NORRISTOWN — For many families, the question isn't whether to work or collect unemployment. The issue is how to put food on the table when neither wages nor assistance covers the bills. 

Norristown resident Annette Rivera works as a vet tech at an animal hospital and is the sole breadwinner for her husband and two daughters.

“I’m the only one working because my husband, he’s disabled,” she said in a recent interview outside the Patrician Society food pantry.

“Even though I’m working I have to come to food pantries … because sometimes I’m behind on the bills.”

Rivera said she comes to the Norristown nonprofit Patrician Society, 121 E. Chestnut St. in Norristown, to pick up groceries that help stretch her food budget.

One of her big expenses, she said, is child care. Finding affordable child care was difficult as she continued working. 

“It was hard to get child care because [in] a lot of places, they have reduced hours and reduced [the] amount of kids,” she said. “Before it was like a full class, now it’s like a half class.”

She added that getting “cheaper child care” would help her considerably.

Another woman travels from Philadelphia to the Montgomery County-based food cupboard. While she did not want to be identified, she said she’s been unable to work because she is taking care of her husband, who had a stroke.

“But we’re surviving,” she said. “The community has been helping a whole lot and St. Pat’s when I can’t make ends meet, they’re always here.”

She noted that “housing” is a concern for her. While she used to live in Norristown and still has family in the area, since moving to Philadelphia, she noticed “they don’t have the accessibility that you need.”

According to an Indeed Job Seekers Survey published last month, “care responsibilities” accounted for nearly 20 percent of responders who were asked about a “non-urgent job search.”

“At the same time, a sense of financial security is allowing some unemployed workers to be patient,” the June study stated. “Enhanced UI benefits are helping here, but spousal earnings and household savings appear to be bigger factors.”

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Rachel Ravina is a journalist covering news and lifestyle features in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. She grew up in Blue Bell and graduated from Penn State. She's also a news enthusiast who is passionate about covering topics people want to read.

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