More Marathon Co. Families Asking for Financial Help

By: Liz Hayes Email
By: Liz Hayes Email

U.S. Census numbers show that income is up slightly in Wisconsin, but so are rates of poverty.

When you're living paycheck to paycheck about $120 more a year won't make much of a difference, but there are community resources willing to help.

United Way of Marathon County's 2-1-1 help line has been busy lately.

"We know from our 2-1-1 data that increases in calls with assistance with things like utilities and housing and transportation are all up again this year," said Communications Director Sue Haupt.

Marathon county is also seeing increases in the number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, and more working families are depending on food pantries.

Even if income is up slightly, it's not enough to make a big difference.

"We're fortunate that we do have a lot of resources in our community for people to access and overall the community is pretty generous," Haupt said.

Christy Casares, a married mother of two, has benefitted from that generosity.

She heard about Project Step Up, a program through Catholic Charities, and it's helped her learn how to budget and live within her means.

"We really have to budget well," Casares said. "I mean we can't just go out and take a trip."

Casares, who lives in Wausau, lost her job three years ago, so her family has relied solely on her husband's income.

"We were struggling paycheck to paycheck, we were actually going down in the hole."

But Project Step Up helped them climb out of that hole. They got rid of one vehicle, since Christy stays home to home school her daughter, learned how to spend wisely at the grocery store, and had their home interest rate lowered significantly dropping their monthly payment from $850 to $500.

Casares is grateful there are services in the community that are helping her family.

The Census numbers show that last year in Wisconsin, the median household income level was $52,000.

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