Barber who specializes in elderly clients afraid unemployment won't come

Father and Son Barbers
Posted at 8:58 PM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 00:13:03-04

SURPRISE, AZ — Barber Ken McCormick's clients aren't just clients to him, they are former missionaries, rocket scientists, and war heroes.

He recalls a story from one of his regulars who served during World War II.

"They had no winter weather gear. No food. Not everybody had a weapon...very low and they beat the Germans five to one," he said.

His clients are living, breathing history.

"I still have nine World War II veterans that I take care of," he said.

McCormick of Surprise, is a mobile barber who travels the entire Valley cutting hair and giving a shave to the men who can't leave to get one, or can't remember that they need one.

"I’ll cut half of the gentleman’s hair and then the caregivers will have to come in and flip them over to the other side so I can finish cutting the other side. It’s... it’s very gratifying work because a lot of people have forgotten about these people," he said.

All of his clients live in behavioral health facilities, nursing homes and memory care units. Some of the hardest hit by COVID-19.

"The sad thing is some of my people won’t be there anymore," McCormick said.

His monthly appointments and his income stopped almost instantly on March 11. And he says he’s been caught in a never-ending circle of unemployment phone calls ever since.

"One day I called 60 times," he said.

And while he thinks he should be able to qualify for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program--which launches May 12--he says the state's execution of the unemployment program has been disappointing. Especially because he says he can't get any questions answered by the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

"Unemployment just tells you the queue is full and they just hang up on you," he said.

He says he doesn't even know how the money would be distributed, or how long it would last.

"Some of my facilities they told me that they don’t expect me to be back until the first of the year," he said.

He wants to ask if he'll be able to stay afloat until it's safe to be around his clients who are dying at the highest rates of COVID-19.

"They’ve given us absolutely no information at all," he said.

No answers yet. But he knows one thing is for sure, "I will be back. I love my people."