“You can go without eating, but you have to pay your bills when they come. When there isn’t enough money to make the rent, we might not eat.”
Before we moved to New York a year ago, my husband and I were living and working in New Jersey. There, I was a supervisor at a car wash. Although the salary wasn’t enough, it was much better than the salaries for the same work in New York. I worked 40 hours a week, they spoke Spanish, and I lived with my husband in our own apartment. Life there was a little cheaper. My family lived nearby and I had friends that I still can’t find here. It was a place where I felt comfortable. After we moved to New York City, everything changed.
My husband was offered a job at a small painting company, and they said that I could get work with them, too. When we arrived in New York, though, I found out that there was no job available for me. I found out the hard way that sometimes people make promises that they can’t follow through on. I came to New York with dreams that things would be different and easy, but it was a lie.
I have a high school diploma from El Salvador, but most jobs here require proof of a high school diploma from a school in the United States. I’ve applied for all kinds of jobs: restaurants, retail, cleaning, home health care, care-taking, child care. The problem is, you get work through connections and I don’t know anyone here, so it’s hard to get work. I want to go back to school to become a home care worker, but there aren’t classes available until August.
Making things even tougher, I have a couple hundred dollars in medical debt that I’m trying to pay off. While still in New Jersey, I went to the hospital because I had a kidney infection. I went to the emergency room on the health insurance that the car wash provided. The doctor didn’t let me know that he wasn’t in my network. When the bills began to arrive, I called the insurance company to submit my information, but they told me that, because he was outside the network, that they wouldn’t cover the costs.
Then, I spoke with my employer and they told me there was no solution and that I would have to pay the bills. The doctor didn’t accept financial aid or a payment plan because he is a private doctor. When I called the billing office, I spoke with a woman about the bill and she questioned me, asking, “What do you want? That the doctor just let you die?” I just stayed quiet.
My husband paints apartments and earns $80-$100 per apartment, but it’s not steady work, so we’re already cutting everything we can. You can go without eating, but you have to pay your bills when they come. When there isn’t enough money to make the rent, we might not eat. It would be nice to have a job with wages that let us eat whatever we want, but for now, we just eat more empanadas.