A mother’s dilemma: Pay the bills or buy Christmas presents?
The mother of five, who still has three children at home, currently receives $ 300 per week in unemployment benefits. Her husband recently applied for disability benefits, which makes him ineligible for unemployment. Her weekly unemployment check alone, she says, is not enough to cover household bills.
“I have to take the bills, throw them away and pick one and hope they add up to the amount I have,” Kearney said.
Still, Republicans and Democrats are stuck on how to design certain measures, like corporate liability protections and state and local aid funding, leaving many Americans struggling fearing they will see no relief from if early.
“A new class of poverty”
“40% of American households before the pandemic couldn’t afford a single $ 400 emergency,” said Dr. Amy Baker, assistant professor of social policy at the University of Pennsylvania. “My fear is… we are fundamentally creating a new class of inequality and a new class of poverty where people cannot recover.”
Kearney says it will take years for her to get back to where she was financially before the pandemic. Her credit cards are in default and, if her unemployment expires next month, she will be forced to give up her car.
Kearney was born with clubfoot, a disability that makes it difficult to walk. Over the past decade, she has had her hips and knees replaced, while also submitting to school to become a paralegal. At one point, she was even homeless (her children were living with her sister at the time), but last December she landed a job at a law firm earning $ 55,000 a year.
“It’s more money than I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Kearny, who is now 52. “I promised [my kids] they would be normal children … and then the pandemic. And I can’t keep those promises anymore. ”
Kearney and her husband, who is currently unemployed, rent a house in Pottstown, Pa., Using a voucher. She promised her children that she would buy a new house, but that will have to wait.
Now there is not enough money to cover the monthly bills. And those Kearney may have put aside due to federal protections will now begin to expire in a month or two. Kearney says she has $ 63,000 in student loans, which she will have to start repaying again in February, when the student loan forbearance ends. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium is only in effect until the end of this month, then rent will be due.
In the meantime, she wants to make sure her kids are having a great Christmas – so Kearney is prioritizing paying the electric bill that will keep the lights on and the Christmas spirit alive.
“Santa will be there,” Kearney said. “Because they’re the most important thing in the script. They are, kids,” she said, gesturing to them around the room.
Further expand food stamps
In the kitchen, Kearney organizes her children’s meals for the day. These are all home and virtual learning. Their school offers prepackaged breakfast, lunch and snacks, a vital lifeline for Kearney who only has $ 400 a month in food stamps to feed his family.
Is it enough to feed them all? “You have to, don’t you?” ” she said. “I can pretty much make something out of nothing.”
About 50 million people face food insecurity in this country, many for the first time in their lives. Feeding America, the largest anti-hunger group in the United States, says it will need 8 billion meals next year to feed them.
“One of the things that we started to notice very quickly was that the people who turned to us for help, we didn’t recognize them,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America. “About 40% of the people who are currently turning to food banks for help across the country are people who had never previously relied on the charity system.”
Kearney had relied on food stamps for years, but last year she was finally able to remove her family from them after graduating from college and getting her job as a paralegal. Then the pandemic forced her to resume the program.
“It was largely the determination on my part to climb this mountain – and [then] we were pushed from the mountain, ”she said.
Laura Dolan contributed to this story.