FORT MYERS, Fla — Pam Goldsmith is the kind of person who is always busy. From her job in early childhood education to her volunteer work with the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Lee County, it seemed like she was constantly on the go.
“Ever since I was 16, I’ve always had a job," she says. "Never been without a job. Always paid taxes always had one or two jobs.”
But when the pandemic began, she lost her job and went two months without work.
It was the same for Jonathan Beougher. He worked in the kitchen of a Fort Myers restaurant. Like Pam, when he lost his job he filed for unemployment. But neither of them ever got any money. In Jonathan's case, he and his family went two months without any money coming in.
“That’s when the panic starts to set in," Jonathan says. "What are we going to do?”
This is the first in a week-long series of stories called the "Make Ends Meet Checklist." We're going to give you the tools to best face a difficult situation. We'll tell you how to prioritize your bills, how to ask for deferrals, and where to turn to for help.
Both Jonathan and Pam felt like the state was ignoring them and that they were alone. There are hundreds of thousands of people in Florida going through the same struggle. The feeling of dread when they go to the mailbox to find a bill that they can not pay.
“It stacks up. And then every time a bill comes, there’s another level of stacking, of stress,” Jonathan says.
The stress for Jonathan, early on in the pandemic, was having enough food on the table for his fiance and daughter.
“We kind of prioritized, 'hey, this is going to have to last for two days. We’re going to have this for dinner for two days, so get used to it.'”
And when April turned to May and his savings were gone, he began to stress out about paying for rent.
“Where’s that money going to come from?”
Pam asked herself the same questions.
“All those things stressed me and I can’t be stressed, because it runs my blood pressure up,” she says.
Just before last Christmas, Pam had to start going on dialysis three days a week. Her husband has Sickle Cell Disease. And with no job, there was no insurance.
“So then it’s like, whoa. How am I going to pay for dialysis, what do I do medication wise,” she asked.
“When are we going to get some help," Jonathan asked. "That is the big question.”
The Make Ends Meet Checklist is designed to give people like Jonathan and Pam some help. At the end of the series, we will check back in with them, to see if they were able to use the tools and how it's made a difference in their lives.