A lot of people I know have a very negative view of the Food Stamp Program. That it is misused and abused by deadbeats. That people should just pull themselves up and not rely on the government. I admit that I have often had this view myself.
While I still whole-heartedly agree that there is widespread misuse and abuse, I can also see how it COULD be a useful program. It mostly is NOT though because of how it is set up. Let me explain my experience.
Being in school full-time and trying to support myself has been hard. I tried to set up in advance so I’d be able to make it the almost 8 months without too much trouble. Life being what it is, my very small safety net wasn’t enough. While my rent and car were paid for a year in advance, my cell phone for two and while I cut my expenses in every way I possibly could…it wasn’t enough. I got very sick. My 7 1/2 months were extended because I had to take a five week leave of absence. The medical bills piled up. And the check from my ex to settle the last of our divorce wasn’t arriving in the time frame it had been promised. Add to that a dog that had seizures, ate rat poison and in general has a suicidal bent…I was broke. My minimum wage job wasn’t enough.
So, I broke down and asked for help. I applied for food stamps. I figured making a choice between eating or taking medications to sustain my health wasn’t really a choice I should have to make. I just needed to make it to graduation and licensing and I’d be able to support myself just fine. That is why I chose to go back to school after all. So I wouldn’t have to depend on anyone. Especially not the government.
I figured I’d get approved, use them for the few months of school I had remaining and then remove myself from the program. I just needed help, not a free ride.
But I was rejected. Why? Because I didn’t work enough hours. Apparently, if you are in school full time you have to work 20 hours a week on average. Ironically, if I got 20 hours a week of work, I wouldn’t have needed help.
In my opinion a situation like mine is the perfect reason to give someone food stamps. I’m actively working to become self supporting. I am putting myself through school to obtain a job that will not only pay my bills but provide me with health insurance. I researched and found a way that I can rely on my own abilities and not anyone else.
But I don’t qualify.
The conversation with the benefits adviser was almost comical in it’s showcasing of the flaws within our welfare system. I had a few choices I could make in order to actually qualify.
Choice 1: Quit school. If I was no longer a student then I more than qualified for food stamps. I’d have no future, would most likely remain reliant on them for a long term benefit but that was an option presented to me. I kid you not.
Choice 2: Have a child. If I was responsible for a minor child or was pregnant, then, again I’d qualify for food stamps along with a boat load of other government programs.
Choice 3: Get another job. Which, again would mean I wouldn’t need the help…but I’d qualify none the less.
I’m baffled as to how any of this makes sense. As a person who wants to make it on my own I cannot have even a very short term assistance in any way shape or form. If I make a choice that jeopardizes my entire future and possibly that of a child, then sure…here’s some free money for you.
And THAT my friends is my problem with food stamps and other government programs. They don’t help people to improve their lives, they help the people that choose to never go anywhere. It’s not completely cut and dry, I know. But it is certainly frustrating.
Thankfully for me, the ex gave me the check and I no longer have to make decisions between eating and some other necessity, but if it hadn’t…I’m glad I have family that was able to step in and help me.