Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I am a Welfare Mom

I'm a Welfare Mom. I'm not afraid to admit it. I made a choice and wound up on cash aid and food stamps because of that choice. What choice did I make? To get out of an abusive relationship. I am currently unemployed and cannot work, due to Princess's sensitive immune system. As a result, we have to have cash aid and food stamps to help us out.

The reason I'm writing this post today is because every so often there is the call for drug testing for those applying for cash aid. I am totally against this. Why? Because applying for cash aid already had SO many hoops to jump through, why do we need one more? Because there's already enough of a stigma of applying and using cash aid, why do we need to add to it? Because there are many reasons as to why someone would need cash aid and/or food stamps, why do we need to delay it for them longer? Let me elaborate.

1. Do we need more hoops to jump through?
Usually this idea for drug testing is started by someone who has never had to apply for federal/state aid before. Then it spreads. If you have ever had to apply for any type of state aid, then you know how much stuff they want to know. It's not just your income. When I applied for food stamps and cash aid, I had a whole STACK of papers. Some of the things they needed were:

  • Pay Stubs
  • Bank Statements
  • Vehicle Registration
  • Birth Certificates
  • Social Security Cards
  • Rental Agreements
Plus I had to apply for unemployment, AND they needed my kid's shot records! And even then, I still had to go down and write a statement about the three deposits that were done in one of my accounts and how they are no longer being deposited into that account. I also had to be fingerprinted and photographed.

The state has 45 days from the time of the application to determine eligibility. Do we really need a drug test on top of all of that?

2. Do we need to make people feel bad for applying?
People crack jokes and make snide comments about people being on welfare. You hear it all the time. Not to mention, people feel bad for having to ask for help. Most people on welfare don't want to be there. They want to be able to provide for their families. Some people don't even apply for food stamps and/or cash aid because they are afraid of what people might say. Some people don't know that they could qualify if they applied. You tack on a drug test and to some people it's an accusation. It's not accusing anyone, but to some, it can feel that way on top of feeling bad for asking for help.

3. Does it need to take longer for those who need it?
There are lots of reasons people need help. I'm college educated and could be out there substitute teaching if I could, but I can't. My daughter has special needs. If she gets sick, she is more than likely going to end up in the hospital. I can't put her in a daycare for that very reason. I'm on cash aid because I left an abusive relationship. There are families on cash aid and food stamps because they can't find a job. There are families who are on cash aid and food stamps because they are foster families. It took 30+ days for my cash aid and food stamps to be approved and to be loaded onto my card. When it finally hit, I cried. I had spent 7 weeks relying on my family for a place to live, food to eat, and diapers for the baby.

Some of us these days are living pay check to pay check. If we miss one pay check, we go without food. If we miss two, we're homeless. Look at the recent government shutdown. It was 17 days that some people had to work and not get paid for right away. Some people were initially told not to come to work and they weren't getting paid at all. Not having money hurts. It causes stress and worry. 

There are people who abuse the system, don't get me wrong. But it's those people who do that that give the rest of us honest people who really need cash aid and food stamps a bad reputation. If you know of someone who is abusing the system, report them! We are not all drug users, alcoholics, or trying to get a free handout.

So the next time you're behind someone in line who has to pull out a benefits card to pay for their groceries or their kid's clothes, don't judge them. Understand that they are in a difficult situation. They may be wondering how they are going to make the food that they just bought last till their next award comes in. They may be praying that their kids don't outgrow the clothes they just bought knowing that they aren't going to have any more money for new ones until the first of the month. Understand that times like Christmas and birthdays are hard because they can't buy their kid that really expensive gift they want because there other things that need to be taken care of first. Realize that they may be in a difficult situation through no fault of their own. They are trying to get back on their feet and when they do, they will no longer need the help. They are simply doing the best that they can with what they have been given. If you are able, help them out. Believe me, they will welcome the blessing.

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