In the words of workers: Tasha

Tasha shared her story as part of MECEP’s State of Working Maine 2023 report. Click here to read the full report.

Tasha is a single mom living in Old Town. She has an associate degree in criminal justice, has owned and managed a salon, and most recently worked as an ed tech and behavioral health specialist for children. Currently living in income-based housing and receiving assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Tasha is seeking part-time employment and preparing to return to school to complete a bachelor’s degree that will help her get a job in human resources.  

I grew up in southern Maine, went out west for college, worked in Arizona, and came back to Maine six years ago. I have over 125 college credits with an associate degree in criminal justice. My plan was to finish and receive a bachelor’s degree, but when I moved to Arizona my career path shifted, and I worked as a manager and later co-owner of a salon. There was no support for small businesses during the recession and we really struggled. After we lost the salon, I moved back to my parents’ one-bedroom home to start over.   

I went to DHHS when I first moved back, and they were able to help me with cash assistance, MaineCare, and food stamps. I also got help from career specialists. The main barrier for me at that time was housing. I applied for every type of housing all the way from southern Maine to northern Maine, and finally found income-based housing here in Old Town.  

Tasha sits at a desk in her home, working on a laptop.

It’s been a real challenge to align my educational experience with my work experience in a way that results in good job prospects. My degree was in criminal justice, but my work experience was in salon management and HR. I could do any type of receptionist position or customer service position, but those kinds of leads just aren’t there.  

My 60-month TANF limit ends in December. So, I’m looking at either going back to school or looking for a different kind of job. I’ve decided to do both. I just enrolled in online classes at Husson University, hoping to get my bachelor’s degree in business management and HR. I’m also looking for a part-time job. Being a full-time student, I might be eligible for the Scholars for Parents program, which will give me some benefits while I’m in school. They’re not enough to live off, so I need a schedule where I can go to school and work part-time.  

It’s hard to find anything that pays enough. As a single mom, I just can’t make it on minimum wage. The cost of housing and transportation are major issues. I don’t have a car, so I need to find a job close enough for me to walk to. And my income-based housing is switching to market value in March, so we have to find a new place to live or get on a five-year waitlist. I have a USDA housing voucher, but I can’t find any landlord who will take it. Having income-based housing was one of the first things in my life that was secure. Now it’s being taken away. 

I wonder financially how I’m going to make it as a single mom. The TANF amount is not enough. If I get a part time job, I may still get medical insurance, but my food stamps will be cut in half or the TANF will be gone. I’m literally more scared going into this Parents as Scholars program than being out of it. Going in the school direction, I’ll have all those hoops to go through and will have to continuously prove and stay on top of all the requirements, regardless of what happens. If I’m not a full-time student, they’ll take my assistance away. And in December I hit my lifetime max. I feel like I’m still at square one. Honestly, it makes me extremely nervous.