LOS ANGELES — Since she was furloughed from her job as a server and sommelier at a Disneyland Resort restaurant, Tina Thomas has struggled to cover her rent with her unemployment checks and is four months behind on her car payments.
On top of that, she is wrestling with dark feelings of loss of a workplace that to her felt more like a home. And then there is the anxiety about when she might return to the job she once hoped would carry her until retirement.
"I'm watching this roller coaster and hoping that it stops soon," Thomas, 59, said of the last eight months of her life. "It's so stressful to live this way."
When California's theme parks closed in March, employees of Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood and other parks were left in limbo, displaced from jobs through no fault of their own, with no idea when — or if — they will be called back.
The ax is about to fall on tens of thousands of Disney workers. Walt Disney Co. plans to lay off 28,000 people across its theme parks, products and experience divisions, with about 10,000 of those layoffs hitting the Disneyland Resort parks, hotels and stores in Anaheim, according to company sources. Notifications for those layoffs are expected to reach workers via email by Sunday.
Universal Studios Hollywood has already reduced its workforce by as many as 7,000 employees through furloughs, layoffs and cuts to work shifts.
The lucky ones have landed new gigs. Many others continue to collect unemployment checks, holding out hope that they will soon be called back to work alongside co-workers they consider family.
But the state has tied the reopening of the theme parks to getting a handle on the pandemic, making a reopening date difficult to predict.
Meanwhile, many theme park staffers are trying to cope with the depression and anxiety brought on by the uncertainty of their circumstances.
"Work was my escape. It was my outlet and I needed to do it," said Priscilla Miranda, 30, a furloughed stage manager at Universal Studios Hollywood. "It was something that meant a lot for me. When it got taken away and I was home all the time, I got really depressed."