Kids Stepping up to Help Their Parents During the Pandemic Isn't Heartwarming—It's Heartbreaking

A Texas teen recently used her college savings to help her out-of-work mother pay the rent, and while it's inspirational to see a kid helping their family, this kind of stress shouldn't be on any American.

Alondra Carmona, an 18-year-old in Houston, isn't the epitome of the American dream—she's another face of the American nightmare made worse by COVID-19. She'd spent years working hard to get into her dream school to study to become a neurosurgeon and finally got the good news: She'd been accepted to Barnard College. And then the pandemic hit.

"In February of 2020, my mom broke her ankle and was not able to work," Carmona wrote on a GoFundMe page she created. "Come March, the coronavirus started which added to the financial problems we already had. Today, I found out that my mom has not had a job for 3 months and hid it from us. She owes two months of rent and will most likely get evicted in March."

The high school senior explained that it was her mother who worked tirelessly to provide for Carmona and her sisters and now, because she's not able to get back into the workforce, is eyeing eviction.

An image of hands holding signs with words on them.
Getty Images (2). Art: Jillian Sellers.

"She's always been a single parent and would work nights when I was little," Carmona told Good Morning America. "My sisters and I would stay home alone … it was really hard, but she made sacrifices for us to have a better life … I got accepted to my dream school all because of her."

That's why Carmona, who had saved money from a six-week cervical cancer research internship and from working part-time at Chipotle, gave her mother $1,800 from her college savings to put toward the $2,000 she owes. Even with a $60,000 financial aid package from Barnard, Carmona needs to pay the difference for room, board, and other expenses she'll have while living in New York City.

"As much as I dream of going to Barnard College, it is not looking promising right now," Carmona wrote on her GoFundMe. "I am turning to this as a last resort because Barnard will not be able to change my financial aid package."

Luckily for Carmona and her family, the GoFundMe is paying off: Over $147,000 has already been raised to help cover college costs and go toward her mom's rent. And while this is all great news, it's certainly more heartbreaking than heartwarming.

What if Carmona's story hadn't gone viral? What about the millions of other families who are facing financial hardship due to COVID-19? Why is it kids—and not the government—who are stepping up to get their families back on their feet?

According to an August 2020 Pew Research Center survey, 1 in 4 Americans are having trouble paying their bills since the pandemic began—and it's low-income, Black, and Latino families being hit the hardest. A quarter of adults said that "they or someone in their household was laid off or lost their job because of the coronavirus outbreak" and half of those laid off are still unemployed. The financial situation is dire: The pandemic caused 8 million people to live in poverty—and that's in addition to the 55 million Americans already making $26,200 a year or less.

And of course, it's great to hear about these opportunities to help real people—I, for one, was fortunate enough to buy cookies to benefit this homeless Girl Scouts troop and chip in to help provide holiday gifts for families in need—but next time you see a story like Carmona's on social media or the news, go one step beyond pitching in if you can and contact your representative to demand real change.

So many Americans need help with everything from finding work, covering child care costs, paying their bills, and even being able to afford diapers. This financial crisis is so much bigger than one GoFundMe at a time—and the burden of solving it should fall on our government, not our children.

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