I’m not a deadbeat. I’m not a drug addict.
In fact, overall, I’d like to think I’m a pretty good person. If a see a lost dog wandering around, I’ll stop and look for the tag and call the owners, or, if there’s no tag, I’ll call a no-kill shelter to pick it up so the poor thing doesn’t get hit by a car. I volunteer with the Girl Scouts. I give food to homeless people. I read to my kids. I vote.
I’ve been to college and have a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business Administration. I even graduated with honors (magna cum laude) and I was my class Valedictorian.
I’ve worked in marketing for Procter & Gamble, interned (briefly) at the United Nations Environmental Programme, and held various sales positions, among other things.
Yet, despite everything, I am currently a welfare recipient, something this country tries to make you feel ashamed about, as if no one who is intelligent and/or hard-working can ever fall on hard times. But this is a lie. It can happen to anyone… and it happened to me.
So, what’s my point?
Well, currently on almost any given day you can see both politicians and pundits making claims about the poor people “living off the system” and “getting a free ride” as if those on welfare are living it up, or like this is a choice people gladly enter in to.
The fact of the matter is that I would love to be working, but with a stagnant economy and high unemployment rates, I was not able to find work. Then, when I became pregnant with my twins, my options were even smaller. I needed Medi-cal to safely deliver my babies. I needed to be able to feed and shelter my kids. I swallowed my pride and applied for social services. After all, isn’t that what they’re there for? To help us through the tough times when we’re in desperate need and have no other options or choices? Isn’t this what the taxes I paid when I was working helped to pay for? Why should I be ashamed? It wasn’t as if I wasn’t trying, but sometimes just trying isn’t enough.
Still, most people in this situation are loathe to admit it, let alone talk about it. There’s a stigma associated with welfare. We are supposed to be ashamed and hide it. We’re a burden on the system. So much of a burden, in fact, that this is one of the areas that spending needs to be cut. Mention raising taxes on the top 1% and you’re engaging in class warfare. Heaven forbid we suggest multi-billion dollar corporations have a few tax loopholes closed. No, we need to make the nation’s poorest, already struggling to just survive, live on even less.
But before you all get in a huff about this, let me elaborate on exactly what “less” means, and how little help is actually received.
I’m a mother of three. I have a 14-year-old teenage daughter, and twin boys, currently 7 and 1/2 months old. This means I have a family size of four. Me, and my three children, two of which are in diapers.
So, how much does the government deem is sufficient for a family of four with no other income? How much do I actually receive from Social Services to live off of and support my three kids and myself each month until I get back on my feet?
$725. A month.
Let me repeat that: a month.
This is meant to cover rent, utilities, transportation, diapers, any clothing needs that may arise (which for those of you with children, you know is something kids need; trivial items like clothes and shoes), school supplies, and any non-food products. You know, little things like soap, shampoo, toilet paper, feminine products, etc. I do get a separate amount in food stamps, which – thankfully – is enough to make sure we’re all fed, but absolutely everything else is meant to be covered by that $725.
And according to the GOP, that’s just too much. They want to cut it even more.
Now, I manage. I’m resourceful. I’ve found a way to stretch that tiny amount of money as far as I can, and so far, we’re getting by, but there are plenty of others who are not able to. A single mother with only one child only gets $473 a month to live off. For those of you that live in California, I’d like you to think about that for a moment.
$725 a month to support three kids.
Could you do it?