RODEO (KPIX 5) — The COVID-19 pandemic has not only forced many to change their lifestyles but also their careers. With bills left to pay and no income coming in, many in the Bay Area are looking for work.

There are jobs that have been completely wiped out by the virus, but what hasn’t been cleared out are the essential jobs such as the ones at grocery stores. Those jobs are helping people provide for their families.

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Natalie Zieper is a check out clerk at her local grocery store. She says it’s the first real job she’s held in 20 years and it’s been her lifeline. “I’m extremely grateful to be able to do this because otherwise I would have no income,” Zieper said.

Prior to her new career, Zieper says her original job before the outbreak was more like her first love. “I have horses in my veins. I was born horse crazy,” she explained.

(Photo: Natalie Zieper)

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Zieper is an equine stylist and she had a robust business braiding horses’ hair. She started creating these elaborate mane and tail styles on horses when she was just 13 years old. Now, the business she loves is gone for now because of COVID-19. “It’s crippled the whole entire industry,” she said.

Many can feel her pain. The Employment Development Department says it has seen a sharp rise in unemployment claims. For the week ending in March 7, EDD received just over 43,000 claims. The following week, they saw an increase of almost 15,000 claims. The spike has even forced EDD to beef up its staff to handle the claim load.

Zieper says she needed to do something to support her family which includes two young girls. “I appreciate your interest in those of us who have basically lost all of our work and need some hope,” she said.

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This would normally be a busy time of year for her as horse shows typically start to pick up again. She worries that even when big events return, the horse show industry may have taken a hit that will take years to recover from.