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Disney layoffs cause widespread hardship in Orlando

FILE - In this Thursday, July 2, 2020, file photo, cars drive under a sign greeting visitors...
FILE - In this Thursday, July 2, 2020, file photo, cars drive under a sign greeting visitors near the entrance to Walt Disney World, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Walt Disney Co. is announcing plans to lay off 4,000 more workers in its theme parks division in California and Florida due to the COVID-19 pandemic's effect on the industry. The company has been limiting attendance at its parks and changing protocols to allow for social distancing.(AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
Published: Dec. 18, 2020 at 9:08 AM EST
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ORLANDO (CNN) - Coronavirus-related job cuts have been impacting Americans for most of this year.

In tourist locations like Orlando, local economies are seeing cascading layoffs. Tourists aren’t there to buy food or book hotels, causing still more job cuts.

People have lined up for food donations throughout the pandemic. But what you’re seeing here is particularly bad timing. Thousands of theme park workers have been laid off, and as they’re losing their paycheck, one critical food donation resource is suddenly disappearing just when they need it most.

Amanda Johnson and her husband made a living creating magic, but their fairy tale ended when they were furloughed from the Walt Disney World Resort.

Months later, even after Florida parks reopened, Johnson was laid off - one of 32,000 U.S. Disney employees expected to lose their jobs by March.

“I feel like drowning here. And it’s just the worst thing. People come here to have a good time and we’re all suffering,” Johnson said.

One of their three children has autism and epilepsy.

“Thinking about, like one hospital visit would almost like bankrupt you,” she said.

Johnson said she’s making food deliveries just to be able to give the kids a Christmas and soon, they’ll be hard-pressed to pay the mortgage.

Former employees of Disney, Universal, Sea World and others are on both sides of the line, receiving donations and volunteering, too.

“We’re focused on the members and we started out feeding 200 families and it ballooned into two thousand.” Nick Caturano said.

Artists who used to perform for theme park guests, are now entertaining each other.

And cheering up is a necessity - when these boxes represent less than 10 % percent of the food that *used* to be available, according to the society of st. Andrew.

Farmers they work with had funding from the federal ‘farm to families’ program - to get fresh food into boxes and delivered to food banks.

But that money ran out sooner than expected.

Barbara Sayles: “What keeps me up at night is that child that will go to bed hungry.”

In an area whose lifeblood is tourism, the trickle-down effect on other jobs is apparent, as motels are now filled not with out-of-towners but with the unemployed, like Jose Cruz, who lost his job at Home Depot.

Jose Cruz “The majority of people do work in these theme parks. And if they’re not buying appliances and they’re not buying things from Home Depot, then I don’t have a job to deliver anything to these people.” Cruz said.

Amanda Johnson: That’s where my Disney journey ends for now.”

Theme parks may be suffering, but the success of disney’s streaming service - disney plus - has sent disney stock to its all-time high.

Meanwhile, for park employees…

They echo disney c-e-o bob chapek’s optimism around the vaccine, hoping guests - and work - will one day return, like magic.

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