Sometimes somebody suggests a solution that is just so wrong-headed, it’s mind-blowing.
I am still unemployed, and fighting tooth and nail to find ANY form of employment that is not illegal, repugnant nor requires “a small start-up investment.” Unfortunately my hours of availability don’t sit well with 99% of retail and food establishments.
Recently, I once again tried to apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Food Stamps. Again, I endured the unpleasant environment of the Department of Human Services and the disinterested admins. One admin told me my unemployment benefits disqualify me from receiving TANF but that food stamps might be a possibility. However, the second admin reviewed my paperwork and determined the combination of my unemployment benefit and the court ordered child support came to an amount that also made me ineligible for food stamps. Even after I showed her I haven’t been receiving the court ordered amount, she said the system was not designed to take that into account.
Confounded, I asked her for suggestions, and she responded, “There isn’t much unless you go off unemployment, or petition the court to lower the child support obligation.” I remember looking at her in complete and utter confusion.
“But, but, that’s just stupid.”
She only shrugged. “That’s what I see happening. There is no safety net. We can only help people like you once you are really destitute.”
“People like “ME’?”
“Yes. Professionals. Veterans. People who have worked hard for a living. The system is not designed for people like you. It’s designed for people who come from a disadvantaged background and not for people who were self-sufficient and are just now unable to make it. It’s not my decision. Your only options are to release your assets.”
I sat and thought about what she had said. I was furious. Why would I first have to give up money, I had worked hard to earn (unemployment) or release my ex-husband from his financial obligation to my daughter, in order to receive some temporary help? What inept system was this?
A short time later, I found myself sitting in my car crying to my steering wheel. How on earth could things have gotten this bad? How could I STILL be unemployed? All I need is a job! Doesn’t have to be perfect. Just an income! Just some help. I’ve already taken my daughter down to one day of school a week. I’ve dramatically reduced the amount of food I eat. I don’t drive my car unnecessarily. I don’t live extravagantly. I don’t shop. I don’t eat out. I don’t have cable. I don’t pay to see movies. I almost OVERUSE the public library. Why can’t I catch a break?!
And then the skies opened up. Literally. A storm had descended on the DHS building as I sat, venting in my car. I suddenly realized, I needed to get out of there. As the storm raged outside my car windows and the roads became slippery and crowded with speeders and over-confident drivers, my mindset changed to one of pure focus. My “Pilot” brain took over. I could no longer focus on the why’s and how’s. I had to focus on the immediate now.
That respite, allowed me to calm and complete my night, relatively happy and playing with my daughter. After she fell asleep, I thought again about the suggestion to give up my unemployment or reduce the child support obligation. I thought again about what the admin had said regarding “people like me.”
I still can’t find the logic in her suggestions, but I can say it is wrong-headed. To give up my unemployment which is the only regular money I can count on is suicide. True, it doesn’t pay all the bills, but it pays my rent. Homelessness is not an option. Wasting money and time to petition the court to LOWER my ex-husband’s financial obligation just so I can get food stamps, temporarily is just plain ignorant. It’s welfare thinking. It’s how people get stuck in the system. True, he’s not paying his obligatory amount. It is very frustrating not knowing when or if I’ll get child support. But at the same time, it makes no sense to tell the courts that I don’t want or need the money. It’s not my money to give up. If I were receiving it, it would benefit my daughter by providing more options for her. Giving it up makes me a bad parent.
I am desperate. I need financial assistance. I need a reliable income. I need a break. what I don’t need is bad suggestions. Reducing child support would be a temporary fix that would result in a long-term disaster as I could never petition the courts again to increase it. I’m not that ignorant. I still believe I will have a job again. I still believe that things have to get better. I still believe I have a chance at regaining what I’ve lost. I still believe… in the dream.