Lost family. Lost jobs. Lost hope.
COVID-19 ripped the country apart, killing more than 500,000 people and erasing years of economic gains. Months later, 10 million people remain unemployed. Nearly 40 million are being threatened with eviction as they brave the biggest housing crisis since the Great Depression. More than 79 million Americans say they can't pay for electricity, water or heat.
And 50 million people are going hungry – up from 35 million before the outbreak. Families across the country, especially those of color, report a devastating reality: there isn't enough food on the table.
The House of Representatives could vote as soon as Friday on President Joe Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion relief package, which would include $1,400 stimulus checks. If the bill passes, it would go to the Senate, where many Republicans, who argue that assistance dissuades people from looking for work, are looking to cut out some of the provisions. Nearly 80% of adults said they need another economic assistance package, according to the Pew Research Center.
USA TODAY asked people around the country how they would spend $1,400.
For them, a stimulus check is more than cash.
Fourteen hundred dollars can stave off eviction or a utility shutoff. It can nurse a teenager back to health, provide seed money for a business, pay for an education and, in some cases, provide a new sense of freedom.
This is what they told us.
"I don't know how much more pain Isabell can take' "I don't know how much more pain Isabell can take'
Stacy Rodriguez, 36, wipes down her daughter's hospital bed with disinfectant wipes. She then makes sure to squirt a glob of antibacterial gel in both hands before fixing her face mask.
This is her routine every time a staff member enters the room.
Rodriguez has been on a three-year journey to get medical care for her teenage daughter. Isabell suffers from pilonidal disease, a chronic skin infection that causes cysts to form in the crease between the buttocks. The painful cysts can create abscesses and sinus cavities, requiring surgery.
Her 14th operation should have been a one-day outpatient procedure in January. But complications have kept Isabell at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio for five weeks, requiring biweekly dressing changes of the softball-sized open wound that must be done in an operation room while she is under sedation.
Rodriguez's daughter is in excruciating pain. She hears Isabell squall while lying on her side. Rodriguez, who was hospitalized last year with COVID-19 and lost her stepfather to the virus in October, sobs uncontrollably every night, wondering if Isabell will get better soon or whether the virus will get to her first.
Each dressing change costs $800.
Rodriguez, the family's sole breadwinner, hasn't worked in more than a month because she has had to relocate to Ohio for the surgery, but the utilities and mortgage bills back in Indiana haven't stopped coming in. And now her insurance provider is threatening to not pay because the hospital isn't part of the network, leaving Rodriguez to settle the $5,000-and-counting bill out of pocket.
Rodriguez scrambled to set up a GoFundMe page to cover the medical bills. But a stimulus check would be the only certainty in the middle of chaos, her only means to chip away at the spiraling costs for Isabell's medical expenses and other bills.
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