Lately on Facebook, I’ve noticed several posts and likes to pages such as “Make drug testing mandatory for welfare recipients”. I understand the frustrations and sentiments of people who, in times such as these, do not wish to see their tax dollars used in frivolous ways. I also understand that many people who make these claims or like these pages are unaware who exactly these welfare recipients are. Well, let me introduce myself. My name is Mandy and I have food stamps. This used to be a supremely humiliating statement to make and when I would hear or see people make comments towards those in need of the welfare system, I would find myself dying of embarrassment on the inside.
Before you stop reading, please allow me to further explain my “use of your tax dollars”. As a young teenage parent, I was first introduced to the welfare system by my OBGYN. After a couple of years of struggling financially, I was proudly and finally able to get off of welfare. Ben and I were on the other side of the fence, paying into the system. Finances were rocky, but there was food in the fridge and insurance for the family. Well, what happened?
In November of last year, I lost my job. We moved into an apartment to save money, which allowed me to stay home with the kids and go to school while we waited out the bad economy. Finances were a little tight, but we were doing OK on Ben’s income. In January of this year, the kids and I became extremely ill with a virus in our lungs. A 4am trip to the ER due to labored breathing for the three of us cost us $300 in co-pays and I had to ask my parents for help with the co-pays for our prescriptions. Ben took care of the three of us, causing him to become ill himself. Unable to afford another $100 dollar co-pay, Ben took my prescriptions (rather than paying still more money for his own) and called his work. He was a well liked employee and never had an attendance problem in over 5 years with this employer. Thinking all was well, he returned to work only to find out two days later he was being fired for what? NOT HAVING A DOCTOR’S NOTE! Now if we could have afforded his employer’s medical co-pays, we would have had one!
As we all have noticed, this economy is a terrible time to have to job hunt. I knew it might be a while until Ben found another job and I also knew I had to keep the kids fed and medical needs met in the meantime. So, pride pushed aside… off to the welfare office I went. While I was there, I noticed a different crowd of people than I had several years before hand. There were many obvious first timers, having recently suffered from economic blows and pulling on the last strings they knew. Many had the look of humiliation and failure, while they knew they were only there to help their families. These were people who never thought in a million years they would find themselves sitting right in the middle of those they had, themselves, criticized for “milking the system”. I found myself walking a couple of people through the lengthy application and explained all of the documentation they would need to provide for assistance.
It began to dawn on me that many of their friends and family or mine, for that matter, would ever know what it’s like to be put in that position. It also occurred to me that I had nothing to be ashamed of. I am keeping my children well fed and medical needs met. With all of Kaitlyn’s medical issues over the last year (Neurologist, EEG, sleep studies… and we aren’t even finished) I would never have been able to afford the co-pays on Ben’s previous employer’s medical plan.
So there you have it. Here is a face to go with the comments. I thank you for paying your taxes, for paying into the welfare system, for making sure that children like mine in times like these have food on the table and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing Kaitlyn to receive the medical attention I wouldn’t have been able to provide for her if I was still standing on the other side of that fence. I also encourage you to be kind with your words and statements. These times are tough and people are doing the best they know how. The people you make statements about may be sitting right next to you in church or at work and they too might be dying of embarrassment on the inside when they hear you say them.