Posted 2 years ago on June 15, 2012, 10:31 a.m. EST by DoubleVoice
This content is user submitted and not an official statement
"First of all, welfare is not a "hand out": it's a crisis loan that the recipient is expected to pay back. In California, the maximum amount is $330/month, and considering normal rents, this is less than what a person owes their landlord (who in turn usually needs to pay hefty taxes and property loans). Usually this entire amount goes straight to your landlord, leaving $0 for phone and utility bills, bus fare, stamps, tooth paste, laundry, and miscellaneous "fees" everyone tries to stick you with.
You cannot top this up with a few hours of yard work here and there: every dollar you make is subtracted from your cash assistance (that money that already went to your landlord). The only chance to climb out is to get a decently paying, regular job that will allow you to pay all the debts you incurred while on welfare while allowing you to pay current bills and move forward. Good luck getting a job when you can't afford basic hygiene products and you can't afford bus fare. Recruiters and potential employers also insist that you call them back at their long-distance phone numbers, even if your $0 in income doesn't even cover "lifeline" basic telephone service.
When you ask social services, or any other assistance organization/helpline, what you are supposed to do about the gap between your $0 income and basic needs, there is a long, heavy silence. This silence is like the Unmet Need portion of your college financial aid offer. This silence is like the psycho-analyst who patiently waits for you to fill the void with your neurosis-revealing blather. This silence is like the boss who wants you to service his sexual urges if you want that promotion. This silence is like the mobster who wants you to kill someone but doesn't want to risk a wiretap picking up the actual order to kill.
This silence means the person on welfare is expected to get the money from "somewhere".
This society is heavily indoctrinated against taking welfare in the first place. I waited until every last bit of my savings (which I had carefully put away for retirement while working) was gone. By the time someone applies for welfare, they have nothing. They don't even have enough to cover the six weeks or so it takes to process the welfare application. (That's if they are lucky enough to have a cooperative landlord that will sign the paperwork that will give him just a fraction of the rent he or she is due. I'm sure if the landlord is uncooperative, it's a whole other ballgame of delays).
So where is this money coming from. Social services caseworkers seem to think it is there. When I asked one if there was a subsidy for bus fare, she suggested I apply for a disablity discount - then, pfft, it's only $10. But where to get $10 from $0 income? When I described my fears of imminent homelessness, she said "we won't let that happen". I was so relieved to hear someone say that! But all the evidence since has suggested that the State deliberately puts you in a position of imminent homelessness...then lets their silence tell you to get the money "somewhere".
So, let's say you don't have a landlord willing to accept less than half the rent, and you have a notion of paying your bills. Moving back in with your parents is not an option if their dead, or if they are elderly and already under institutional care themselves. For adults, it's more likely their parents need their help than can provide anything close to what's needed to make up the difference between the $330 and the minimum someone needs to avoid homelessness on a monthly basis. Is the welfare recipient supposed to take out a loan? It's doubtful they have a house, car, or any other major asset for collateral. Is the welfare recipient supposed to live on their credit cards? Even if they still have credit cards, banks are taking increasing measures to prevent you from using them for emergency support (such as not allowing credit cards to be used for online bill pay). Emergency resources like Season of Sharing won't help unless you can prove your situation is only temporary, and you will have regular resources in the future. The welfare recipient, even if they are disabled and in the (long) process of applying for disability support (which seems increasingly impossible to get for people who have been in the "skilled" labor category that doesn't require carrying stuff around), is supposed to "get a job".
The relentless refrain to "get a job" is a Republican doublespeak trap. Even when the economy is "normal", the unemployment rate remains at around 6% (not counting the "hidden" unemployed who end up living at home or going back to school) so employers can cherry-pick the "best" workers and use competition to drive down labor costs. Even in that good economy, people marginalized by their age, disability, and various stereotypes have trouble getting work. In the Serial Great Recession economy, it's almost impossible for these people to get work. Employers are still trying to cast their workplace theater with those people who look the part, and their criteria has only gotten narrower over the last decade. Unless your friend of a friend can slip you in the back door, your life is one long stream of discouragement and rejection (seared by Tea Party flames if you dare speak about it).
So now I'm on welfare, with no job prospects in sight. I'm still trying: I'm taking part in a back-to-work program, and I'm doing whatever those back-to-work specialist tell me to do. Today I cut my hair because the leader of the "networking workshop" suggested it would help. Of course she meant I should go to a salon for a professional cut, and she hinted I should dye it, too. But I have $0, so I cut it myself. It doesn't look bad, but I doubt it will put me over the top for a job.
Until I get a job, I need to cover the rest of my rent and my bills by getting money "somewhere". What could that silence possibly mean? Am I supposed to steal the money? Am I supposed to resell my food stamp benefits and get food elsewhere? Am I supposed to not pay my bills until the electricity is cut off? Am I supposed to beg on the street? Am I supposed to resort to prostitution? I can't think of any other "somewheres".
Silence means I'm expected to do something illegal or so immoral it's unmentionable."