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A Gen Xer who barely lives above the poverty line sells plasma to cover her rent because she doesn't qualify for government assistance: 'There's a lot of praying and just hanging on.'

Woman donating blood
Lisa Kelley (not pictured) is low-income but does not qualify for government assistance. She sometimes sells her plasma to make ends meet.WC.GI / Getty Images
  • Lisa Kelley, 47, lives above the poverty line but struggles to afford rent and medicine.

  • She was working as a security guard for $15 an hour,  but unexpectedly lost her job in May.

  • ALICEs like Kelley live paycheck to paycheck but don't qualify for government assistance.

Lisa Kelley, 47, lives in an apartment in Cincinnati with her mother. Money is tight, and she often has to decide which bills to pay on time and which to delay — at the risk of their electricity or internet getting shut off.

Kelley used to drive 30 minutes across the Kentucky border every morning to work as a security guard. She made $15 an hour, which amounted to about $1,400 a month, according to documents reviewed by Business Insider. But in mid-May, Kelley unexpectedly lost her job.

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Now, she's is trying to find another job before the end of the month so she can pay rent.

Kelley lives above the federal poverty line, which is $15,060 a year for one person, but struggles to pay for basic necessities like rent, medicine, gas, and food for herself, her mother, and the sister she supports.

While Kelley is "technically married," she and her husband have been separated for two years. She can't afford to hire a lawyer to finalize the divorce, but she receives no financial support from her husband.

"We're entirely depending on my income," Kelley said, referring to herself and her mother.

A growing number of American households can barely pay their bills but make too much to qualify for government assistance. The acronym for this group is ALICE — asset-limited, income-constrained, and employed. Although 13% of Americans live below the federal poverty level, another 29% are ALICEs, according to the Census Bureau's American Community Survey data and cost-of-living estimates analyzed by United Way's United For ALICE program.

Kelley said her financial situation feels "hopeless."

"There's crying some days, and there's a lot of mad," she said. "There's a lot of praying and just hanging on."

Kelley can't afford healthcare and has started selling her plasma for extra money

Kelley said her top expenses are housing and food. She estimates that she pays about $1,000 a month for rent and $100 a week for groceries. She and her mother have to "make it stretch as much as possible."

The pair used to love watching "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" together, but Kelley can no longer pay for the TV channels.

She said they both have had to forgo prescription medications because of the out-of-pocket costs. Kelley's mother used to qualify for Medicare, but she would need updated identification to re-enroll and Kelley said she can't afford the fees for a new ID.

"We don't go to the doctor unless it's something serious," she said. "None of us go to a doctor for anything — it has to be ER-bad to go."

If she or her mother get sick, Kelley said they do their best to recover using over-the-counter medicine from DollarTree.

Kelley has started selling her plasma to supplement her income. She said she can make between $65 and $125 each time she gives blood, and can go to the clinic two or three times a week. Still, the process puts a lot of stress on her body and she's worried she won't be able to sell her plasma for much longer.

"I do feel drained, I feel tired," Kelley said. "But when it comes down to it, I've tried applying for second, part-time jobs. And, because I don't get off for the afternoon it doesn't fit in with their agenda or their scheduling, no one's hiring me."

Kelley said she can't receive food and housing assistance because her income was too high before she lost her job. She's worried about how she can get by until she finds another one, even if she is able to navigate the bureaucracy required to get help. She also said it's a lot more difficult to qualify for government assistance since she isn't actively supporting children. Her two adult daughters are financially independent.

Kelley hopes she can someday live with more financial freedom. She wishes more people understood that "you can be doing everything right" and still be unable to access assistance.

"There's no help," she said. "If you make too much, there's no help; if you are healthy, there's no help; if you don't have kids, there's no help."

Are you making above the poverty line but still struggling to afford daily life? Are you open to sharing your story? Reach out to this reporter at allisonkelly@insider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider