This piece was originally published on TalkPoverty.org.
Living in a single-parent household is tough. I grew up with my mother and two sisters, and although my mother always worked, we struggled to make ends meet. When the economy tanked, my mother lost her job. My older sister was in college, and even with the help from other outside family members and government assistance, we could not cover the cost of her education and all of our family’s other expenses.
I remember the day my mother looked me in the eye and said, “I’m going to be honest with you, son. With the way things are right now, I won’t be able to help you pay for college. What happens to you now is all on you.”
I took her advice and got to work. In addition to being a full-time high school honor student, I worked two low-wage jobs to help my family pay the bills. The years went on and things got harder at home. My family was always working. With my help, we were able to put my sister through college. I will be a sophomore at the University of South Carolina in the fall. But even with every able body in the house working, it is still a challenge every month to cover the bills.
My family does not struggle because we lack work ethic, which Paul Ryan’s new plan implies is the underlying cause of poverty in America. My family struggles because of poverty wages, which Ryan’s plan does nothing to rectify. Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was raised. My family and I work tirelessly, but until employers are required to pay us enough to thrive, my families and thousands like ours will continue to scrape by.
Laffon Brelland, Jr. is a rising sophomore at the University of South Carolina, double-majoring in English and Spanish. He is a Junior Writing Fellow at the Center for Community Change.