Thursday, September 11, 2008

Making the case for Welfare Reform

The ultimate in ridiculous conditions that one must conform to in order to receive social service aid is about to be exposed to you. You have a job, and your salary is sufficient to take care of your needs, but your husband/boyfriend got hurt on the job reducing your joint income. It may be that your babysitter decided to elope and you need help in making the payments for the new babysitter. I am sure that few of us have ever wanted to be in the position where we had to go to someone else and ask for assistance to feed our family, but it happens to many families every day, especially in these economical times.

Here is a narrative of what typically happens to the average person shortly after entering the door to the local Welfare Assistance Office. You are asked for all of your personal information… salary – show pay stubs, how many children in your family – show birth certificates with social security numbers, are you married, do you have a car, do you own your home, and if you don’t own your home; where are your rental receipts? All of these things and more will be asked of you before you can get the help that you want/need. Let’s explain this scenario with the understanding that we are looking for a babysitter.

Once you have given all of this information, you will be asked whether you can get by with less than what you originally asked for when you came through the door. You need one hundred eighty dollars a week for each of your three children. You need assistance for a period of time, not for the rest of your life. What generally happens is that you are asked to give up your job because you can’t get anything from Social Services if you are gainfully employed. You are told this with a straight face – give up your job and take a welfare check so that we can help you get a babysitter once you go through our self-help program that will re-educate you and put you in a job making less than what you were originally making before you came through the door asking for our help.

What I have just described to you is what occurred to my daughter. She was going to work and attending school at night to be a LPN – Licensed Practical Nurse. She was half way through the school when her live-in boyfriend and father of her children went to jail. While he didn’t contribute to the household income, he was the built-in babysitter. She needed a babysitter and the going price for a babysitter was one hundred eighty dollars a week per child. She was making twenty-four dollars an hour with no overtime above her forty hour work schedule. Doing the math, you realize that nine hundred sixty dollars a week before taxes does not make it possible for you to even get by.

Consider what subsidized daycare would have done for a woman in my daughter’s financial situation. Consider what was asked of her and the choice that she had to make to feed her children. The choices that she was given were extremely limited – quit your job or starve. She chose to quit her job and take the welfare. Without a viable alternative, she had no choice but to take a handout. School, that went by the wayside as well, but I am not finished. Social Services then told her that she needed to agree to attend a job training course so that she could get off of welfare… what? Did I tell you that she was going to school at night to be an LPN? Did I tell you that she already had a job and all she needed was a helping hand with the daycare so that she could continue working and going to school at night? Yeah… I told you that!

This is a true story that happened for real people. If you think that this is stupid? If you think that single Mothers deserve better? If you think that the Social Services people of the State of Maryland need a wake-up call; write your State Congressman and State Senators and ask them to review the policies that discriminate against single Mothers trying to get ahead. Give them this letter as fooder to chew on while they are correcting the way welfare works. You should be able to get help without having to give up your job. By the way, my daughter now works as a mechanic at Sears making minimum wage, but the Social Services people still pay her rent, electricity, and provide her with a babysitter and food stamps. Just think, they were originally asked to help with babysitting fees.

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