Monday, June 16, 2014

The true life of a 'welfare queen'

My dear conservative friends love personal anecdotes over cold statistics -- which we lib'ruls just fake anyway.

So here's a real "welfare queen's" experience of what it takes to qualify for, and keep, welfare assistance [emphasis mine]:

The first step in the food-stamp application process was turning in every imaginable document regarding my identity, housing, assets and personal finances. I was photographed and fingerprinted, which made me feel like everyone thought I was a criminal. After winding my way through the byzantine bureaucracy, including several hours-long appointments during which I obviously couldn't be looking for work, I was finally approved; the monthly allotment worked out to about $5 per day.

To keep receiving food stamp benefits, I had to spend every "work day" at a Human Resources Administration work-search office – my presence there was mandatory from Monday through Friday and from 9am to 5pm. The office was more than an hour from my apartment (that is, when public transportation – which I had to pay for myself – was functioning properly), but arriving even five minutes late earned a strike against my record for "non-compliance".

Two strikes, and I would have been out: the US system automatically revokes all benefits for rule-breakers, who then have to start the application process all over again. It's not a pleasant thing to discover when you're attempting to pay for groceries and your EBT card suddenly no longer works. The only excusable absences are job interviews – which required asking the interviewer for a mortifying letter of verification – or for illness with a doctor's note.

I asked about what would happen if I'd had a cold but couldn't afford to go to a doctor just for a note about it. My caseworker shrugged and said I'd have to go to the ER.

As I've told my conservative friends, and Gray emphasizes, "No one wants to be on welfare":

No one wants to worry about being judged as "wasteful" by pundits and policymakers and the people behind you in line for using your Electronic Benefits Transfer card at the grocery store to buy your prepackaged food, because you're too exhausted from 12 hours on your feet at a retail job and you don't have the time or the energy to cook.

No one wants to fear buying cake mix for a child's birthday celebration, only to receive scornful glares from other shoppers because they aren't buying rice and beans.

No one wants to explain for the fiftieth time that, Yes, my EBT card only works at grocery stores, and only for food – and, no, it can't be used for paper towels or beer.

Welfare-to-work, even if well-intended, has become overly bureaucratic and outdated:

The reality of meeting workfare requirements, however, is different from the idealized bargain of "will work for food". The bureaucracy today is mind-numbingly difficult to navigate and ultimately serves to block welfare recipients from access to better jobs and educational opportunities. [...]

Annie Hollis, a Baltimore-based social worker who has worked in urban settings for over 10 years, explained why the Clinton-era reforms were flawed and discriminatory from the start. "The problem with workfare is that in the wake of globalization, most of the jobs available to people without postsecondary education are increasingly part-time and minimum wage," she told me.

Policy hasn't caught up to that reality because recipients are only permitted to receive vocational training for a maximum of 12 months. Based on my personal experience working with single mothers leaving domestic violence situations, most jobs that pay a living wage require much more than one year of post-secondary education.

If federal workfare requirements weren't already stringent enough, states such as Florida, Georgia and Maine have pushed to expand the hoops that applicants must jump through to avoid sanctions – including eliminating waivers for job training absences due to illness to forcing recipients to pay for their own unconstitutional drug testing

By Stefanie Gray
June 15, 2014 | Guardian

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