January 12, 2009

The Poor Get Poorer

Since I’m new to this blog, I’d like to open up with a post about why I feel personally vested in its mission. I’ve been laid off, twice. The first time was with two years notice, the second time was at 5:00 pm on a Monday with not even a sideways glance as warning.

I received a severance package the first time, a pretty generous sum that gave me a nice cushion while I looked for my next job, enough to pay rent, groceries, maybe even take some time off. I put on my sneakers and corduroys and checked out for the next month. I figured I’d apply for a few jobs and temp once my severance ran out.

The severance ran out in three weeks and I had clocked a total of four hours of temp time. No one replied to my solicitations, and my rent was due.

So I decided to move back to mom’s house in New York. I should mention that I had conjured a formidable debt monster while living on my own (mostly resulting from three $1000 mattresses that I bought after each failed to conquer insomnia).

In New York, I had no luck finding the job of my dreams so I started waitressing, but I still wasn’t able to meet my credit card bills...so I missed a payment. STOP THE PRESS. My interest ballooned overnight to 30%, my minimum payment jumped to almost $400. This was the beginning of having nothing and owing what I didn’t yet have to someone else.

Fast forward to March 2008, I finally land a job at a law firm. I start earning, I start spending. I realize I won’t be able join the Peace Corps if I don’t get out of the debt death-grip. Chase recommends a company called NOVA Debt who could put me on a debt management plan. My interest rates were lowered to 6% within a week and I began to put serious money toward my debt, problem solved, more to come.

September rolls around and I get the boot from the law firm with $600 as a farewell gift. This time I call the unemployment office as soon as I get home. I’m approved. I start calling friends, bosses, writing emails, whoever can get me a job, quick. Nothing pans out.

One morning, a cop comes to my house before I’m about to go to a temp assignment and says he has to take my car. Now I can’t get to work. Now I lose my health insurance and can’t afford COBRA. Now I don’t qualify for Medicaid because I make too much money. Now it’s just too much.

One wrong step, one little tip in the scale against my favor and I slip, I’m pulled down, I’m muffled and drowned. I’m in poverty.

It’s not too far to fall. It could happen to anyone. Just ask that man you see sleeping on the street, he never thought he’d be there.

This post was written by Leah Bush, a freelance writer and aspiring Guru whose past involvement includes the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina Recovery Project and volunteerism in Honduras and the Dominican Republic. She is currently a volunteer blogger for the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Questions regarding this post may be forwarded to ultraEchelon@gmail.com.

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