Patchwork of Paychecks: Virginia

There are not enough jobs to go around in Virginia. There are 499,000 job seekers, but only about 144,000 total job openings. Of those, only 44 percent pay a living wage for a single adult and only 17 percent pay enough for a single adult with two children to make ends meet. This means there are eight job seekers for every job opening that pays a living wage for a single adult and 20 job seekers for every job opening that pays a living wage for a single adult with two children.

Additionally, women and people of color in Virginia are more likely to work part-time than are workers overall. While nearly 21 percent of all workers reported working part-time, 26 percent of Latina and Latino workers and 31 percent of female workers reported working fewer than 40 hours per week.

Testimonial: SHELIA CARTER | PORTSMOUTH, VIRGINIA

VA - Shelia

I am a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother living in Portsmouth, Virginia. I am also a Certified Nurse’s Assistant working more than 80 hours a week in home health care.

I love my work. Taking care of the elderly is a blessing and it’s work that I believe I was destined to do. I am studying for my bachelor’s degree in nursing and hope I can open my own business.

I started working in home health care about five years ago at $8.50 an hour. My hours depend on the clients I am assigned. If a patient passes away it can be several weeks before I am assigned a new client.

I’m a hard worker and my hourly pay has now increased to $10.25 an hour, but I don’t get any overtime pay or benefits. I have two patients and work about 80 hours a week. I drive 35 miles to my first patient in the afternoon, then I drive another 45 minutes to the next patient and stay overnight. It really takes a toll on my car.

Sometimes I have to borrow money from my son who is in the military to make ends meet. I’ve had to negotiate with my landlord to get extra time to pay my rent and my bills. I’ve refinanced my car three times in the last six years to get the cost down. I try not to turn on the lights or use too much heating or air conditioning to keep those bills down.

I am terrified of getting evicted if I fall too far behind in my bills.

Finding a better job is really a struggle. I had a felony conviction 30 years ago, and even though I have done my time and paid my fines, it still hangs over my head when I apply for jobs. As an African-American woman, I also have to be better educated and better qualified than other candidates just to compete for the same jobs.

Even though I don’t have much time outside of work, I try to volunteer as much as I can with the NAACP and my church. I help whenever I can. God didn’t put us here to be selfish.”

If I could become financially stable, I would love to take a vacation to visit my grandchildren in Georgia. Then I would get right back to work, doing what I love, helping people who need help most.

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