Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I Am The Face of Welfare

I had plans for a different yet very controversial post today but I received an email from both my mother and a very dear friend, which made me change my mind and post about welfare instead. Especially since welfare is such a HOT topic, I may as well go ahead and piss someone off out there that is one of the few readers of this blog. Please note: I love getting emails from both my mom and my friend so please don’t take this post to mean any different. It is expressly my opinion and does not mean that I don’t want to hear yours. I have changed my mind many times throughout the years. I guess that's one of the good things about getting older, you can and will change your view on many things in life.

The email that I received was about immigration and how some immigrants collect welfare in greater amounts than perhaps a social security pensioner. If you want to read it in it’s entirety go to Snopes and you can see the email (BTW, it’s the second and longer one called “Welfare Poem”) and Snopes response to how it’s not valid. Here’s the link:

Getting back to my post though. Receiving this email got me thinking about welfare and how people feel about it. No one wants money going to someone that they don’t feel rightly deserves it but let’s stop for a minute and think about welfare. Welfare is supposed to be there for those that can’t provide for themselves or their family. When I say that I am the face of welfare those that know my family and me knows what I am talking about. My husband, Butch, lives in a nursing home. He is there because he has vascular dementia and I can no longer care for him. Medicaid is paying for this care, which is a state run medical plan for poor people. IOW, welfare. You got it. My family is on Medicaid. The cost for Butch to be in the facility is approximately $5500 per month. I have always worked since I was sixteen years old and never have I made $66,000 per year and that would be for his care alone, not counting my expenses for my daughter and myself. I would be willing to bet that most of the people reading this blog doesn’t make that kind of money either.

What people don’t realize though is what goes on to qualify and receive that help. I have signed over my husbands’ life insurance policy (over $100,000) as well as his half of any proceeds from our home if I ever sell it. I don’t mind doing that because I know that this help has to be paid for in some form or fashion and I can no longer do it on my own. Then again it scares me to think that when he does pass away I will be left with very little and will have to start all over again. It is very hard to be 45 years old and have to depend on your parents to buy you a winter coat because you can’t afford it yourself. The Medicaid is a Catch 22 situation and that is what I think angers many including myself. I can’t make over a certain amount of income or we will no longer qualify for Medicaid. So I’m stuck. I am going to make the best of a bad situation and go back to school in the fall. I am 95% sure of what I’m going to take and I will discuss it later on in another post. In the meantime, back to the subject at hand.

Thinking about my situation and others as well, I realized several things that many people tend to forget when they are thinking about themselves and welfare. Way back in the sixties I remember standing in line with my grandmother and great-grandmother. What were we standing in line for you may wonder? Government surplus peanut butter, cheese and other food items that were purchased by the government and then given to the people, specifically the poor. For those that remember, the food came in cans with white labels and black lettering on the can. It clearly stated it was US Government food. I will say this, the peanut butter sandwiches that were made with my great-grandmothers hoecakes were some of the best that I have ever had. At the time I didn’t realize that we were standing in line because we were deemed poor. I just knew you stood in line to get the food. It was welfare plain and simple. I was not yet school aged and I have quite vivid memories of this.

I also remember being enrolled in and attending the Head Start program. It was 1968 and I was five years old. I remember going to a farm (I had grew up with farms all around but it was a trip somewhere different so it was a big deal to a five year old) and milking a cow. I received a certificate, which I still have in the album that my mom put all of my school certificates in stating that I completed the program. Lady Bird Johnson, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s wife started this program for poor children to get an early start in school. Remember this was in the years before kindergarten. Another welfare program though.

Anyone out there get the Earned Income Credit on their tax return? You will if your family makes less than $42,000 in adjusted gross income on their tax return. I work in the tax field and I see families just like mine that qualify for it everyday. This is again another type of welfare program. Is it abused. Yes, it is, but does that mean that it should be done away with? No, if anything the cases of abuse should be cracked down on and in fact the IRS is doing just that.

I guess my point is, before spouting off the usual “that person is on welfare, they are sucking the government dry, blah, blah, blah” take a look around and think back through your life. Those of us that have had to use the programs at one time or another are very grateful that they are there. I didn’t even realize until I was an adult that the government surplus food program and Head Start were welfare programs. I don’t remember the times when there wasn’t programs to help people, but I remember my parents and my grandparents talking about poorhouses and such. I don’t know what would have happened to my husband or myself if I had had to continue to care for him. He had become violent and I suspect someone would have gotten hurt had it continued. I do know that many nights I have sat on my front porch and cried because I am in a situation that I cannot change and I hate it. I hate that I cannot care for him myself and I hate that I have to rely on the government to help pay for his care, but it is the way it is. Those that were close to us know that I would have most likely lost my own life simply from exhaustion without the other factors involved.

Remember, the next time you want to see the face of welfare, the face staring back may be your own. You never know what the future may bring. I certainly never thought that this would have been my future when we married over twenty years ago but life has a way of throwing lemons at you. The trick is to catch those lemons and make lemonaid.


  1. Wonderful post! I've been looking into welfare as a way for people to have racially prejudice conversations. And you're post is just wonderful. I think too many people complain about welfare without realizing the face of welfare could very well be their own.

    I found your blog when I googled "the face of welfare." Hope you don't mind that I took a peek. I strongly believe there is nothing wrong with people using our Government programs. I've used them to pay off my school loans. And you really helped me understand the new tax break program. Now I feel like I can explain to some of my friends why they didn't receive it.

  2. Thank you for your comment Liz. I really appreciate it. Please feel free to stop by anytime and if you have any further questions please ask.

    Sometimes I feel like not too many people see this blog, but if something posted here helps even one person then it is well worth having my blog out there.