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A woman in a purple shirt is puts a sheet around a pillow in a doctor's exam room.

Justice Wilson, 28, a medical assistant at Kaiser Permanente, prepares an exam room at the start of her shift Monday in Longmont. Wilson visits with dozens of patients daily, as well as manages emails and other caretaking duties at the clinic. Her goal is to someday work as a nursing educator. (Photos by Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

A woman grabs medical supplies from a drawer in a doctor's exam room

I make $22.98 an hour.

I make too much working at Kaiser (to qualify for assistance). It’s not, like, a lot more. The last time I applied I was just $75 over, which was just heartbreaking.

An up arrow

My rent in Firestone is currently $2,175. I make too much to qualify for any assistance, but not enough to totally pay all of my bills and break even. I’m not even asking for money to be left over at the end of the month any more. I just want to break even, and I haven’t done that for probably two years now.

For a while there I was using credit cards but now my credit card debt, it was out of control for a while. I’ve gotten it back under control and stopped using it for the most part. I just have to choose which bills are going to be paid in full, and what will be partial, and what just isn’t going to be paid at all on time.

A photo of a young boy is taped to the side of a desk wall

A photo of Keston, 6, decorates Wilson’s desk. Though she sometimes struggles financially to pay rent and budget for groceries, she prioritizes time with her three kids. The other two are 2 and 4. “We should support them emotionally. I should fill their cup just as much as I’m trying to fill my own. If you’re good at math, or art, let’s work on it. That’s my job — is to support and help nourish things that they like, so that they can be functional adults,” she said. “I remember every soccer game as a kid, every choir concert when my dad wasn’t able to make it . . . not what my cleats looked like or any of that. But do I remember them showing up or not showing up? Yes.”

Children's toys and a pin sit on a shelf inside a desk
A woman at the end of a hallway in a doctor's office talks to someone inside a room

☀️ High Cost of Colorado

Michael Booth is The Sun’s environment writer, and co-author of The Sun’s weekly climate and health newsletter The Temperature. He and John Ingold host the weekly Sun-Up podcast on The Temperature topics every Thursday. He is co-author with...