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Despite Adding Hours and Jobs, More Workers Unable to Sustain Themselves

In his latest coverage about people hit hard by the economic downturn, NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels reports from Antioch, Calif., about the growing numbers of people who, despite taking on more hours at work or second jobs, are unable to make a sustainable living.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Next, another story about people hard hit by hard times. Tonight, working, but getting paid less. NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels reports.

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    The recession hit 37-year-old Heather Scharf much harder than she ever expected. The single mother of 5-year-old Christina thought she had it made. When she was 20, she dropped out of community college to take an entry-level job in the booming mortgage industry.

  • HEATHER SCHARF:

    I started out doing receptionist work and then eventually worked my way up and ended up doing "doc drawing," which is the papers you sign when you get a home, and then into underwriting, and just kept going and going.

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    Scharf lives in a house her parents own in the town where she was born, Antioch, Calif. It's on the northeastern edge of the San Francisco Bay Area, along the picturesque Carquinez Strait and the Delta. It's a town that grew like wildfire in the past decade because the homes were more affordable than those closer to San Francisco.

    Today, many of those homes are vacant, foreclosed on. And downtown Antioch is a depressing scene: Vacant storefront after vacant storefront line the empty streets.

    As a worker in the mortgage business, Scharf had a front-row seat at the housing fiasco many blame for the county's and the nation's woes.

  • HEATHER SCHARF:

    We were giving loans to people who didn't even have to prove their income. You know, appraisers were coming out appraising houses hundreds of thousands higher than they realistically were worth.

  • SPENCER MICHELS:

    Did you know that this was probably an unsafe practice at the time?

  • HEATHER SCHARF:

    No, because we were busy. I mean, we were really, really busy. I could make, on a good year, $70,000, $60,000. I was safe there, I thought, for a while, so — it didn't turn out that way.

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