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Posted: February 25, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Through the lens of unemployment

A local woman shares her family's experience of losing both incomes

Photo by Tisa Smart Washington/

Hope for the future: Kathy Butler Allen Brown reflects on how difficult it has become for her and her husband to make ends meet.

When longtime Newton County resident Kathy Butler Allen Brown stopped working last year, she and her husband tightened their budget to make ends meet.

"We went from two salaries to one salary in January ‘08 and adjusted, adjusted, adjusted our lifestyle," Brown said. "We adjusted our spending, we adjusted our wanting with the loss of one income, and we felt real good about that."

But earlier this month, Brown's husband lost the job he had held for 11 years, and now the couple is searching for ways to hold onto their life.

"We've adjusted, we've cut everything that we think we can possibly cut from our lifestyle or our finances, other than our home and our car payments, utilities, the telephone bill, insurance, taxes, groceries, medicine, doctor's visits - just the everyday stuff. The math's not going to add up on this one; something is going to have to give," Brown said.

Unfortunately, Brown's story has become common place. With more than 120,000 Georgians filing initial unemployment claims in January, the statewide unemployment rate of 8.1 percent has shot past the national rate of 7.2 percent. And like the Browns, more and more residents are searching for way to deal with the aftermath of no job and no prospects on the horizon.

"When my husband came home and told me he lost his job, I felt frustrated; I felt over-powered or defeated. Is our life, everything we've worked for, everything we've gotten, is it just going to blow away? But then I thought ‘no,' that is not the way we need to look at it because there's a bigger community than just us. We're all part of this problem that the United States of America is in.
So we all should be part of the solution."

Brown, 59, and her husband, 60, do not qualify for the assistance they need to make their ends meet, but are too young to collect Social Security, which they cannot receive until they reach 62 years old.

"We're trying to live on just the unemployment, which may be impossible, but we're trying. Any love offerings that we get from friends or family members stepping up to the plate to share their abundance, we're saving that right now. So when and if it comes down to the point where there is no unemployment and there's no job, then we'll have that tucked away," she said. "We are praying that he gets a job. That is what we want and need. But if he doesn't get a job, we have to think about the time when there won't be anything."

For Brown, accepting public assistance had never been something she thought about. But with no other options in sight, she is willing to accept any help she can get.

"The reason I've never wanted assistance is I know the taxpayer is the one that's paying for the government assistance that I might get. And I always had this thought in the back of my mind that you need to make your own way because the government can't pay for everybody," Brown said. "But when you are plunged into a situation that you didn't make, you didn't create, it just happened to you, then all of us in the community have to step up to the plate. Not everybody can be homeless, not everybody can not have a vehicle to drive. We need the basics of life-food, shelter, clothing, and transportation."

Brown said she hopes that by sharing her story, Newton county residents will come together and reach out to those in the community who need help.

"I will never look on the homeless person or the person who is standing in front of me with food stamps in the same way that I might have looked at them when I was affluent enough that I paid my own way," she said, "because now I know that just that easily, I became that person."


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