They were all Orange County employees until the bankruptcy opened a trapdoor beneath them, sending their lives tumbling into uncertainty. The Times told the stories of 50 such workers in March. One year after the bankruptcy, we revisit eight of them below.
Lap Doan looked down and was astonished to see that her son's socks were soiled and tattered. "What happened to them?" she asked. There are holes in his only pair of shoes, the 13-year-old replied.
Doan is a proud mother, but not proud of her situation.
A single mother of three teenagers, Doan has been jobless since the county layoffs in January and has been struggling to ensure that her children are properly cared for on her tight budget.
As a county custodian, Doan earned $1,120 a month. She now collects less than $400 a month in unemployment benefits, but receives additional money through welfare and Social Security. And with her 17-year-old daughter working as a receptionist at a dental office, Doan said the family is able to make ends meet.
"It's more than enough for us to get by," she said. "As the old Vietnamese proverb says, if you eat carefully you will be full. If you conserve heat properly, you will stay warm."
Since the county layoffs, the Doan family has been trimming in every way possible, from the kind of rice they buy to fewer visits to the mall. But income is not the sole concern.
Without a steady job, Doan no longer receives any health benefits. She cannot afford insurance for herself or her children. She also worries that she will not be able to help her eldest daughter, a high school senior, continue her education.
"She's trying to save up to go to college," Doan said. The other two children, ages 13 and 15, want to help out the family, but their mother is reluctant.
"I don't want my children to have to work at their young ages," Doan said.
Doan, who worked for the county for about three months, said it has been tiresome and difficult to find work. She has applied for custodial, sewing and assembling jobs, but has had little luck.
"My English is poor and I still have young children to take care of," said Doan, who prefers to work night shifts so that she can take her children to and from school. "I don't need much, but I want security for my children and their futures."