Here lately, I’ve seen a lot of e-cards and posts flying around about how welfare recipients are basically the scum of the Earth and just looking for a handout. What if I told you that wasn’t true? I’m not trying to be political here, just trying to offer a different view; a reality that I know all too well. In fact, I don’t feel like I side with one party over another…I listen to the issues, do my own research, and find the candidate who most closely aligns with that be they red, blue, purple, green, whatever. I don’t blindly follow a party based on ideals that aren’t fully in practice anymore. That being said, I have a serious issue with the flagrant ignorance running rampant throughout our society. By no means am I an expert, and I’m not claiming to be, I simply want to offer our story for you to think about the next time someone tells you that everyone on welfare is worthless.
When I was growing up, I didn’t have many luxuries. Almost everything we had was second hand, off brand, and never enough. BOTH of my parents worked hard trying to support us. I don’t think there was ever a time that my parents didn’t work to try and provide for our family. My dad was a truck driver and also played in a band, and my mom has had so many jobs trying to help make ends meet while my dad chased his dreams. Despite the struggles, we never went without our basic necessities because our parents worked hard to provide at least that for myself and my 5 siblings. We had food stamps and medicaid for as long as I could remember. We often had “Blue Santa” or the Salvation Army bring us Christmas gifts because my parents simply could not afford everything we wanted. Even then, welfare acceptance was stigmatized and I was embarrassed to have it, but I’m thankful that we did. My parents worked as hard as they could and it wasn’t enough. I’m thankful everyday to them for doing all they could for us. That’s the story for most people who are on welfare. This sensationalized idea that EVERYONE on welfare has gold teeth, tattoos, an iPhone, and brand name purse sitting at home collecting your hard earned taxes is completely ridiculous! Yes, there are some people out there who abuse the system, but it’s not as many as you think. Several families are struggling to make ends meet and need that extra assistance to better themselves. Not everyone wants a handout for the rest of their life.
Fast forward just a few years ago, I was a single mom raising my child and trying to finish college so I could get a better job and afford things for my daughter that I didn’t have when I was a kid. I had to suck up my pride and walk in to that medicaid office. She was on medicaid and we received food stamps because there just wasn’t enough money to eat sometimes. I can’t tell you how many times I went without food so my child could eat. I had 2-3 jobs trying to finish school and trying to afford childcare because I didn’t want to simply sit at home collecting a check. I worked my butt off and paid taxes just like everyone else, why should I feel ashamed to ask for some of that money back in the form of welfare assistance? Yes, perhaps I should have thought about that before I had a child, maybe I was irresponsible, I should have had a savings in place, but whatever, you can’t send a kid back once they’re here, you have to step up and be a parent. You do whatever it takes to provide, and that’s what I did. I’ve never touched a drug in my life. I don’t smoke. I rarely drink. I don’t spend my money on all the things people claim. Every cent I had went to rent, bills, and my kid. I probably, no definitely, had the same clothes for several years before I bought myself anything. My child was always clothed before me. I tried. I’m still trying.
Now, here we are in 2013, and I’m surely better off than I ever have been, but still receive some form of assistance. I have a good job and so does Joseph. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need assistance, but in 2011 our lives were forever changed. We didn’t ask to have a medically complex child, hell, we didn’t even have the slightest clue that we would, but here he is. He didn’t ask to be born into these circumstances, but for whatever reason, he was. As his parents, we will do everything in our power to care for him and get him the treatment that he needs. We work, we’re drug tested, we’re paying taxes, and we’re getting medicaid for our kids. I have an iPhone (guess what? it was free), occasionally I get my hair and nails done ($60 every 2-3 months is hardly anything to for you to huff at), occasionally we have a night out (usually it’s for a show that Joseph is doing that he is being PAID for so we can have extra money and for the really rare occasion that we go out for fun, why aren’t we allowed that privilege? Spend one day in my life and tell me a night out every 3 months isn’t justified). If these things annoy you because we are receiving medicaid YOUR taxes paid for, guess what? Our taxes did too.
Joseph has insurance for Braxton through his work and had a savings before Braxton was born. Braxton had a 3 week NICU stay. Do you know how expensive that is? Last year, in 2012, we had over $200,000 in medical bills. I don’t care how good your job is, co-pays and deductibles for $200,000 worth of bills adds up, and it adds up quick! The savings that was in place was used much faster than we thought. So much for staying ahead and being prepared. And now? Pffft, there is no savings. The money is used before it is even received. Braxton’s formula was $8 per bottle. He was using 4 bottles per day. $32/day x 30 days in a month…that’s almost $1,000 a month just so our kid could eat. Guess what? Private insurance does NOT cover that cost. Sure, get health insurance, have a good job and you won’t have so many problems is easy to say, but in practice, that’s just not how it works. If we didn’t have medicaid, I don’t know how I’d feed my kid. We have 13 different specialists and 6 different therapists that Braxton sees regularly. Private health insurance doesn’t fully cover the cost for all of those visits. Medicaid has to pick up that balance. Braxton requires several medical supplies on a monthly basis that we simply couldn’t afford without medicaid. We aren’t the only ones with this story. I know several families who have children who vary in disability and some are far worse than Braxton. In some, one parent is FORCED to quit working simply because they HAVE to care for their child. Try living in a one income household in today’s world…it doesn’t work. Unless you are born from money, an athlete, or Hollywood star, there is no way you could afford it. There are countless people on assistance because they NEED it, but they are stigmatized because you all refuse to see that reality. All you see is the few who abuse the system and then make gross generalizations and spread them as truth, when they couldn’t be further from it. Why should we be stigmatized? Why should I be ashamed to admit that I have medicaid? I’m not proud of it, but I sure am thankful. I work just as hard as everyone complaining about paying taxes and I even pay taxes so why not take advantage of the service I’m paying for anyway. Joseph paid over $24,000 in taxes last year. That’s more than some people make. Don’t tell me we should be shamed for having medicaid…us and so many others are NOT sitting at home collecting a check, selling/doing drugs, living a ghetto fabulous life…we are merely trying to help our family survive and we are contributing citizens who deserve access to the assistance that probably prevents us from living on the street.
This crass stereotype has to stop somewhere, hopefully with you. I’m sure there are some dishonest people that are ruining it for everyone else, but think about our family the next time you trash talk EVERYONE who receives assistance. It hurts to see so many of my own friends perpetuating this hatred and public shaming. Adamantly insinuating that anyone on welfare is the scum of the Earth. I’m sure we’ll receive some “OH, I wasn’t talking about you” “But you guys are different” responses, but know that you are talking about us and we aren’t different than many of the people you trash, and try not to be so cynical, and understand that public assistance is going to people who truly deserve it. And just because people might have *some* nice things and still receive assistance, understand that they may have earned those things before their circumstances were different. An iPhone is no longer a status symbol for being wealthy….they’re free now. Having your hair and nails done is not irresponsible…maybe I want to appear that I’m not falling apart on the inside and looking nice makes me feel better about myself, is there really some unwritten rule that you HAVE to look like trash if you’re receiving assistance? Name brand clothes even aren’t good indicators of abusing the system…Ross sells Polo for $20, may be last season, but all you see is the brand and automatically assume the worst. Check your own perspective and think about what you are spreading before you click that ‘Like’ button or share that “hilarious” e-card demanding a photo of the “ghetto family” you are supporting with your taxes…probably not so funny if you opened that envelope and saw our picture on the inside, huh?