How It Happened
I had worked for a small independent telecommunications company for over 26 years. I was in an administrative position most of those years and was respected for my dedication, thoroughness, attention to detail and knowledge. I was in charge of the 9-1-1 databases and records in the systems, provisioning internet service, all 411/directory assistance data and producing the printed telephone directory. My performance reviews were good and in the most recent, it was mentioned that I "owned the job". Over the years I was given more and more responsibilities. I took over the work of two (2) team mates when they left without receiving a raise in either case.
About a year prior to being let go, I was told that upper management had decided that some of my admin functions were going to be phased out due to customer needs changing while other functions would be automated in the future because funding was available when it hadn't been before. I was told that it had been decided that I would learn the customer service representative position so I could assist as a back-up. I have never considered myself a good candidate for a customer service position as I'm rather shy/sensitive and take it personally when people get angry even when I know it's not me they're angry with. My boss knew this about me but said I "would be fine". I received training while still working my admin functions and the training was very lacking. It was not formal on-line or automated training and most updates for processes were passed on via e-mail or verbally making it quite cumbersome and time-consuming to locate information. Every time a call came to my position, I dreaded how the call would go. Some were very pleasant but we had a very demanding customer base and some callers were very unpleasant - yelling, cursing and demanding a manager (we were not allowed to transfer calls to our manager). I was very stressed daily as I often took more calls than any other team member while still doing my admin processes. It took a toll on my health (gastro issues, ulcers, headaches, etc). Every day I tried my best to provide excellent customer service and after awhile, I felt I was doing pretty well. Our calls were recorded but I hadn't received feedback in quite a long time. The service orders we created were also looked at and I made errors now and then but was told everyone did.
Then on April 5, 2017 in the mid-morning I was called into my boss's office. The HR manager was there as well. I was told that they were letting me go. I was told that the customer service position wasn't a good fit for me (I had pretty much always known that even though I tried my hardest to do a great job). I couldn't believe what I was hearing and was devastated and humiliated. I felt like after all these years of being respected and commended, it seemed I had failed. I had just turned 65 and now had no job AND no health insurance - my insurance had covered both Paul and me and it was excellent insurance. To be suddenly terminated after 26+ years of service, with no warning seemed pretty unprofessional and somewhat cruel.
I immediately went on Social Security, however, it was half as much per month as I received when working.
Paul and I are both cancer survivors. Paul had melanoma and basal cell carcinomas and I had breast cancer. Both require ongoing rechecks which we can't afford currently. We are both diabetics. I have ongoing gastro, cardiac, eye and GYN issues requiring follow up by the appropriate doctors. Both Paul and I take multiple medications.
I went on Medicare after losing my job, however, Paul was 62 and not eligible yet. He would've applied for disability/SSI but it can be a very long and expensive process, often requiring a lawyer. Paul went onto the Affordable Care Act (ACA) website to sign up but the MONTHLY premium was $742.00 for a minimal plan, which is over 2/3 of his monthly Social Security check!
Paul had two serious falls prior to me losing my job. In one, he tore his rotator cuff and in the other, he broke a finger...both on his left side and he is left-handed. He was receiving physical therapy 3 times per week but we could no longer afford it. He worked at a call center where he took 100+ calls a day requiring lots of back-up notes to be input into their database. He worked four (4) 10-hour shifts with constant repetitive motion and it took its toll. The orthopedic doctor told him he would always have some pain but with no continued therapy, it was unbearable for him and he made the hard decision to leave the job and go on Social Security as well. His monthly social security income is less than mine since he started receiving it at 62 instead of 65 so we are down another few hundred dollars per month.
Under Medicare, I (Pat) picked the plan that had the lowest out of pocket costs and lowest co-pay for physician visits. However, unlike the good commercial insurance that covered Paul and I through my work, in addition to the doctor visit co-pay ($40.00), 20% of EVERY procedure, diagnostic test, lab work of any kind is required. Medical and medication costs add up very quickly and we often have to put off care that we really need because we don't have the co-pay and/or the 20% for procedures, tests, etc. so we sometimes have to put put necessary things on hold.
Paul and I are both only children and all of our parents have long since passed away. Our aunts and uncles (except one 94 year old aunt) are gone as well. We don't have any friends in a position to help us. We really just don't have the safety net some folks do. We desperately need to get back on an even keel financially so we can go forard.
What the Funds Will Go Towards
Currently, our Social Security funds are received on the second Wednesday of each month (Pat) and the fourth Wednesday (Paul). When the funds go to into our credit union account, we pay the rent/bills/car payment that are due soonest after the deposit. In each deposit's case, the deposit does not nearly cover everything that is due. We currently pay: rent, car payment, electricty, water, car insurance, renters insurance (required by current landlord), cell phone bill, groceries, gas, our one remaining credit card (for emergencies although no open credit is currentlyavailable), doctor visits when possible, RXs, two medical bills, overdraft fees and storage space rent (already downsized once - we are hoping to get it emptied within a month by donating and selling what is there).
After April 5 of last year, in order to save money, we immediately cancelled our internet service, home phone, stopped using A/C and furnace, changed cellular companies to one that is less than half of the old company (and never had cable). It has helped but not nearly enough.
Our credit union (of 27 years) allows its customers to be overdrawn as often as every day of each month as long as you are in the positive at least one day per month. This has allowed us to survive for the months since Pat lost her job. However, there is a $25.00 fee for each transaction that is paid while in overdraft status and we have several of these fees per month.
Our plan is to 1) put any funds received from GoFundMe donations into our credit union account so we can finally get out of the negative status and stay out of negative status; 2) try to keep enough in the account for one month's rent and one month's car payment (currently 1 month past due). Any additional funds will be used toward a security deposit and first month's rent in an apartment we're hoping be approved for. We are struggling but won't give up. We love each other a lot and want our senior years to be as manageable as possible living on Social Security. Please see New Hope below.
Apartment prices in the Orlando area have skyrocketed over the last 5 years...one of top 5 highest in the country with price compared to incomes. The apartment we rent, built in 1960 and quite ordinary was $850.00 in 2013 and is now $1,150.00 per month and will go up another $90.00-$100.00/month in June. We have paid this 10-14 days late for the last few months with permission. There is no way we can afford to stay there. When I lost my job, we went and applied at several low cost senior apartments in the area. They all have long waiting lists from 1-6 years! We feel this is the only answer to us to be able to survive financially going forward, especially as we age.
We recently were contacted by one of the low cost senior apartments which is actually in our neighborhood. If all goes as we're hoping, the rent will be $569.00 per month and electricity is included! That's less than half of our current rent! The security deposit is another $569.00. It is nice and has a good reputation. We are number 9 on their waiting list and they should have an apartment available for us around the time our lease is up at the current apartment (May 31). This is wonderful news and would be a godsend for us. We would also be able to bring our wonderful kitty, Poncey. He brings joy to our lives every day!
We submitted all of the requested documentation and the only outstanding documentation needed is a form from our current landlord stating that we have been good tenants. She mentioned to us that she hestitates to do this because when she has done it in the past, people have left immediately, leaving her high and dry. We have promised not to do this - we don't have the security and first month's rent yet and we are not at all ready to move...LOTS of packing, etc. to do. Plus, we are number 9 on the list...no apartment is ready for us yet! I told our landlord we can't afford to stay where we are after lease is up and if we can't move to the low cost senior aparment, we could end up homeless and it's true and scary and seems unreal but it could happen. Other apartments cost as much as where we are and other senior apartments still have long waiting lists. Our landlord is warming to the idea of providing the document, thankfully. Funds from GoFundMe would assist us in our quest to move to an affordable apartment. It would mean so very much to us to be able to do this...now and for the future.
In closing, thank you for taking the time to read our story...we appreciate it. If you are able to help us, no matter the size of the donation (or if you are unable to help), we will always remember your kindness.
All the best to you!
Pat & Paul
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