This probably comes as no surprise to you if you’ve benefited from state or federal aid, or if you work in the human services, or if you are familiar with the programs. ProgramS? Yes. Each state has different requirements, regulations, and amounts of aid available to its residents. Furthermore, many of those programs don’t come from one form or even from one building/agency!
A food benefits alum, I received food stamps during my AmeriCorps year of service to the state of Washington. Received is actually the wrong term. I had to fight for them every three months, proving that I was working but not too much. At one point, I took a third job, earning an extra $100 a month or so. I had been receiving $125 in food benefits, but the extra income put me over the line. I didn’t just lose $100 in food benefits; I lost the entire $125 – so, like an intelligent person, of course I quit the third job to earn an extra $25. I share my story with you to highlight some of the inefficiencies in the system. Others include having to take the bus to a really inconvenient location, meaning I had to miss a half day of work every 3 months, and having to wait hours in line without moving (lucky I didn’t have small kids with me!) and filling out forms that didn’t make any more sense the fourth time than they had the first (and I speak English, too!).
Many of our food bank and resource center patrons have similar (or worse) stories. Some need help attaining their legally-deserved benefits, because the system is so confusing. We can’t help but wonder – how will the fragmentation of DSHS into even smaller departments (and presumably areas of buildings if not entirely separate buildings, in addition to separate confusing forms), supported by our representative Frank Chopp, affect this already-patchwork system?
Click on the photo above or the link below to see the NY Times story for more information.
The Safety Net – For Victims of Recession, Patchwork State Aid – Series – NYTimes.com.