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Even with economic growth, families are still struggling to make ends meet: "It makes me feel defeated"

State of the economy
Many families are being left behind amid economic growth 07:07

Like millions of other Americans, Gabe Anel lost his job in the early days of the pandemic, Two years later, Anel's career as a sound engineer for a company doing corporate events hasn't bounced back.

CBS News was there in March of 2020 as he collected his last paycheck — unsure how he was going to make his mortgage payments.   

"CBS Mornings" co-host Tony Dokoupil has revisited Anel three times since then, most recently last week, when Anel revealed his financial situation is more dire than ever.  

"You'd think the last time you guys would be here, I'd be great. But this is probably the worst that I've ever been," said Anel. 

Even as President Biden touts his economic record, people like Anel are still far from seeing a recovery. His wife Claudia fears the rest of the country has already moved on from the financial hardships people are still facing. 

"I don't see it working for us. I don't. We don't see it. You want to, after the last administration. You want to be like, 'Yay, they're helping us.' They made all these promises and then you just see everything going down the tubes," said Gabe Anel. 

Mr. Biden is expected to highlight the growth of the U.S. economy after the pandemic in his State of the Union address. By many measures, the numbers are on his side — unemployment is down, wages are up, and the economy is expanding rapidly. 

The Anel family had been getting by thanks to the government's stimulus checks and extended unemployment benefits. When CBS News spoke to them a year into the pandemic, Claudia Anel, in particular, felt seen and supported. 

But now those benefits are gone and, like so many other middle-class families, the Anels have had to cut back. They have stopped going out, are driving less, and are not buying any snacks for their family.

"It's just a long time and people are tired. And I don't think people or the government or anybody is really all that worried about how people are getting by anymore," she said. 

Odd jobs like seasonal delivery driver and garage attendant have helped, but only some. Even with occasional freelance audio work that pays much, much better, the family is falling behind. And despite Claudia's income as a property manager, the Anels recently had to make the difficult decision to ask relatives for help. 

"Definitely all credit card payments are not happening," Gabe said. "I can't even meet the minimum, because I'm prioritizing for car payments, mortgage payments, oil payments, gasoline to get to these jobs." 

More than half the people in a recent CBS News poll said they're concerned about their ability to afford month-to-month expenses. 

More than 72 million Americans say they are struggling to pay their expenses, a number that's grown by about 2 million people a month since last August, according to the Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey. With inflation at a fresh 40-year high, Moody's Analytics calculates the average American family is paying an extra $250 every month just to live like they did before the pandemic. 

Gabe Anel is still hopeful his old job will bounce back eventually. But until it does, the Anels — like so many other families — are in economic and emotional distress. 

"It makes me angry. It makes me feel defeated. And it's hard to watch my husband go through it because he is a very, very intelligent person. He's a very capable person. He's a hard worker. And it's just unfair to have everything just sort of taken away," Claudia said.

Gabe Anel told Dokoupil he never thought he would still be going through economic hardship two years after the pandemic first began. He is now talking about it yet again to send a message.  
"We were very hesitant about doing this, because we were like, 'Do people really want to keep hearing about how terrible everyone is doing,' you know? It felt like kicking a horse while it's down, kind of thing," he said. "We decided yeah, because it's important, because maybe people don't realize that it's still happening. Maybe people are in their own bubble and feeling like everything's hunky-dory now, and it's not."

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