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Radio Diary: 'How Can All This Stress Be On One Person?'

A pedestrian wears a mask as they walk through Newark, N.J., Monday, Oct. 26, 2020.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
A pedestrian wears a mask as they walk through Newark, N.J., Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

This radio diary is part of our hour on child poverty in the United States.


MEGHNA: Today on the program, we took a look at three different proposals right now circulating in Washington that could cut child poverty rates in this country. Significantly, some claim that the proposals could cut child poverty rates almost in half.

So this is a really unique and interesting moment in the fight against poverty in this country. And in preparing for this show, we actually talked to several families who are struggling with poverty right now. And we wanted to share the story of one of those families.

MEGHNA: Allure and her mother, Ramona, live in Newark, New Jersey. Allure is 17 and a high school senior. And on her mind right now? Choosing from a pile of college acceptance letters.

ALLURE: “You apply to all these schools hoping that you get in. And then when you get into all the schools you apply for it’s kind of hard narrowing it down. Because you didn’t think you’d get accepted to all the colleges that you initially applied for. And then when you did it’s like, ‘Oh, God, now I’ve really got to make a decision on where I’m going to go.'”

MEGHNA: Allure is excited for her future, but she says the past has been really hard. Just last year, Allure’s mom Ramona lost her job in retail and had to start collecting unemployment. And like a lot of parents, Ramona says she was also overseeing remote learning for her three youngest children, and a nephew.

RAMONA: “It’s been a struggle because, you know, trying to pay rent. You know, PSE&G, you have to pay your cell phone bill. And then you have to buy food. And then you just have to make sure that you have Internet service, too, because if they don’t have the Internet then you can’t use the chromebooks.”

MEGHNA: Ramona’s job was also helping the family pay for another major expense, clean bottled water, which they’ve had to buy due to the ongoing lead water crisis in Newark.

RAMONA:“When I cook, I use water. … To brush our teeth, we use the water. It’s a big sized family and we’ve gone through cases and cases of water. And it’s not fair to have to live like that.”

MEGHNA: 17-year-old Allure has taken on more responsibilities at home.

ALLURE: “I’m glad I’m able to. So she don’t have to do so much. So she can just focus on what she got to focus on. And then I can help out with my siblings.”

MEGHNA: And she says it’s been hard to watch her mom have to work so hard during the pandemic just to keep up.

ALLURE: “Nobody deserves to have to keep trying to provide so much. With this pandemic … it took a hold on her because she got to do so much more than what she did before. And it’s like, she’s one person. So how can all this stress be on one person? And it’s like, she makes it happen though. I don’t know how, but she makes it happen.” 

In this diary … we hear from:

17-year-old Allure and her mother, Ramona, from Newark, New Jersey.

They’re just one of the millions of American families whose lives could be majorly transformed if any one of three child poverty proposals passes in Washington.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.