Milwaukee, WI
'It Seems Like Nothing, But I Can Put That Money Away'
Joclyn Durr Sumner

Joclyn Durr Sumner works as an educational consultant to support people with developmental disabilities.

A major part of her work is being socially conscious and politically engaged for her community in Milwaukee.

Along with being a consultant, Durr Sumner is the primary caregiver for her son, born with Cerebellar agenesis, a rare condition in which the brain develops without the cerebellum.

Doctors told Durr Sumner her son would never walk or talk. He wasn't expected to live past a year.

Now, he’s 10 years old. While he suffers from physical delays and is nonverbal, he progresses every day.

Durr Sumner said it took a lot of work — and a strong community of people — to get her son to where he is.

But it hasn't been cheap.

Durr Sumner used to work work as a full-time teacher years ago. Every month she spent $3,000 on care for her son. It just didn't make financial sense, so she ran the numbers. 

"When I weighed apples to apples, working and not working ... working or receiving social security for my son, which includes Medicaid, which covers all of his medical bills, and it’s going to help me with child care programs, and they may even help me with food stamps," she said. "Now, I’m weighing all of what I need to pay, and realizing that I’m short $92 at the end of every month no matter what I do. I’m a full-time professional with a degree from Marquette University. I’m working on my master’s at Alverno College."

After months of being short on money, she decided to quit her job, apply for social security and stay at home with her son. 

"It seems like nothing, but I can put that money away," she said. "And we can go to the zoo."

Since leaving the teaching profession, Durr Sumner has $137 more to budget each month than she did when she was working full time.

"It seems like nothing, but I can put that money away," she said. "And we can go to the zoo."

And the time spent with her son has made a major difference, he can now walk.

"And they said he would never be able to walk, but because I was able to be at home, and I was able to commit this time and the health care resources were available, and I was able to use my prior knowledge to coordinate these resources academically and health-wise, my son is walking," Durr Sumner said.

That's why this election season Medicaid, Medicare, and health care are the most critical issues for her.

"When there’s no Medicaid or Medicare, it’s not just health insurance or dental or vision," she said. "But when you’re not in good health, for the person who’s receiving it, then it’s going to require more people to help you to take care of you because you’re not in good health."

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