Struggling In Ohio As The Economy Tightens Gloria Nunez grew up in a middle-class family, but at 40, she's struggling to keep herself and her 19-year-old daughter afloat. She's not alone. In a recent poll, nearly one-third of low-income respondents in Ohio say paying for food is a serious problem.
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Struggling In Ohio As The Economy Tightens

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Struggling In Ohio As The Economy Tightens

Struggling In Ohio As The Economy Tightens

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Gloria Nunez lives in Fostoria, Ohio. She says she's been relying on Social Security disability checks ever since she had a car accident at age 23. Nunez is the focus of our story today as we explore the human dramas behind a survey on the economy.

SIEGEL: That poll was conducted in Ohio and in Florida by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. Among its findings, about half of low-income people in Ohio say they've had a serious problem getting a good job. In the case of Gloria Nunez's family, some of them have part-time jobs and some are unemployed.

NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports on how the economy is making it harder for them to find work.

YUKI NOGUCHI: The irony of Gloria Nunez's life is that she grew up in the auto industry but doesn't own a car. Her father worked at GM for 45 years, her mother taught driver's ed. Now, to get a lift from the subsidized housing complex where Nunez and most of her family live, they have to barter and trade or hitch rides. They're separated from most local employers by an interstate and several miles.

Nunez has never worked. Her daughter, Angelica Hernandez, has held several jobs but can't seem to find one now. She says she tried saving to buy her own car last year, but since then, her mom's van died. She quit her job and boom, those savings disappeared.

Ms. ANGELICA HERNANDEZ (Resident, Fostoria, Ohio): I was making good money working at McDonald's, but it wasn't worth me going all the way over there and coming all the way back because I'm wasting more gas money in doing that.

NOGUCHI: Now, gas costs more, few companies are hiring, and it's hard to get transportation to even get to an interview.

Ms. A. HERNANDEZ: Like, this is the first time I have not been able to find a job right away. Like, I haven't worked in three months and this is the first in, like, two years maybe because I've always worked.

NOGUCHI: Typically, the only way out of this cul-de-sac is through Nunez's mother, Irma Hernandez.

Ms. NUNEZ: What are you going to do after lunch?

Ms. IRMA HERNANDEZ: Yvonne wants me to take her to Toledo to (unintelligible) lawyer.

Ms. GLORIA NUNEZ (Resident, Fostoria): Mm hmm.

Ms. I. HERNANDEZ: You need to go somewhere?

Ms. NUNEZ: Yeah, I needed to go a store to get some light bulbs and stuff.

Ms. A. HERNANDEZ: Bye, Mom. Bye, Grandma.

Ms. I. HERNANDEZ: At one time, there was only one car for all the five families, you know? And with my income and everything going up, I'm about to lose my car. So, what's going to happen to us?

NOGUCHI: She's two car payments behind. Unemployment in the area is high and likely to get worse. Across the street from their housing complex, a Thyssenkrupp factory that makes diesel engine parts announced it's shutting down next year.

Ms. NUNEZ: Like I said, I know people that do work here. They're going to lose their home, their car. I mean, that's - this is their living. This is what they're living on.

NOGUCHI: Four hundred jobs will relocate to Illinois. At midday, the parking lot is half empty, but Gloria Nunez says it's because many workers hitch rides to get to work.

Are there any businesses that are growing in Fostoria?

Ms. NUNEZ: There are nothing growing but drugs and teen pregnancy. That's the only thing that's growing.

NOGUCHI: Drugs and trains - locals say that's what you find in Fostoria, but the trains just pass through, whereas the drugs tend to trade on Poplar Street, a block from where Nunez's sister lives. Nunez usually goes to her sister when money and food have run out.

Ms. NUNEZ: I tell her, can I come over there? And she goes, yeah. And I - but I'm going to bring a bag. She'd say, you need some food? And I'd say, yeah. And I bring a bag and she hooks me up by the end of the month. And she does that to all my brothers and sisters.

NOGUCHI: This despite the fact that Yvonne Gama(ph) and the six others living in the house don't have jobs, nor do they have a working car.

Ms. YVONNE GAMA (Resident, Fostoria, Ohio): (Unintelligible).

NOGUCHI: Standing on her porch with her kids and grandchild, Gama says she's simply more adept at making things last.

Ms. GAMA: I'm about the only one in the family that help more as much as I can, my family, my friends. I give them whatever they need.

NOGUCHI: Nunez says she's become accustomed to struggling, but it wasn't this way growing up. Her dad's GM income provided what they needed.

Do you feel like you've been able to give the same life to your kids?

Ms. NUNEZ. No. I don't think I have. I wish I did. I wish I've had. But I wish we were still young again. I wish we could start all over again. But it - I can't. I mean, this is life. This is what you get.

NOGUCHI: Now, she says she must stretch her remaining $20 another three weeks until she gets her next check.

NORRIS: And at our Web site, you can see a breakdown of the household budgets of the families in our reports. You can also take a look at the full findings of our poll on how the economic downturn is affecting families. That's at

Yuki Noguchi, NPR News.

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