Michelle Gimlin lies on a carpeted floor with her 23-year-old daughter who sleeps in a single bed each night. She can’t afford another bed, nor is there room for her in her cramped, subsidized one-bedroom apartment in Davis, California.
That’s just one of the many sacrifices he makes for his 5-foot-6-inch daughter who weighs just 93 pounds.
Her daughter, whose name she asked not to be included to protect her privacy, has been battling severe anorexia for three years. Her healthcare providers recommend that she eat 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day, but realistically, Gimlin, 50, can only help her eat about 1,000, and that takes hours to accomplish.
Before the pandemic, Gimlin worked as a self-employed massage therapist, earning about $ 4,000 a month. She stopped working in March 2020 for fear of contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to her daughter, who is especially vulnerable and cannot be vaccinated due to her medical condition. On top of that, you need to be with your daughter 24/7 to take care of her and make sure she eats.
Self-employed workers like Gimlin typically don’t qualify for unemployment benefits, but because of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a CARES Act program that was rolled out in subsequent stimulus packages, she, along with millions of other Americans with non-traditional labor agreements, they qualified.
Since President Joe Biden’s stimulus package went into effect in early March, Gimlin has been collecting $ 97 a week in PUA benefits plus an additional $ 300 in enhanced federal benefits.
Although the funds did not cover all of her living expenses, she considers them “a lifesaver.”
But over Labor Day weekend, Gimlin, along with some 7.5 million Americans, were deprived of unemployment benefits because lawmakers didn’t extend them beyond the September 6 expiration date.
That left her and her daughter, who is legally blind as a result of her condition and unable to work, without any income.
“It’s a perfect storm of the horrible,” Gimlin told MarketWatch. “I am terrified and at times paralyzed by fear and stress. The stress is insurmountable. “
““The stress is insurmountable.”“
MarketWatch spoke with Gimlin to better understand what the loss of unemployment benefits means for her and her daughter, who is not supported by her father, who has not been in the photo since she was three months old.
Market Clock: What expenses did your unemployment benefits cover? Were you able to cope with them or were you still struggling to make ends meet?
Michelle Gimlin: I was struggling a lot to make ends meet. We live in low-income housing and our rent is $ 735 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. With California’s COVID-19 rent relief program, I was only able to pay the minimum of $ 200 a month for rent, but that expired after July. The rent for August and September is now due.
“‘There have been times recently when I knew my daughter was about to tell me we needed food and I knew she didn’t have the money.’“
(Gimlin is still protected from being evicted through the end of September, but she has already received a 30-day notice of resignation or payment from her landlord. She requested more rental assistance)
We receive $ 400 per month in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits but we spend about $ 900 per month on groceries.
Recently, there have been times when I learned that my daughter was about to tell me that we needed food and I knew she had no money. My heart was so heavy and filled with excruciating pain knowing this and I wanted to die knowing that I couldn’t keep it. There is nothing worse than telling a young woman with severe and life-threatening anorexia that I cannot buy her food.
MW: Do you have a plan in the future to earn more money? Have you been applying for a job?
MG: I am in a difficult situation because I don’t think it is safe to go back to massage therapy. I’ve been trying to think of ways that we can make money. For example, last fall, my daughter and I started making acorn and pineapple wreaths. I’ve reached out to grocery stores and farmers markets to sell them, and they all said yes, but not until October.
When I started telling people about this, I thought I would still make some income. [from unemployment benefits] But now I don’t even have the money to buy the supplies to make the crowns.
“‘I wouldn’t need pandemic unemployment if my daughter wasn’t sick and the pandemic hadn’t happened’“
I literally cannot leave my daughter alone. You have to eat six times a day and each meal takes hours and grocery shopping takes three hours; it’s really painful, painfully slow.
I tried to talk to people about my situation, but it’s really horrible because they tell me, ‘Just get a job where you can work from home and do anything or even DoorDash.’
‘and I say,’ I can’t. She’s sick.’
MW: Is there a ray of hope that will help you get through the toughest days? Is there someone or something you turn to?
MG: No, there is not. And bad days seem to get worse all the time. We constantly ask ourselves ‘How are we doing this?’ We don’t even know how we have survived so long.
We are motivated people. I wouldn’t need pandemic unemployment if my daughter wasn’t sick and the pandemic didn’t happen. But I feel like a terrible mother and I want to be able to support her. I can’t help but think that if he had a different family, he would do much better.
Gimlin started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover the cost of 24-hour care at a treatment center for her daughter.