout this pandemic. For some it’s a ticket to survive another week; for some, it’s just an extra paycheck in their pocket.

“Have never claimed unemployment before,” said 22-year-old Skyler Auyong. “After going through the process, I don’t  want to be doing this again. It sucks, but I need the money to survive and pay for things that I find I need but others won’t.”

Skyler Auyong is a student at UH Manoa and works at a boba shop called Teaboss Kissa. After being furloughed, Auyong has been saving money and claiming unemployment since March 23. He has only been paid for the first two weeks and is still waiting on the rest of them to come in.

“Honestly I do want to spend the money on my car,” said Auyong. “But we’ll see how this corona thing works out and hopefully I’ll have some money left over to spend.”