Poor face more hurdles because of COVID

This is part of the series Shore Stories: Life Along the Lakeshore columns by local residents about their lives.

I gazed out of the only window I had in my overpriced hotel room contemplating how I was going to cover the $1,399 bill due in five days. It was Christmas Day, yet, there was nothing special or joyous about this day. No gifts were opened nor was Christmas dinner made; all these things cost money and when you get laid off because of COVID-19 from your server job that pays upwards of $1,600 per month because of Covid-19, more necessary things take precedence. I could have collected unemployment, but I wouldn’t have gotten a check for at least three weeks; by then, I and my two fur babies would be out in the streets, again. 

Finding housing with two big dogs and bad credit is nearly impossible. Even working a full-time job at a local store isn’t enough to save me from my plight since they pay only $10 per hour. I applied to many stores in my town, but I took the first one that called me back; by the time I was working my first day, it had been two weeks; that was two weeks too long. Besides rent, I also have to pay for food plus any basic items I may need like razors, toilet paper, soap, etc. Many of my friends have speculated why I haven’t give up my dogs, but how could I abandon the only family I have left? And my family isn’t the only one in this predicament. 

Being poor isn't cheap

Poverty is a condition that affects over 51 million people in the United States alone according to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities. However, the real problem is that most of these families remain impoverished, because they can’t afford to own anything; their miniscule bank accounts force them to subscribe to everything: cars, housing, furniture. A rich man can buy a new car, a TV or whatever outright, but a poor man cannot afford to pay full price, so many businesses offer “rent to own” deals that end up costing more in the long run than the item is actually worth. In fact, there was one instance when I bought a laptop from a local business that offered rent-to-own furniture and electronics. I couldn’t afford to pay it off in the time they required, so I ended up paying $3,200 for it when it was only worth $1,700 on the brand website. 

Now, in the year 2020, people who could’ve easily paid their normal financial obligations by working their usual jobs can’t even do that all thanks to a certain serial killer virus. What’s worse is how little help we Americans have received from our government. In early 2020, we received a stimulus check for $1,200, but this is no large amount; most households’ monthly bills add up to over that, and it’s been ten whole months since we’ve had any help. My stimulus was spent in two months, but many families spent it in much less time. Now, the government deliberates quite lengthily upon a new stimulus, but to what end? $600 will hardly put a dent in the debts that many working poor have accrued since the last stimulus. 

Gratitude

In this age of uncertainty, the only thing we wish for is a certain future in which we and ours are cared for to a point where we need not fret about whether we will have a roof over our heads or food on the table. According to a survey done by Charles Schwab, a shocking 59% of Americans live one paycheck away from homelessness. Food and shelter are necessities, yet even these most basic needs can be swept right out from under your feet faster than you can say “Oops!” So, this new years, as we FaceTime with family and avoid large crowds, let us not desire after what we do not have, but instead, let us hold our dear ones tight and be thankful for the small blessings that we too often take for granted.

Emiliah Tanya Jo Odinsdottir is an artist living and working in West Michigan.