We are in unprecedented times, in many ways. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone’s life, and has left California’s unemployment rate as high as 25% by some estimates.

The UCI student community has been directly impacted as well. Campus service jobs have halted, and many supporting businesses have slowed or stopped. Students, their families, and roommates have relied on these businesses to help pay for the cost of their education.

UC Irvine’s administration helped students break their leases at dorms and campus apartment housing when classes went remote in March. However, commercial apartments have been less accommodating. Lease break fees for apartments managed by the Irvine Company have been particularly high, with reports of fees totaling as much as $15,000.

Nearly 4,000 people have signed a petition calling for the Irvine Company to lower the cost of their lease break fee given the fact that college classes have transitioned online.

Since March, students have asked for help with these immense costs. Several students contacted City leadership, including Mayor Shea, to help with their plight. Instead of listening to them, Mayor Shea responded that “Healthy young people can get work…Amazon has openings.” That’s not listening to our student community’s needs, that’s a scolding.

Mayor Shea has agendized (Item 4.3) to “discuss requests from University of California, Irvine impacted by COVID-19” at the June 9th City Council meeting. Let’s hope Mayor Shea listens and offers help, not dismissive lectures.