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I was speaking to a young adult relative yesterday, and in the course of the conversation, learned that her finances are far worse than I had imagined them to be. She had chosen to "eat from what we have here," instead of going to the store, which led to a longer conversation.

She has been out of work for medical reasons for several months. She lives in a house owned by a parent and currently does not pay rent. But she does have a car payment, utility bills, co-payments from doctor visits and physical therapy (she has endometriosis, back trouble, and several other related issues), plus food and gas and probably other bills.

It turns out that she has $11. Yes, that is all. And $6,000 in medical bills, a maxed out credit card with a $5,000 limit, and a $14,000 car loan.

She just started working again and gets her first paycheck this Friday. She'll be paid, before taxes, $132. (She worked 12 hours last week, having started on Thursday.) That two days of work also caused flares in all her medical conditions, which is not surprising. She slept most of the weekend and even on Sunday was just feeling drained.

And did I mention that she has a second-grader? She is a single mom and had him when she had just turned 17. So they were both children for a while and are still pretty much growing up together. The dad is in the picture, sort of, in that the second-grader spends time with him on alternating weekends. But the dad has been out of work for his own health issues, and was just diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. So there is no child support.

Although we knew money was tight, my husband and I had no idea just how tight things were. Our young relative puts on a brave face, and only yesterday finally told me how scared and angry and desperate she is.

I believe that the second grader gets free breakfast and lunch at school, which helps a little for him. I talked to her about food pantries and applying for SNAP and TANF. She was not willing to walk into a food pantry. "I have pantry food here!" So there is education to be done there. She was willing to let me help her with the applications for SNAP and TANF, so we stayed on the phone for an hour longer than I had expected to and did that on the spot.

She is obviously not in a position to pay off any of her debts right now. The first step that I see is to just get herself back to being able to work at all, and then work enough to pay her bills.

Her medical stuff is really to that happening, so our first thought was to help pay those bills, particularly the co-pays for her physical therapy. I also know that there are a lot of meds that she has to have in order to be able to function. (Pain meds, for example, and no, not opioids. Those don't work for the nerve pain caused by endometriosis.) Much of the credit card debt is also medical -- that's how she pays the co-pays, and for things like MRIs and CAT scans, those can add up. (And of course, I'm sure her NetFlix subscription is in there, too. And yes, we will talk about all those small expenses with her. Just not quite yet.)

She has also applied to have some of the largest bills associated with surgeries forgiven. I hope that will happen.

I considered talking to her about a different vehicle. However, she lives in a rural area where there are 6-foot snow drifts across the road multiple times a year. She lives alone, and the nearest house is a half mile away. The reliability of the vehicle is actually pretty important. And even some of the $14k is medical debt, because when she financed it, she borrowed against the entire equity of the vehicle to pay for one of her surgeries.

The other thing we maybe should think about helping with is a disability application. Though she is determined that she wants to work, her body is really, really messed up. It may well take a while before she can get back to the point of going to a job and doing it every day.

So anyway, I am wondering what your thoughts are about ways that we can help, whether it is financial or something else.

ThyPeace, sigh. Tough, tough times.
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