Unemployment and debt make life difficult for New Jersey family

Remake America

The Kocotos family from Little Falls, N.J.: John and Michele, their three children and her father. John was recently laid off and now works for minimum wage.  Michele works as a teacher and is studying for a Master’s.  Due to John’s employment situation, the bills are piling up and they are over $350,000 in debt.

We’re the Kocotos family from Little Falls, N.J. My husband John and I have three children. Joe, 16, loves playing video games and also has a developmental disability. Carol, 14, has dyslexia and very poor eyesight; she dreams of someday becoming a special education teacher. Tony, 12, who also requires glasses and currently has braces, loves to do origami and sports. In addition to the kids, my 74-year-old father, who has a heart condition, lives with us. 

John was recently laid off from his job of 16 years with the American Red Cross as the Director of Disaster Services. He was unemployed for 6 months and just started working at a supermarket for minimum wage. I work as an infant teacher and I’m working towards a Master’s in Special Education.
When John was working for the Red Cross, our family loved to travel, taking vacations to Tennessee and annual trips to New York to go apple picking. We’re also very active with our church and community. Due to John’s employment situation, we’ve found it difficult to pay our bills and continue the lifestyle we grew to love.

Between two mortgages, three maxed out credit cards, bills for Tony’s braces, the children’s glasses and repairs to our 10-year-old truck, we are over $350,000 in debt. A freak October snowstorm damaged a tree in our yard and the electrical to our pool, resulting in more expenses. On top of all of that, our roof needs to be replaced and we have no clue where that money will come from.