Welfare Reform Redux
Republicans like Eric Cantor want to take food stamps away from single adults with no dependents
Seventeen years ago, President Bill Clinton made history and ended welfare as we knew it. He enacted sweeping reforms, the biggest of which is a five-year limit on cash welfare benefits. This summer, the Republican-controlled do-nothing Congress is again tempting to enact welfare reform.
In June, Eric Cantor (R-VA) proposed adding a stringent work requirement in order to receive food stamp benefits, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Thankfully, that amendment didn’t pass. But crazy Cantor isn’t done yet. His next brilliant, money-saving idea is to take away SNAP benefits from single adults with no dependents. Oh sure, this will save money but it very well could cost some people their life.
Statistically, those adults who are receiving SNAP benefits are over 40, almost half are women and only one in five have any college education. Cantor, naturally, thinks they’re just lazy and don’t want to work. Well, I’ll take that bait and ask, “Where are the freaking jobs?” This issue really hits close to home because I am one of those single adults with no dependents who is receiving SNAP benefits.
I was fired from my job last year by a vengeful employer. I had to fight tooth and nail for unemployment benefits, which I ultimately lost. I had to cash in my 401(k) and my life insurance policy so that I had money to live on. I applied for welfare benefits. In my state (Pennsylvania), single people with no dependents cannot get cash benefits whatsoever.
I was denied Medicaid because of “excess resources,” which presumably meant the couple hundred dollars I had in my checking account. However, I was awarded SNAP benefits and I am not exaggerating when I say that it was those benefits that have pretty much postponed what I see as inevitable homelessness. I have been able to buy food and save what little cash I have left to pay the rent. Now, I have about enough cash to pay one more month’s rent and after that, if I can’t find a job, I expect to be homeless.
Sadly, there are more like me out there, people who have fallen through the cracks. I have applied for over 40 jobs in the past two months. Statistically, someone should have offered me a job by now, but I suspect my former employer is trashing me to prospective employers. I had worked there for nearly 20 years, so I can’t leave them off of any job application, otherwise I would have no employment to report.
Programs like SNAP are literally the only lifeline people like me have. I know my situation isn’t unique and that’s a damn shame. This country should be helping people like me get back on my feet. The sooner I have an income, the sooner I begin paying taxes again.
I worked at the same job for 20 years and now some asshole in Congress is telling me that I don’t deserve help?! I wish he could be forced to live in my shoes for a month and then come back and tell me that benefits should be cut. Let him worry about paying the bills and being homeless and caring for an elderly parent who will also be homeless. Congress has adjourned for summer recess so we will have to wait until they reconvene to find out if this becomes law.
At least with the SNAP benefits, I could buy food to eat at the park bench I see in my future, but if Cantor gets his way, as Sting sings, I really am caught between Scylla and Charybdis.
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