Pass the American Families Plan to help struggling people like me (Your Letters) –

To the Editor:
I’ve always been resilient. I raised three children by myself when their father left me. I always wanted to be a hairdresser, and I was still determined to make it happen. I picked up a second job at a grocery store while I was happily working at a beauty salon to support my family. Then the accident happened.
While I was working at the grocery store, my right hand was caught in faulty equipment and I lost all my fingers. It’s ironic that the job I was doing to support my dream ultimately took it away.
I had three kids in diapers, and had to carry on. So I did. I worked odd jobs my entire life to support my children, all without functional use of my dominant hand. I’ve been a housekeeper, a grocery store clerk and even helped people around the neighborhood. Whenever someone was willing to hire me, I took the job.
It was a very tough road, but I got through it. I’m 74, and my kids are grown and live around the country. I always thought I would be able to retire by now, but I can’t afford it. I’ll never be able to afford it.
I receive $663 per month from Social Security, which comes out to less than $8,000 per year. I can’t live on that. So I work as a bus driver, driving disabled children to school during the school year. I was making about $20,000 per year doing this work, which still wasn’t enough, but it at least paid for groceries. But I was laid off during the pandemic when schools closed.
I’ve been without work for over a year. I’m hoping I can go back to work when school starts in September, but there’s still so much uncertainty about whether they will open the schools in our area, so I might not be needed. I reapplied for unemployment, but I haven’t been recertified yet, so I’m just getting by on my $663 Social Security check.
Right now, I’m taking care of my sister who has dementia. It’s easier for her and her husband if I can help them out, especially since it’s so hard and expensive to find home care workers. I stay with them while I’m helping out, and take care of her for no pay.
Luckily I own my home and it’s paid off, but I can barely afford anything else in my life. I struggle to afford the essentials — heat, electricity, and food. I’ve always filled my pantry with extra food so if people in the church or neighborhood fell on hard times, I would have something to offer them. It’s sad to think that I’m the one who needs help now.
I feel so powerless. I’ve worked so hard my whole life, but even before the pandemic hit, I couldn’t afford to adequately heat my home in the winter. I sit wrapped in blankets to stay warm and keep the heat at 58 degrees so the pipes don’t freeze. I have no other choice because the price of oil is so high.
I don’t feel like my politicians see me as a real person who’s hurting. My representatives would rather play politics than invest in people like me.
I don’t believe in handouts, but I do believe that if you work hard your entire life, you should be able to afford to retire with dignity at my age. That’s why I joined an organization called WorkMoney, which helps working people like me make our voices heard to our representatives in Washington.
I’m a proud Republican who voted for President Donald Trump twice, but supporting common sense economic policies that make things easier for hard working Americans isn’t political. It’s just the right thing to do.
I’m calling on Rep. Claudia Tenney to support the infrastructure jobs plan and American Families Plan. We need jobs that pay enough to let people retire. We need the costs of essentials like utilities, housing and healthcare to go down. We need an investment in home care so that more people with dementia, like my sister, can have access to the essential care they need.
If we can come together, we can make a change. Let’s move beyond partisanship and invest in the American people.
Judy Ayers
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