‘Life becomes a penny’: donated $ 950 from his first stimulus check to a food bank, then received a cancer diagnosis

Almost exactly a year ago, Toi Cudworth looked around her and realized that she was one of the lucky ones. The San Antonio, Texas, resident had a job and a freezer full of food. But just a few miles from his home, thousands of cars lined up before dawn in a flea market parking lot to receive free grocery brochures.

So when the first stimulus check hit his bank account, Cudworth sent $ 950 (over a month’s rent on his apartment) of his $ 1,200 payment to the San Antonio Food Bank. She included a note: “This is my stimulus test and while I could use it, there are those who need it the most!” But life can change quickly. As the sudden economic upheaval of 2020 demonstrated, the line between people with enough cash to help others and people who need help can be very fine. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call to push someone across that line, which is what happened to Cudworth when a doctor called her last fall and broke the news that she had breast cancer.

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“The dividing line between people who have cash to help others and people in need can be very fine. Toi Cudworth crossed that line. ”

A year after his $ 950 donation, he has no regrets giving the stimulus money, but he sure could use it now. Since her cancer diagnosis, she has been “raking in every penny,” she told MarketWatch, delaying payments on some loans and buying frozen chicken and vegetables because they are cheaper and last longer. So far he has paid about $ 6,000 out of pocket for cancer treatment and owes at least another $ 4,500. The medical bills keep coming in and he still has another surgery ahead of him. She undercuts the bills by making payments of $ 5 and $ 10 at the same time. “I’ll tell you what, life changes for a dime, just be so grateful for what you have,” Cudworth said. “One minute you’re sailing on the high seas, having a good time.” And the next one? She was found half dressed, with IVs in her arm and marks on her chest, about to be operated on when a hospital worker asked permission to give her an X-ray that she was not sure she could afford. It’s been a buffer for many.During the past 12 months, Cudworth dodged many of the pandemic-related money struggles that others faced, but still fell victim to some of the perennial problems Americans faced before the pandemic, and will continue. dealing after. They include unexpected medical bills, expensive cancer treatments; patchy insurance and the vagaries of dealing with big companies that control our financial lives. His story is a reminder that, even without a pandemic, many Americans live close to financial advantage. For Cudworth and millions of others, the stimulus money has provided a measurable buffer against financial shocks.

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“For Cudworth and millions of others, the stimulus money has provided a measurable buffer against financial shocks. ”

A recent report by the liberal-leaning think tank Urban Institute found that despite record job losses last year, the proportion of American adults who said they didn’t have enough food to eat or couldn’t pay medical bills o On-time utilities actually declined in 2020 compared to 2019 – a mark, the researchers said, of the impact of stimulus payments and other government safety net programs. “However, this average change hides the substantial hardships among families who lost their jobs during the pandemic,” the researchers wrote. In fact, Cudworth’s biggest stroke of luck in the past year has probably been that he kept his job. Senior teller at a credit union, earning less than $ 40,000 a year. Single with no children, she not only donated most of her first stimulus check to the food bank, but also bought food for a young neighbor who had been laid off from his retail job. He also gave “some bills” to a nearby older couple and spent part of the rest on dog treats for his two rescued Chihuahuas. A year later, she is not sure what became of the younger neighbor; moved out when you couldn’t pay your rent. He has hardly seen the older couple. He had to put one of his two dogs to sleep about a month after receiving his first stimulus check, resulting in a $ 1,200 vet bill.

Toi Cudworth says she has been counting her pennies to make sure she can cover her cancer treatment bills.

‘I’m thinking,’ What am I going to do? ‘A few months later, Cudworth went to the doctor because of pain and numbness in his chest. She thought it was some kind of injury. After some tests, her doctor called her on November 6, her birthday, to tell her that she had invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer. Immediately, Cudworth’s thoughts turned to the medical bills. “I’m thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’” He remembers. Faced with the choice between a lumpectomy and a double mastectomy, she opted for the more expensive full mastectomy, recalling two friends who had faced the same decision. The one who underwent the lumpectomy had a recurrence and died, the other is still alive. A stimulus check that disappeared Meanwhile, the federal government sent out a second round of stimulus payments in December, but Cudworth did not receive one. She is a TurboTax INTU user, -3.34% and believes her second stimulus payment was interrupted by the same glitch that delayed checks for millions of other TurboTax users. The company has said it solved the problem that was delaying stimulus payments, and a press representative offered to investigate Cudworth’s lost check when MarketWatch contacted TurboTax for comment. Cudworth said he tried to contact the company when his second stimulus payment did not show up, but was unable to do so. She never received the second stimulus payment of $ 600, but feels a bit superstitious for trying too hard to get it. “I say, well, whatever, I’m not going to question things,” he said. “My numbers have been so good so far on this cancer thing, so I’m like God, keep it, do something with it.”

Toi Cudworth with coworkers. She feels lucky to still have a job and to work for a supportive employer. Toi Cudworth

‘I immediately started accumulating everything.’ She received her last paycheck in February, right before her mastectomy surgery, and has been counting every penny ever since. Cudworth “loves” the company he works for; your employer has been understanding and understanding of your illness. But that goodwill can’t change some of the harsh realities about your employer’s insurance. Unlike previous jobs, where your health insurance paid 80% of covered expenses, your current plan only pays 50%. “I cried as soon as I found out,” Cudworth said. “I immediately started accumulating everything.” To cut his expenses as the surgery approached, he asked his auto loan company to delay a payment; They offered her two months, but she accepted only one because she didn’t want to be too late on payments. He did the same with a personal loan. Your company offers short-term disability insurance, but benefits don’t take effect until an employee has been out of work for 30 days. So far, that has earned Cudworth two checks for $ 431.

“’I’m 56 years old and I can’t carry that debt into eternity. If I were 20, it would be different. ‘ ”- Toi Cudworth, who owes about $ 4,500 in medical bills after a cancer diagnosis.

Cudworth says he nearly suffered a heart attack when he received what appeared to be a bill for $ 386,019.74 for mastectomy surgery and an overnight hospital stay. But he quickly realized that the actual amount he owed was $ 4,554.11. That is in addition to the roughly $ 6,000 he paid out of pocket before the mastectomy. “As soon as I get back to work, I will have to put in as many hours as I can,” Cudworth said. Maybe I’ll get another part-time job somewhere. Because I am 56 years old and I cannot carry that debt to eternity. If I were 20, it would be different. “She will tighten her belt for a while. An infection delayed her return to work and she will have to take off work again for post-mastectomy reconstructive surgery in May, which she hopes will be mostly covered. for insurance. She received financial relief recently when she received her last stimulus payment of $ 1,400. ‘I can only imagine these other people.’ Cudworth says her cancer diagnosis has made her more self-centered. But she’s still pending How you can help others At an online breast cancer support group that she accesses every morning, she came across a charity that ships care packages to breast cancer patients. She hopes to volunteer for the group and wants to ask her employer or other local business to become a sponsor.A year after donating most of her first stimulus check, Cudworth all Via is considered one of the lucky ones. She is grateful that both her sister in Florida and her mother, who lives near her in Texas, survived COVID-19, although they both have severe persistent symptoms. She is grateful for her caring employer and the roof over her head, and that she did not have to receive chemotherapy or radiation to treat her cancer, which terrified her, and that the winter storms in Texas did not cause serious damage beyond a burst pipe in His appartament. “I can only imagine these other people who are going through so much more,” Cudworth said. “Yeah, I’m a bit broke right now,” he added, “but I’ll be back.”