Maria “Cami” Lopez felt the steering wheel shake violently in her hands.
The 26-year-old Bradenton mother of two could barely make a quick 10-minute run to the store this fall without her car threatening to give out. She didn’t dare use it anymore to transport the kids to daycare and school. Nor could she risk taking it onto the highway to commute to her new job as a bookkeeper, 45-minutes one way.
Weighing on her mind as she gripped the wheel was the knowledge that there was much more at stake than a simple car repair.
She could not afford to fix the Toyota Corolla, but without transportation she’d lose her job. And without her job, she’d lose subsidized child care. And without child care, she couldn’t work. And without work – how could she pay rent? She and the kids would be homeless.
“It’s like a domino effect,” said Lopez, who goes by “Cami,” short for her middle name, Camila. “It became a total nightmare for me."
Lopez is among tens of thousands of local residents who are working but unable to make ends meet, according to United Way Suncoast, which reports that half a million households in a local five-county area are struggling just to get by.
While families with and without children are in financial straits, single parents with children and Black and Hispanic households are more likely to be Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – or ALICE, the United Way report stated.