Financial fears of jobless grandma
An unemployed grandmother faces a battle for financial survival after being told she does not qualify for Financial Assistance.
The former Bermuda government employee took out her pension in a lump sum when her daughter became critically ill in September last year, using it to cover medical costs and mortgage payments.
Now her daughter has died and the money has run out and, while her search for a job continues in vain, she fears that everything she has worked for her whole life will “go down the tube”.
“I've tried everything,” she told The Royal Gazette. “The best thing for me to do is get a job. I don't want people to feel sorry for me.
“I've worked since I was 16. I'm not a lazy person. I believe in paying my bills.
“I would like to go to work, pay more mortgage and just resume my life. There is a vast amount of satisfaction that you get from a job well done.”
Mrs A, who did not want to be identified out of fear it would make finding work even harder, spoke out in the hope that “the powers that be may fine-tune their programmes and somebody else may benefit from it”.
And Age Concern director Claudette Fleming said some people are even worse off and stressed the need for a compromise that would ensure businesses can be successful without overlooking older workers [see story inside].
Mrs A, who is in her early sixties, started looking for work right after her daughter's funeral, scouring the newspaper for positions and also applying online through the Bermuda Job Board.
“I haven't had luck with that,” she said, adding that she has not received a single response to her online applications.
“It just seems like there's nothing moving. It doesn't seem like a success story. I think the way the old Government Employment Office worked was much better.”
Although Mrs A is convinced her age is a factor, she said the Government does not do enough to help people in this type of situation. “If a homeowner finds themselves without a job and they're not 65, you have to be a praying person because you can't get any help.”
Mrs A approached Financial Assistance for help, but said she was told that she did not qualify.
“Because I was given my pension in September last year, they told me that I should still have money on that despite having to use it for living on in this expensive country.
“They don't count that you have to pay your mortgage. And then I had to assist my daughter, who was being treated overseas.”
She has also approached her church, which has helped cover some of the travel expenses previously, but has not heard back.
“And even if family helps you, they can only help you so much. I don't know what you are supposed to do.”
Had she done something illegal then she said she would understand it, but she said the bank had records of all her expenses.
“I could have got a tent and joined the girl up on the hill because I have a real case.
“Everyone knows my daughter passed — she was sick for three years. You can't just do nothing. We have to look after our children. I had to help her. That's what God would expect you to do. Even if you don't have God in your life, that's just the right thing to do.”
She also helped support her daughter's family because her son-in-law was unemployed and had to care for his sick wife.
“Out of that pension I helped my family — me giving to my daughter is a good thing. Nobody can take away the happiness I saw on her face. In the midst of all that pain, she was happy for a short while. I used that money, as far as I'm concerned, intelligently. I handled it, I felt, the best I could. It's just the curve life took.”
Mrs A is now faced with bills she cannot pay, including her mortgage payments.
“The payments only just fell behind because the money ran out. There's nothing to survive on. Monthly from the pension they send me a small portion.”
She receives just under $400. “You have to buy gas for the car once a month, pay your phone bill, you have to buy some food and Belco. I have decided that I have to buy less food so I can keep Belco on.”
And Mrs A, who has stress-induced asthma and high blood pressure, said the stress of the situation is “severely” impacting her health and she spent the weekend in the hospital.
Struggling to even afford her medication, she will now have to give up her health insurance. But without this she could end up facing steep hospital bills.
“It's a catch-22 type of situation,” she said.
She added that if she can find work, she would be able to afford the medication she needed and her health should improve. If she can not, she said everything she had spent her life working towards “will go down the tube”.
In response to queries from this newspaper, a Government spokeswoman encouraged Mrs A to get in touch with Financial Assistance again. And a spokeswoman from the Department of Workforce Development added: “The Department would like to take this opportunity to encourage all job seekers to register with the Department to discover the opportunities that are available for training and retraining.”
She added that while it offered assistance with job retraining, résumé writing and technical and vocational training programmes, it was not an employment placement agency “although they have several opportunities for connecting job seekers with local employees”.
“We can assist individuals throughout the job search process from intake to job readiness to referrals to potential employers.”