Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Other Side of Welfare

I am so angry and frustrated right now that I can't get my words together. I don't like being on welfare, but it is a necessary evil in my life. As a single mom to twin toddlers with some health issues, I don't have a lot of choices. Every time I have tried to work outside of the house since September 2010, the boys have gotten really sick. They had 3 surgeries between November 2010 and November 2011. Every few months I go through a huge hassle to keep the welfare benefits that we have. Without food stamps and insurance we wouldn't survive. The cash benefits I receive are a joke but they help to pay the rent. I said HELP pay the rent, it doesn't cover it in full. Normally the amount of money a family gets wold not cover the rent, especially in a town like Flagstaff, but I live in transitional housing for single moms/women that have dealt with domestic abuse. My rent is very low and the cash benefits I get are $20 short of the full rent. (I then have to cover the gas and electric bill plus regular expenses like diapers, transportation, etc.) I do what I can to make ends meet but if I got a part-time job to cover the extra expenses, they would cut off my cash and lower my food stamps. After 6 months I would lose daycare assistance. The daycare wouldn't be needed if welfare wasn't making me search for a job so they could cut me off. I am supposed to do 20 hours per week of "approved activity". They will not include DR appts, counseling, speech therapy or Head Start preschool as approved activity. I am somehow supposed to fit that in after I do 20 hours of job search or unpaid work experience.

About a week ago, I got a letter from welfare (dated 4/3/12) that they received my renewal application. It stated that I had to call in for a phone interview or go down to the office to keep my cash and food stamps. It said that I did not have to do anything to keep my insurance. It also said that the interview had to be completed on or before 4/12/2012. Since it takes 2 bus routes and close to an hour, I figured I would do the phone interview. (Not to mention that the workers hate having toddlers in the office and the double stroller won't fit through the aisles between cubicles.) I have called multiple times every day trying to get through to a person to do this interview. I sit on hold for 10 to 35 minutes while trying to keep the boys quiet enough to hear if a real voice comes on the line. They were with the sitter today and I called at least 5 times but never could get through. I even emailed a worker that deals with my "approved activity" asking if there were problems with the phones, but she never responded. Tonight I took out the trash and checked the mail after the boys fell asleep. In the mail was another letter from welfare dated 4/10/12 that said I was losing insurance and/or cash starting 4/30/12 without further notice. Their reason: I did not report to the office for my interview.

So on Tuesday, they decided to cut me off even though I had until 5pm on Thursday to get the phone interview completed. What the hell do they expect ? I also was given a veiled threat a couple weeks ago by a worker about having my application denied and her not wanting me to come crying to her when that happened so I should put the boys in daycare and start doing "approved activity".

I have been really down lately and I have been so overwhelmed. I have every day worries about finances and housing, I am worried about certain people in my life and the Twins are all boy and going through the terrible 2s. I don't have time to fight for welfare benefits. To top it all off, they hold the child support from the Twins' dad until month end paperwork is complete to make sure they didn't give me extra cash benefits that would allow them to keep it for themselves.

Here's the best part... I was so nervous about a job interview I had on Monday 4/2, which I didn't get, so I should be upset - right ? Nope, I found out that if I had been hired at $12-$14 an hour that I would lose all benefits plus be kicked off the housing list. Flagstaff rents for a 2bedroom are $800 to $1000. For subsidized housing I could pay $100 -$200 a month (I pay just under $200 now). Being hired full time would pay about $2000 before taxes. Rent would be almost half that amount plus daycare would be a minimum of $250 a week if not $300. If you are keeping up with the math that would leave me with close to nothing after taxes and I still wouldn't have enough to pay utilities or buy diapers.

And people wonder why I am so damn depressed... Do I want to be poor ? Of course not ! Does the system force you to stay at a poverty level ? Yes ! All I want is to raise my boys and see joy in every day. Why is that so hard ?