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Leslie Miller knows she will be able to live independently in a few years, but for now she and her daughter need help to get by.
Miller, 34, lives in Athens with her 4 ½ year old daughter. This past summer, she received her bachelor’s degree in child and family studies from Ohio University. She works full-time, has started a non-profit corporation that she runs in addition to her work, and cares for her daughter.
As a single parent with a low income, though, she simply can’t get by without some assistance, and even then has a very tough time. Miller separated from her daughter’s father last year and moved to Athens County in the summer of 2008. In Athens, she and her daughter are able to live in assisted housing where the rent is $320 per month.
Miller likes her apartment and has friends and co-workers who live in the complex. Her daughter also has made several friends among the neighbors.
For her monthly income, she brings home about $900 a month from her job, receives $320 in child support and receives $28 a month in food stamps funding. She also receives food items through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program, but her eligibility for that will run out later this year.
Her monthly income counting food stamps and WIC is about $1,300 per month, just above the federal poverty level for a family of two, which is $1,167 per month.
With her tight income, she has to pay rent, food costs and a variety of other bills each month. Like many people, she also has debt to pay as she has student loans and old credit card debt. All of the bills quickly eat up all of her income.
“We have food at home, but it’s not always the food she wants,” Miller said, explaining that it’s hard to get her daughter to eat some of the inexpensive food she buys. She tries to buy fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible, but those food items are usually more expensive. During the summer, she started using her food stamp funding at the Athens Farmers Market, where she is able to buy fruits, vegetables and meat.
“I had no idea that was even possible until last summer,” Miller said, adding that she is thankful for that option.
She knows that she could try to find a different job that makes more money, but she believes strongly in her non-profit corporation and wants it to grow so that it can serve the community. The schedule at her current job allows her to work on the non-profit organization and also spend time with her daughter.
While the non-profit corporation is growing and Miller knows she will eventually have a career that provides a more stable income, it’s often tough to make it through each month financially. Some months she takes on odd jobs such as washing dishes in order to help get the bills paid.
“It’s frustrating,” Miller said. She has very little money for Christmas presents or anything extra at any time of year, and said that just having a little more money each month would make a huge difference in her life. If her food stamp funding, for example, would go up by $100 or $200 each month, it would make it much easier to pay all of her bills.
Miller is very busy with all of her work and family responsibilities, and it can be challenging living in poverty, needing assistance and struggling each month to get by. Despite all of this, though, Miller is happy with what she has. She’s thankful for the assistance she receives, very proud of her daughter and excited about where she is going in life.
“I’m probably the happiest person you will ever know,” Miller said.
Click here to watch a video of Leslie's story