Monthly Archives: August 2012

It’s August

This will be the first August in eight years that won’t end with a new fall semester. I still haven’t gotten used to the fact that school is over for me. I still have the same anxious feeling that I’ve always had trying to get my summer to-do list done in the last couple weeks before school starts. I still get excited to see all the school supplies out and longingly run my fingers over the pages of the office supply adverts.

I think even if I had found a job shortly after graduation, I would still feel these sharp pangs of sadness. I miss my campus, my professors, my classmates and most of all I miss my feeling of possibility. When I was still in school all my dreams were still possibilities. Now they just seem so silly. As if I was ever going to be able to move to Boston, or get accepted to The New School of Social Research. 

I can already feel my brain starting to lose everything I learned. I pull out my math books and flip through the problems thinking I’ll try to keep my skills sharp, but then I just get sad and long to redo my whole college experience. There’s a million and one things I would have done differently. 

My mom is really pushing me to go into teaching. She wants to give me the money for the down payment on this alternative certification programme. It’s an intense two week class on how to be a teacher, followed by being thrown in a classroom as a full time teacher. The whole idea of it scares the living hell out of me. It’s like someone teaching you to swim by throwing you in the middle of the ocean.

At one point I really wanted to be a teacher. Part of me still does, but I’m terrified of it at the same time. I don’t think I have enough confidence in my math skills to be an effective educator. I barely muddled through my last two years in college with C’s in my upper level math courses. I’ve never even taken a geometry class!

I have a tendency to blank out on exams. That’s the biggest reason I’m dragging my feet when it comes to taking the GRE.  It’s the same with the teaching thing. I know I could pass the first certification exam, but I’m scared of the content exam. I didn’t take abstract algebra or modern geometry, both of which were required to get a teaching certification. 

My fear has always been the one thing holding me back. Part of me screaming to just go for it and the other part of me is just screaming. I feel stuck, like I’m spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. 

August is here, but it’s not the same August that I’ve known for the past eight years. This August is demanding final decisions. No more daydreams and fantasies, this August wants a plan of action and most of all a commitment. 

I am giving myself a deadline. My birthday is in 12 days. I will be 32 years old. By my birthday I will make a decision and draft a course of action. 

By my birthday I will be ready to make a solid commitment to a plan. 


Adventures in Welfare

Dear Texas.

Go fuck yourself.

Yea I had to get that out of my system.

When I was studying working poverty in school a lot of the material came from case studies. It was a common theme in these case studies that the application process for government assistance was a complicated labyrinth of paperwork leading to a lengthy wait for approval. Many people could go from barely getting by to homeless in the time it took for a food stamp application to be approved.

When I was in the hospital for the first surgery I applied for emergency medicaid. I was denied because my income was too high. At the time I was an unemployed student and my only income was my daughter’s child support and social security.  Apparently the state of Texas thought a monthly income of less than $800 was sufficient to finance a $30,000 hospital bill.

So imagine my shock when I was approved for TANF and medicaid.

[cut to back story]

When I applied for the food stamps I checked the TANF box just as a “they’re going to deny me anyways, but what the hell” sort of thing. Later in the process of applying for food stamps (technically it’s called SNAP, but I’m about sick of acronyms) I learned that if a person received cash benefits (TANF) then the state will recoup those funds from the absent parent.  In other words, if I accepted TANF then I was agreeing to forfeit the child support. Given that I’m getting $360 a month in child support, it made no sense to give that up in order to get less than that in TANF.

At this point I asked if I could just cancel the TANF application and keep my child support. Surely the state would be well up for not paying out cash benefits right? I was informed at the workforce orientation that withdrawing the application for TANF would also withdraw the application for food stamps and I’d have to start all over again. So I agreed to just go through the motions figuring they would deny me anyways. A week later I got a call from the welfare office and voiced my concern about the child support issue. The man contradicted what the workforce office said (these are two entities that really need better communication skills) and told me that TANF had nothing to do with food stamps. He said that I could withdraw my TANF application and keep the food stamps and my child support. He would mail me a form, I’d mail it back and bob’s your uncle. Problem solved.

No.

Somewhere in the span of three days my application for TANF was approved! Now I have talked with a lot of women in worse situations than mine who couldn’t get approved for TANF because their non existent income was too high. It’s common knowledge that it’s virtually impossible to get cash benefits in the state of Texas. It completely defies precedent that I was not only approved, but approved so quickly.

Time for some number crunching. Currently I get $360 a month in child support and $268 a month in Social Security. The state had already approved me for $300 a month in food stamps. With the TANF approval the state was giving me $110 a month in cash assistance and $200 a month in food stamps. I was losing $360 just to get $110!!

I called the welfare office and tried to get them to cancel the application (the form hadn’t had time to arrive in the post)  and take back the benefits but alas there was no hope. The best they could do was deny the benefits for September, but August was a done deal. Immediately that knot was in my stomach as I freaked out about how we’d survive August if we lost that much money.

I ended up filing a formal complaint. Apparently this formal complaint was against the man that worked up my case. I thought it was just going to be against the office in general. So he called me pretty pissed off that I was filing a complaint and trying to talk me out of it.

Surprisingly I got a child support check for the beginning of August. My guess is that the payment was processed before the child support office was made aware of my TANF approval. So I was fortunate to be able to pay everything that needed to be paid and have a few dollars left to put gas in the car.

The moral of the story is that the myth of the welfare queen is bullshit. There are no women sitting back raking in piles of taxpayer cash. No one is doing so well on welfare that they can choose it over working. Welfare is temporary. There are time limits on how long people can receive benefits, so the myth that women are spending their whole lives on welfare is bollocks! There are caps on how many children will be considered when approving the benefit amount, so the myth that women are just having more kids to get more money is also bullshit. The fact is that sometimes bad shit happens and people (mostly women) need a little help to get through it.  I didn’t apply for this because I was a lazy cow that doesn’t want to work. I applied for this because I had gotten to the point where my daughter was only getting one meal and a snack during the day and there was no where else in the budget left to cut.

This is only temporary. When I start getting really depressed about this situation I have to remind myself that this is only temporary. That a year from now this will just be one more experience that I look back on wondering how I ever made it.  Just like the broken relationships, the surgeries, the insanely hard semesters at school, this is just another hurdle that I will eventually get over.