Meet Emilia Stancati (04:00)
Stancati enjoys her part-time work as a waitress at a neighborhood restaurant. Her full-time job requires a 45 minute commute to downtown Chicago. She is tired of carrying trays, relying on tips, and wishes that after 30 years in the industry she could get weekends off.
Meet Takita Akins (04:12)
Akins loves her job as a beauty adviser at Walgreen's. Hear how she met her boyfriend, DJ. His job at Walgreen's pays 10.50 hr and it is a struggle for them to make ends meet. Akins commutes on foot, by bus, and train 1.5 hours to get home with her children.
Meet De'Jaun Jackson (01:36)
DJ works evenings at Walgreens' flagship store downtown and must run to catch the bus home if he hopes to see his children before bed. He dislikes his job and is only there for a paycheck. On average, DJ is lucky to tuck his kids into bed one night a week.
Meet Jose Merino and Elizabeth Bonta (03:18)
Veteran Merino could not find a job and needed government assistance when he returned from Iraq. He was excited to get a clerical job making $34k per year (Montgomery County average is $73k). He, his son, and his girlfriend live with parents to save money.
Mounting Credit Card Debt (02:36)
Stancati sifts through a stack of bills; one is union dues from when she worked in construction. She went from earning $6,600 a month to $1,200. Her monthly expenses are $1,900, forcing her to use credit to cover the difference.
Losing a Scholarship (05:02)
DJ plays basketball to reduce stress. Hear how his college education was cut short. Having fallen behind on his student loans, he is ineligible for the financial aid that he needs to finish. His mother comments on the financial difficulty of helping children through college.
Student Loan Debt (03:05)
Bonta was able to complete her bachelors and master's degrees with help from her mother, tuition reimbursement, and a student loan. Student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt and in ten years has risen from 364 billion to 1.3 trillion.
Going Back to School (02:39)
Merino uses his veteran's benefits to attend community college while also working and watching his and his sister's children. His neighbor works at a grocery and gives them foods that have met their expiration date. Hear about his plans to work in radio communications.
Instilling the Importance of Education (02:58)
Akins presides over her children's homework while their father, DJ, works the nightshift. His sister and college student, Juanita Jackson visits. After some struggles, Akins' son has made the honor role. Hear about her passion to be a midwife.
Caring For Parents (02:20)
Bonta and her boyfriend live with her parents half of each week to help with finances. She found out they were struggling when an uncle called her an inconsiderate daughter. She discusses the hardship of having to give up her lifestyle to care for them.
Losing the Dream (05:35)
Before moving home to her parent's, Stancati had a well-paying construction job and was living the American dream; she was laid off in December of 2008. During the recession 8 million lost their jobs and in the Chicago metro area, 35% of homeowners are underwater on their mortgages.
Affording a Home (03:02)
Merino checks repairs on a $269k home he and Bonta are purchasing. The median home price in Montgomery county is $425,000. They will barely make the 3% down payment on a special low-income loan. He worries that he could lose his job and not be able to make the mortgage.
Merino and Bonta: First Date (02:11)
Hear how Merino wooed Bonta on Facebook. He was coached not to mention his marriage and child on their first date; Bonta found him attractive and appreciated his honesty. She wants to get a home with him in part so his son can have his own space.
Fighting for a Living Wage (02:52)
DJ discusses problems he has at work with favoritism when it comes to company policy. He talks to Charde Nabors at the union that is coordinating the local campaign for $15 hourly wages. She says he needs to get the support of all the workers at Walgreen's.
Minimum Wage Strike (02:44)
Fast food and retail workers strike against the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 hr; each state can set its own minimum and the highest is $9.50 hr. It takes more than three full-time minimum-wage jobs for a family of four to meet their basic living expenses. See a preview of the next episode of "Hard Earned."
Credits: The American Dream: Episode 1—Hard Earned (00:44)
Credits: The American Dream: Episode 1—Hard Earned
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