“I want to pull my hair out,” she said, laughing. “It’s challenging.”
Ms. Roman, 35, started studying criminal justice part-time at a community college last year with hopes of becoming a parole officer. She was also working as a referral associate at Urban Health Plan, a network of community health centers, and juggling her duties as a single mother to four children, ages 4 to 15.
After the coronavirus reached New York, Ms. Roman lost her job and could no longer afford her tuition. She dropped out but still owed about $2,300 in outstanding fees.
Soon after, Ms. Roman’s children shifted to remote schooling. She needed to help them with their coursework, she said, while also worrying about how to provide. She tried to keep a brave face, even though she was struggling. If her children caught her crying, she would call it “happy tears.”
Ms. Roman and her family received payments of $235 in public assistance every two weeks, but she said she still felt stuck. In a video interview, her voice grew shaky as she recalled those early days of the crisis. She turned off her camera and took a moment to collect herself.
“I felt like a horrible mother,” she said. “I always want to give my kids whatever they want when they deserve it, and when I don’t have that luxury, it hurts.” —
Photographed for the @nytimes Neediest Cases Fund. Words by Elisha Brown, Sara Aridi, Masha Goncharova, and Remy Tumin.
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