I have been living in my home in New Haven for about a month during the mandatory quarantine, and my family and I have already suffered from the financial burden I believe other low income families are experiencing at this very moment.
I live with my single mother and brother. My mother works at a middle school as a cook, and when the school shut down because of the quarantine, she was suddenly out of work. It was stressful because although her job had to close down because of the pandemic it didn’t stop the bills being sent to our house, infuriating my mother and causing her anxiety. My mother’s job told her to file for unemployment during this crisis to get some cash flow into the house, but it has already been three weeks and she still hasn’t gotten any aid. We believe there are two potential reasons for this: either everyone else is filing for unemployment and the process is becoming slower by the minute, or she was denied unemployment. Hopefully not the latter. Luckily for us, my mother’s job recognized our problem and are trying their best to give her some type of compensation. They went as far as to send her four $50 gift cards to Stop N Shop. I remember my mother’s face relieved when her boss from the school she works at wrote to her that they are doing their best to give her some type of compensation during this pandemic. However, she also felt resentful because although it helps with buying food for the house it doesn’t help pay the rent and the bills of the house.
We were so desperate to stretch our money that we even resorted to buying groceries on Amazon using gift cards that I won from my horrible singing at a karaoke event in Trinity College. I was planning to save them for something else in case I wanted to buy something on the website. However, my mother was desperate to save money for food so she had me use the gift cards to buy food online, which was the first for me as I tried to navigate how to order the food. I learned that Amazon has a food item limit in order for people to not buy too much of an item that others want. I made sure to always get the max amount of items I could purchase on Amazon in order to get all the food my family needed. This was mostly canned goods and mashed potato packets since these items were more available, unlike the frozen foods that we also wanted to buy. I did feel annoyed that I had to waste these gift cards on food, but I knew I had no right to complain because it was essential items that we needed if we were being quarantined. We do all we can to save money and wonder when this pandemic will end.
One of my mother’s childhood friends heard that we were struggling, and he has been coming to our home early in the morning to drive us to Wal-Mart since we did not own a car of our own and we can’t trust using Uber or the city bus because we are practicing social distancing. Since I was little, he has always helped out my mother, and she has returned the favor by helping out with washing his clothes and giving him a place to sleep from time to time. Our trips to Walmart these days consist of making a list of the food that we need in the house as well as the essential items that we need to stock during times like this. Because of the pandemic, we make sure to wear face masks and gloves to prevent us from getting sick. Our attire for these trips is usually hoodies that we have been wearing for months because the quarantine made us too lazy to switch our clothes. We usually buy canned soups, mostly chicken soup, during times of financial crisis or state emergency because they are cheaper than other items and easier to cook when we don’t feel like preheating frozen food and making meals from scratch. We don’t take excessive amounts of junk food because we want to stay healthy if we were going to be stuck in the house for a while. That is why we shop for salad, turkey meat and canned fruit in order to have a balanced diet. It was difficult and frustrating at times to get the supplies we need while trying to manage our budget at the same time when going to Wal-Mart.
The night after our first Wal-Mart trip, though, we were finally able to escape some of the worry caused by this crisis. My brother and I huddled in my mother’s room with her and turned on Tiger King on Netflix. Since we can’t go outside, the least we can do is spend quality time with one another by watching the story of Joe Exotic and debate whether he or Carole Baskin was the worst. My mother always seemed to bring back leftover snacks like fruit and crackers when she was still working, which we ate while watching our shows together. It’s heartwarming moments like these that help us get through our financial stress and have us realize that there are some things that money can’t take away. Although money tends to come up during this quarantine, we can always destress our worries through the power of streaming services that is in our hand.
About the Author: I am a Trinity Student that lives in New Haven and is experiencing the changes in life in terms of how it affects the way I live and the new struggles my family is suffering during this pandemic. My intended audience is mostly to students at a low income and are trying to help their family get through this pandemic and try to get by with the limited resources they have.
Copyrighted by Anonymous student. Editorial assistance provided by Megan Brown. This work is part of the “Telling Our Covid Stories” project by the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER) at Trinity College.
As the creator of “The Pandemic’s Financial Struggles,” I agree that this is my original work, and that I retain the copyright.
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