"Sit down and talk to me as if I were your sister."
February 3, 2017 11:26 AM   Subscribe

"I get so upset when people talk about people on welfare, mooching off of the system, but if they would just understand how hard it is to survive on welfare they would realize that no one enjoys being on public assistance."
posted by amnesia and magnets (49 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know what it's like in the U.S., but up here in Canada I spent a few months on welfare back in the mid-'90s, and lemme tell you, it was a sweet ride! After I paid my monthly bills (and my rent was dirt cheap because I had housemates and was still living in student housing) I had about *seven* *bucks* *a* *day* left over for, well, everything else! I had nowhere to go, nothing to do, and no money to spend on all that nothing...yep, it was good times, I tell you what.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:33 AM on February 3, 2017 [29 favorites]


Anyone who thinks this is so utterly lacking in empathy, good sense or even the ability to process information that it's surprising they can hold down a job and feed their own damned selves.
posted by nevercalm at 11:37 AM on February 3, 2017 [13 favorites]


There's a remarkable book that I recommend frequently: American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare. I wish more people would read it. I feel like the political discourse in this country has devolved into two people shouting soundbytes at each other, and thanks to Ronald Reagan, one of those soundbytes is "Welfare Queen."

I keep writing and then erasing bitter invective, so I'm just going to say my wrath knows no bounds when it comes to the vilification of the poor and helpless.
posted by janey47 at 11:43 AM on February 3, 2017 [41 favorites]


I went to the welfare office with a friend to try to get her some assistance. The white guy behind the desk made a racist remark about being surprised to see white people there. We got pretty much nothing. The only person who was remotely helpful was the Native caseworker, who tipped us off about a couple of things in ways that proved useful. Our welfare system is garbage, and a bunch of evil, stupid, selfish people who exhaust me just to think about them want to take even that away, because they are evil, selfish, garbage humans who are also really stupid and willfully ignorant.
posted by Frowner at 12:03 PM on February 3, 2017 [48 favorites]


And under the Maximum Family Grant rule, which denies benefits to a child born while a parent is receiving any form of benefits from the state for as long as the child lives with his or her parents, Karen’s youngest son is also ineligible for CalWORKs.

That's it. I'm ready, Lord.
posted by Frowner at 12:07 PM on February 3, 2017 [42 favorites]


People keep telling me I need to be more empathetic to the $50K-and-up-household-income Trump voters who begrudge these people a few crumbs of human decency and comfort, and who apparently think it would even be better for the economy if they all lay down and died.

Sorry. Empather's stuck.
posted by praemunire at 12:15 PM on February 3, 2017 [64 favorites]


One of the best things about being on welfare for my entire pre-adult life was being made fun of pretty much constantly for having shitty threadbare clothes. Eventually we started to get the occasional new duds from church back-to-school drives, but other than that, all we had access to were decades-old ill-fitting hand-me-downs and a monthly clothing budget of $0.00.

I've managed to scam my way above the poverty level in the intervening years but I do still wear the same shitty threadbare clothes, and I still have most of the decades-old ill-fitting hand-me-downs and charity-derived attire, because I was raised to wash everything in cold water and hang it to dry so it will last. It's painfully obvious to me that most adults of my current level of income look more polished and put together than I do, but spending money specifically on clothing still feels so frivolous as to be almost unimaginable.

And I know it's impossible to gauge what could have been, but I'm still pretty sure that there's no way I would have grown up with this deep-seated conviction that I don't deserve food, clothing, or shelter without having been told over and over and over that my family and I were leeching off of everyone else just by remaining alive.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 12:19 PM on February 3, 2017 [93 favorites]



Actor Craig T. Nelson on his experiences with welfare.

The recent botched raid in Yemen resulted in the destruction of two aircraft and I sorta wonder how many school lunches a V22 Osprey and the hellfires to destroy it would buy.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:29 PM on February 3, 2017 [15 favorites]


"And under the Maximum Family Grant rule, which denies benefits to a child born while a parent is receiving any form of benefits from the state for as long as the child lives with his or her parents, Karen’s youngest son is also ineligible for CalWORKs.

That's it. I'm ready, Lord.
posted by Frowner at 3:07 PM on February 3"

thats when i said fuck this and closed the article.
posted by ShawnString at 12:30 PM on February 3, 2017 [3 favorites]


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"Motherfucker."
posted by Etrigan at 12:38 PM on February 3, 2017 [8 favorites]


Back when I worked for the carnival, there was a parking lot attendant who got fired. He had fashioned a re-entry stamp out of the rubber sole of a sandal, and was offering to stamp people in for less than the gate charge. Kind of creative actually. Good likeness, his boss confessed that he was impressed. Kept it as a souvenir.

I came to find out he and several of the other lot attendants could have been described as "welfare scammers." They had two seasonal jobs, one for like a month in the summer (the carnival) and some kind of holiday shipping gig. They'd spend the intervening 5 months soaking up unemployment. I don't know the details of how they arranged it, that's how they explained it to me.

Anyway, it was like 4 single guys in their 30s who lived as roommates in a cramped bachelor pad trailer home, and were pretty convinced they were living the good life. No kids involved. My feeling was, if living like that is the highest of their aspirations then, I don't know, maybe it's worth the tax payers spending the $500 a month or whatever pittance they got to let them be content and mostly out of trouble? It certainly seems like a drop in the bucket compared to what it would cost to audit and prosecute them, let alone deal with whatever hair-brained scheme they would have come up with to get money otherwise.

The most egregious welfare scam I ever saw was pretty benign, is what I guess I'm saying. Looking it in the face, it seemed like a pretty stupid reason to restrict help to people, families especially, who need it.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 12:48 PM on February 3, 2017 [47 favorites]


They had two seasonal jobs, one for like a month in the summer (the carnival) and some kind of holiday shipping gig. They'd spend the intervening 5 months soaking up unemployment.

My ex-husband does this, except it's one seasonal job in the spring/summer - spraying for mosquitos. Through the fall and winter it's under the table cash jobs that can't be tracked and unemployment. Then he lives with his girlfriend the on-air radio DJ who supplies him with a car and phone and feeds him. He does this to pay the least minimum he can for child support for his special needs kid, which ended up being $75 a week. By the way, he just came back from his week long vacation in Disney World paid for by the girlfriend and her job.

Meanwhile in my reality, I'm overwhelmed, grabbing overtime like crazy, and about to have a nervous breakdown trying to keep us from being homeless.

Weee.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 1:22 PM on February 3, 2017 [15 favorites]


In BC welfare is I believe 600-650 a month. Including your rent portion. On disability (which I am on) it is 943 (approx.). That is slightly better in that you can actually find a place to rent. My rent is 650 a month which leaves me 373 to pay: internet, phone, hydro, car insurance, gas, my dog and then me. I get other support cheques only because the mental health system knows its better for me to live alone than previously with family. That's an extra $200. And all that money comes at once so that food I buy has to last all month.

And then I hear people say people on welfare are just living it up. Lazy. Except at Christmas then we become the local charity case but don't ask for what you need because then you are ungrateful and smile and be overly thankful and abase yourself for the other person to feel good. For god's sake the Salvation Army now requires copies of bills and income for everyone in the family before you can receive a basket for Christmas. Nothing makes me rage like the assumption that the social safety net is being misused by people.

I want to yell do you know how hard it is to live on that. And trying it for a month doesn't count because guess what you are prolly using staples that people on welfare can't afford. Yeah, some months I cannot afford salt! Like do they know hard it is (at least in Canada) to actually get all this stuff that people say welfare bums get. It has taken me 2 months (so far) to get a bath rail covered so I can get in and out of the bathtub. Still waiting. The system makes it incredibly impossible to request funding just so you will give up.

ARGH! Poverty sucks. People walking around you right now are poor. We exist and our lives would massively improve (and solve issues that concern "worriers" like homelessness, health care, food, staying off drugs) if you just gave people enough they could afford to eat. (Like literally a friend and I just talked about how this month with 5 weeks in between disability cheques we end up being too poor to eat)
posted by kanata at 1:27 PM on February 3, 2017 [38 favorites]


Not to continue to rant but people's views on welfare (not here obv) literally make me and my friends feel we are too poor to live. That sometimes (to get all conspiracy like) we feel like the under-funding of the welfare system and especially disability is part of a plan to just get us to kill ourselves to weed out those of us who can't just think positive and work harder. K. end of extra rant.
posted by kanata at 1:31 PM on February 3, 2017 [16 favorites]


I was a kid with parents on welfare and food stamps in the 1970s, and I never heard the end of it. If you think attitudes about welfare are shitty now, try teleporting back there. That was really the beginning of politicians chastising women for making a "career choice" of living on the dole, about the same time as Reagan's infamous speech about the "welfare queen with 80 names, 30 addresses, and 15 phone numbers" living on a bonanza of public assistance.
posted by blucevalo at 1:34 PM on February 3, 2017 [5 favorites]


My ex-husband does this, except it's one seasonal job in the spring/summer - spraying for mosquitos. Through the fall and winter it's under the table cash jobs that can't be tracked and unemployment.

I question whether he's given you the full story here (though fully on board with the judgment!). You have to have worked for a certain time period and earned a certain amount in order to qualify for UI. You can't just work for a month, then take five months' unemployment, then work another month, repeat, as in the carnie workers' story (although perhaps it was so long ago that the rules were different). Here are NY's eligibility rules, for instance.
posted by praemunire at 1:55 PM on February 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


The owner of the company I used to work at liked to bitch about welfare. One day I got out my money clip, and dropped a twenty on the table.
"What's this?"
"Your share of welfare for the next year. Next year I'll give you another twenty if you shut up about welfare. You try living on $800 a month with your special-needs kid."

To his credit, he did shut up about it.
posted by notsnot at 1:56 PM on February 3, 2017 [86 favorites]


He sprays for mosquitos from sometime in April until like the first week of October.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 1:57 PM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


And under the Maximum Family Grant rule, which denies benefits to a child born while a parent is receiving any form of benefits from the state for as long as the child lives with his or her parents, Karen’s youngest son is also ineligible for CalWORKs.

One bit of good news this year: California To End Contentious ‘Maximum Family Grant’ Welfare Policy. At it's peak, 22 states had this rule, and California is the seventh to end it.

We're talking about an average of a whopping $130/child/month here, making the Maximum Family Grant rule even more pointless and awful.
posted by zachlipton at 2:12 PM on February 3, 2017 [6 favorites]


if they would just understand

See, there's where the whole plan falls apart.
posted by cmoj at 2:13 PM on February 3, 2017 [8 favorites]


Oh yeah, the even more heartless part of the Maximum Family Grant rule (at least in California): it applied "to any member of your family, including any child who becomes a parent." So yeah, sorry baby, you really hit the lottery by managing to be born to an underage teen mother in a family receiving cash aid, so no $130 for diapers for you.
posted by zachlipton at 2:22 PM on February 3, 2017 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I should probably clarify that the carnie thing was roughly 15 years ago. I also wouldn't trust the people involved to have a complete understanding of what they were doing, it's likely they were denied before long. From family's more recent experience navigating unemployment, the specific arrangement I mentioned doesn't seem like something that would still fly as it was described to me.

I hope I didn't get into the weeds by alluding to a situation I don't know the details of. My point in bringing up the story is just to agree that in all my experience on the matter, even attempts to scam welfare don't result in anybody living like royalty, and are pretty weak sauce compared to the volume of people it helps.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 2:39 PM on February 3, 2017 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I only wanted people not to get the false impression that UI is an easy system to work. I mean, obviously fraud is possible (when it comes to fathers with child support obligations, more probable than in other cases). But you know there are conservatives who genuinely do believe that you can work one month in a year and keep the government checks rolllling in the rest of the time.
posted by praemunire at 2:46 PM on February 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


My response to anyone who says that people receiving public assistance have it good: "OK, would you trade places with one of them for a month?"

It still astounds me, the things I hear. I know someone who often says "Can you imagine what things would be like if you could take home all the money you made?" (My reply: "Yeah, but I like roads and civilization and such.") This person once told me that anyone getting public assistance should be made to pay it back when they make enough money to do that. You can, of course, understand my lack of surprise when they failed to see the multiple flaws in that idea.
posted by azpenguin at 2:56 PM on February 3, 2017 [12 favorites]


Speaking of those horrible scammers, while I was in law school, I was a summer associate at the law firm of the city's next mayor. He took the summer associate class out to breakfast one day and, in the parking lot of the restaurant, someone asked him for money. He refused (I slipped the guy a five). He then told us that some of those people can make $80 to $100 a DAY begging for money. I admire the firm for making me an offer at the end of the summer, considering that I looked him in the eye and said, "That would be the hardest hundred bucks I ever earned. You?"
posted by janey47 at 2:59 PM on February 3, 2017 [18 favorites]


This person once told me that anyone getting public assistance should be made to pay it back when they make enough money to do that.

This person didn't really understand payroll taxes, did they?
posted by eviemath at 3:12 PM on February 3, 2017 [22 favorites]


middle class + up people dicking about with their taxes and scamming the system is of course unimpeachable. why, that's just good business sense

a lot of people are weird, petty, entitled, classist pieces of shit

including here on ok website metafilter

peace to a&m for posting this because i feel like everyone esp. comfortable people needs to fucking experience the magic of the social services hell realm for themselves
posted by beefetish at 3:17 PM on February 3, 2017 [21 favorites]


Just in case anyone here isn't outraged enough, the 1996 welfare reform took aid from being a federal entitlement and turned it into that beloved conservative creature, block grants. As a result actual cash assistance for needy families dropped from 70% of spending to 26%, and 34% of spending now goes to programs that likely as not are used by middle class households, like marriage workshops, college tuition assistance, and crisis pregnancy centers. For details see here and here. And remember it when you hear a politician claiming that block grants to the states are the best way to spend Federal dollars.
posted by TedW at 3:18 PM on February 3, 2017 [21 favorites]


People keep telling me I need to be more empathetic to the $50K-and-up-household-income Trump voters who begrudge these people a few crumbs of human decency and comfort, and who apparently think it would even be better for the economy if they all lay down and died.

Sorry. Empather's stuck.


You mean, your give a damn's busted?
posted by clockzero at 3:21 PM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


Yeah, California got rid of the MFG and also continued the ABAWD waiver for another couple of years, which will save a lot of people from starvation, and we got all these waivers so we can actually give food stamps to almost all full time students (guess who's! exempt! from food stamps!! it's full time students!!! like what the fuck!!!!!!!!!!) but (1) these fixes are minor and the bigger fix would be a repeal of PRWORA and without it there's like, basically no point in having a social safety net because the one we have works so badly, and (2) I cannot WAIT to find out what Congress and Trump have planned for us to destroy even those small limited flailing gestures towards hope. I'm rapidly becoming a UBI cultist, since we won't get fully automated luxury socialism.
posted by peppercorn at 4:17 PM on February 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Let me say that, in Canada, when I hear that a client (who's trying to live on welfare) is somehow scamming or working the system, I legit cheer. Mostly on the inside, but I have been known to high-5 someone if the scam is particularly good. Welfare isn't enough to live on and I will never begrudge people doing whatever they need to do to survive.
posted by VioletU at 4:37 PM on February 3, 2017 [12 favorites]


working a seasonal job and collecting unemployment benefits when the job lays you off is not a scam
posted by idiopath at 5:26 PM on February 3, 2017 [25 favorites]


The other effect of the shitty, horrible messaging around welfare is that people are more reluctant to get it when they need it. I've seen it happen: someone is eating nothing but ramen and turning the heat off in the dead of winter because they can't pay the gas bill, but they say they don't deserve food stamps because food stamps are for poor people. Like, the actual need doesn't matter, because the messaging is loud and clear about the kinds of people who go on welfare.

It's like how people are less likely to use access ramps if they're labeled "handicap access ramps," even if they're having trouble getting up the steps. We've been taught that needing help is weakness, and to accept help is to lose your dignity. All because some people can't stand the idea of a social safety net they have to help pay for.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:33 PM on February 3, 2017 [31 favorites]


working a seasonal job and collecting unemployment benefits when the job lays you off is not a scam

I believe that there is a section of the "Ability to Repay" rules that underwriters of "qualified mortgages" must follow that says precisely that.

I'm a banker but it's been a while since I was that close to the underwriting world and I don't wanna google it.
posted by VTX at 5:41 PM on February 3, 2017 [1 favorite]


working a seasonal job and collecting unemployment benefits when the job lays you off is not a scam

This is America, you're supposed to be more ambitious than a seasonal job here and there.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:53 PM on February 3, 2017


I sorta wonder how many school lunches a V22 Osprey and the hellfires to destroy it would buy.

Approximately 23 million.

FY2015 CV-22 flyaway cost is $71 mil, each Hellfire costs $99k, figure four to destroy it completely. The USDA pays districts $3.16 per free lunch.
posted by zrail at 6:14 PM on February 3, 2017 [9 favorites]


Oh, and that $71 mil doesn't even include the cost of all the crazy SEAL gear that that particular CV-22 probably equipped. So probably add another two or three million lunches.
posted by zrail at 6:16 PM on February 3, 2017 [4 favorites]


Welfare isn't enough to live on and I will never begrudge people doing whatever they need to do to survive.

I've been a legal services attorney for 12 years and only had one client who was really scamming the system. She was homeless.
posted by Mavri at 6:26 PM on February 3, 2017 [8 favorites]


The USDA pays districts $3.16 per free lunch.

Full price here is $2.50. No wonder the school goes to great lengths to get everyone on the free lunch list.
posted by Miss Cellania at 6:27 PM on February 3, 2017 [2 favorites]


Oh hello fellow Legal Services comrade. Mavri. Seventeen years (and counting). almost exclusively focused on Public Benefits.

No outright fraud in my caseload but definitely folks accused of it. In all cases the agency was unable to prove intent -an essential element.

The confusing paperwork, lack of proper notice, homeless with no address or phone, mental illness, language or literacy barriers, etc. means that folks are entering a maze they often can't follow. Heck I find the paperwork confusing. Plus of course the push from higher up to see every person as a potential scammer.

An example that comes to mind is the rapid rise of Cambodian clients claiming PTSD and Anxiety while pursuing SSI disability claims who came under investigation for fraud. This was several years back. To summarize the Feds reason for going after family after family was "why are so many adults in the same family (REFUGEES FROM CAMBODIA) claiming PTSD? Must be a conspiracy of fraud.

We had to sue after failing at high level meetings where we had to explain the Khmer Rouge.
posted by pipoquinha at 7:42 PM on February 3, 2017 [35 favorites]


Landlord in Greater Rednecklandia, here. My tenants are the people who get Section 8, who qualify for LiHEAP (Low Income Heating Assistance Program), get the Rent Rebate form, qualify for the Earned Income Child Credit, get WIC (Women-Infants-Children supplemental nutrition), get CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) and, yes, are out there Livin Large on food stamps.

1. The available benefits don't do a whole lot to keep the wolf from the door. Ain't nobody livin' large on these benefits.

2. If you are poor enough to get this sort of aid, you also have to have a fairly involved family/social structure (none of whom typically have much more money than you) so that when the alternator goes out on your shitty beater car, you can get your cousin Dale, who owes you a hundred dollars from that time you helped him pay for an attorney for his DUI, to go over to the DIY salvage yard and fetch you an alternator that might work on your 199X piece-of-domestic-shit for another couple of months. Or you can ask your baby daddy's sister to look over your kids while you go down to the assistance office to straighten out your stupid paperwork AGAIN because you watched her kids when she hadda be in court for that custody thing. This social structure needs to be MAINTAINED and SEEN TO, with payments in-dollars or in-kind so that they'll be there for you when you need them as you are there for them when they need you. EVEN if the people you have around you can be characterized as shiftless, addicted, problematic, untrustworthy (to other people, not you), etc, they are the people you have and so you work with them. A lot of the problems that "normal" people solve with money, the extremely poor solve with social networks BECAUSE THEY DO NOT HAVE MONEY by way of being poor.

3. Regardless of the BS on my facebook about people "buying new iPads with their food stamps" it doesn't work that way except for ignorant rich conservatives who know fuck-all about food stamps. You can't buy anything but food with food stamps. Also, if you're a heroin addict and you want to turn food stamps into cash, the going rate here in Greater Rednecklandia is 50 cents on the dollar. Gonna take you a while to save up for an iPad at that rate, yo, and if you're turning food stamps into cash, it ain't for no damn iPad when you can buy perfectly good heroin with that money.

4. This article is freaking spot-on in that being poor at the level of "qualify for and receive benefits" is a full time job. Not only is it a full-time job, it is the sort of job that is demeaning, soul-killing, and destructive of any self-esteem one might have. In my experience, the staff at the assistance office locally also does not do a real good job of helping people be aware of what all they qualify for. So, I have a tenant that I know gets a Section 8 check. This tenant should ALSO be first in line for LIHEAP, for the Rent Rebate thimg. on the list for weatherization... and I mention LIHEAP to them and they're all "What's that?" I am a landlord, not a social worker, but I point my tenants in the direction of aid they might qualify for because then they might be able to (a) heat the apartment and not freeze my pipes and (b) pay the damn rent.

5. Far too much of our aid system results in very poor and typically under-educated people doing what I call "poverty calculus"... Like... "Okay, I can get thirty hours a week working the counter at the Gas-n-Sip, which pays 8.50 an hour for nighttime shift, but that'll take my income above the limit for food stamps, my Section 8 payment will drop from $250 a month to $102 a month, and I'll need to pay Jenna at least a hundred a week to watch Derek while I'm at work. I might also lose LIHEAP. Is it worth it for me to take the job?" (Remember, the people doing this math probably don't have much more than a high school diploma and the salary cutoffs for stuff are byzantine.)

We should be doing better than this. The system we have now is inefficient. It does not provide an easy road for the people who qualify for stuff to find out what all they qualify for. There is a separate form for each of the things, with a separate qualification process. Caseworkers are not providing people with a unified point of contact (at least in my county) and they are complete assholes when you go in there, no matter what you go in for. (I don't deal with them myself as a recipient of aid, but I do deal with them as a landlord for things like Section 8 inspections of property, emergency rent money, etc.) I am sure that it is a stressful and draining job, but the staff of my local assistance office acts like any interaction with humans is a bridge too far and that you are unworthy to be breathing their air in their sanctified offices. And I'm not there to be getting aid. I'm there to be getting paid.

I am not particularly liberal, but the implementation we currently have for benefits in this country is inefficient at delivering benefits, expensive to operate, difficult to understand, demeaning to the people who need help... if we're GONNA have benefits, we should be doing better at it than we currently are.
posted by which_chick at 8:00 PM on February 3, 2017 [49 favorites]


> working a seasonal job and collecting unemployment benefits when the job lays you off is not a scam

I agree, it's not. But spending the rest of the year taking under-the-table jobs in order to keep your reported wages super-low to avoid paying child support IS a scam.
posted by desuetude at 8:11 PM on February 3, 2017 [5 favorites]


This person once told me that anyone getting public assistance should be made to pay it back when they make enough money to do that.

I think that system is already in place and it's just called taxes?
posted by Gymnopedist at 9:17 PM on February 3, 2017 [15 favorites]


they would realize that no one enjoys being on public assistance."

Not to puncture any sort of narrative, but I've been getting 'food stamps' for a full decade now, and I very much enjoy getting almost all of my food for free. It makes me much happier than paying for it with slavebux like I did a lifetime ago.

I also get free healthcare right now, which is similarly great, but the other expenses of living I pay for by doing experimental drug testing. I'm gambling with my health, but this is the realistic job option that seems least odious to me. I wish I could stop doing this too. I would indeed love it if a "universal basic income" existed and could free me from work entirely. Why should I want to give my body and time to some other person? It's degrading. Prostitution.

I have no idea if this kind of faddish economic pony is viable (seems unlikely), but I guarantee you I could be happy on the ultra-dole.
posted by fucker at 1:27 AM on February 4, 2017


I was on welfare for some months when my second child was born, and then lived from a 10 hours a week job for the next year. In a sense, I have never recovered from that period of my life. I still have anxiety about economy, though it is totally groundless today, and sometimes it makes me make bad choices. This is in Denmark, where welfare is "generous".

One thing that isn't mentioned in the article is debt. Once, as part of my job, I visited an area where 90% of the population are extremely poor refugees, and talked with one of the social workers about the problems they were struggling with. He told me that the debt typically starts when winter sets in: their children haven't got the clothes they need for sub-zero temperatures, so they take unregulated high-interest loans to get coats and hats and boots. (We're talking about coats at maybe 20 dollars at most). Because their welfare payments only covers rent and very basic food. A 100-dollar loan can spiral into hopeless debt within a year, and then we have the next winter.
I wondered out loud why they would take the loan in the first place, because simple math says this will end badly, and the social worker replied that no one imagines they will be on welfare for a whole year, let alone several years. They say to themselves they will pay of the debt when they get a job, within months. And then I could see myself doing that, if it had been necessary, when I was on welfare.

Another thing is costs of that basic food. I live in a big city with a very large immigrant population, and I have access to stores where I can buy very cheap basic foodstuffs like rice, pasta, flour, legumes, oil, tea, seasonal fruit and vegetables and frozen chicken. We could live very well as a family of four on a budget of 145 dollars / month for food, and even have friends over. But the area I visited was far away from all ethnic stores and those refugee families couldn't find many relevant bargains in the local supermarkets. Cars and gas are really expensive here, so there was no way they could travel for better deals, and the social worker said his estimate was that it was impossible to feed a family of four for less than 500 dollars.
posted by mumimor at 5:59 AM on February 4, 2017 [14 favorites]


I feel really bad for the folks on welfare. I'm afraid that benefits will be greatly reduced or eliminated under the administration of the big fat slob molester and his enabler paul ryan.

I volunteer at a food bank and it's sometimes heartbreaking. That's all the food a lot of people get because they don't qualify for food stamps. The Machiavellian rules are just insane.

I sorta wonder how many school lunches a V22 Osprey and the hellfires to destroy it would buy.

Approximately 23 million.

They'll spend all that money on death and destruction but they won't allocate enough money to feed hungry children, the elderly and the sick. It's no wonder why I cry after a shift at the food bank.
posted by james33 at 7:44 AM on February 4, 2017 [7 favorites]


Seasonal work and then unemployment isn't a scam if that's all you can get.

But my ex has passed on full time job offers, and resources offered by the workforce development department in NJ because he is purposely trying to pay the least amount of child support as possible. Which is why he works cash only jobs that cannot be tracked since all his on the book jobs are automatically garnished.

Not everyone, not even the bulk of people scam welfare. I worked for both the workforce department and at one point the welfare office. There's staggeringly low fraud.

But sometimes people are just assholes.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 9:32 PM on February 4, 2017 [2 favorites]


working a seasonal job and collecting unemployment benefits when the job lays you off is not a scam

And if you think it is, you're calling both my parents scammers. (School photographer, does gardening work for neighbors in the summer, and carpenter who made things up in the winter playing in bands).

Their unorthodox work calendar kept me from getting more financial aid in college because the system isn't set up to accommodate parents who periodically lose their main source of income for three months at a time.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:03 AM on February 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Full price here is $2.50

That's full price to you. They're still getting other subsidies. The reason they're trying to get everyone on free/reduced lunch is that the harder they push it, the fewer parents there are who refuse to sign up on principle and wind up with (slightly) malnourished kids, or just kids who don't get quite enough at lunch to fuel them for the rest of the school day.
posted by Etrigan at 8:56 AM on February 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


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