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Eric Benz didn’t worry very much when his graphic design firm in Atlanta laid him off in March. He felt sure he’d be recalled to work once the viral pandemic eased and his firm’s clients resumed spending.

Three months later, there’s been no call. Instead, Benz has applied for gig work as an Instacart shopper.

Hope has given way to an urgent need to pay bills because Benz’s unemployment benefits haven’t yet come through. Benz has negotiated with his mortgage lender to defer payments on the home he and his wife bought earlier this year. But the deferral won’t last long.

“I’m doing everything I can,” said Benz, 37. “It will take a little

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