Financial Assistance is for Everyone

My Ignorance

 Welfare. Food stamps. Medical assistance. WIC.  When I used to hear these words-certain things came to mind.  Poor people, drug addicts that couldn't keep a job, unmarried women having a ton of children, the elderly that have no families.  I admit-this was a very discriminating way to categorize the people who needed this type of financial assistance.  I never had to think about that since my husband and I both had decent jobs, and managed our money fairly well.  I heard stories of people taking advantage of the government, too lazy to get a job, or go to school.  I walked the streets downtown and passed the homeless people, holding signs begging for money, and sleeping in parking garages.  Yeah I felt bad for them, but always told myself that they must have done it to themselves.  There was no way a person could get to that level of poverty unless they let themselves.  Boy-was I wrong!

My Story

 I was raised middle class-my father worked full time and my mother stayed home with my brother and I until we were in middle school, then got a job herself.  I never felt like we had any money problems, we went on vacations, had great Christmases, and got to do whatever extra-curricular activities we wanted.  When I got older and married, my husband and I both had decent paying jobs.  We lived in a nice single family house in a great neighborhood, and drove nice cars.  Once we had kids, our money stretched a little tighter, having to buy diapers, baby food, clothes  and daycare.  But we still were able to pay our bills on time, go on vacations, and for the most part were financial secure.

Then it all came crashing down.  My husband, who had suffered from back problems from an early age, began to have an increasing amount of issues, which led to numerous surgeries, missed time from work, and eventually becoming totally disabled and unable to work.  He was 32 at the time, and I was 30.  Our kids were 2 and 5.  We went from making a comfortable total annual salary of $80K, to my sole earnings of $32K.  He applied for Social Security Disability, but we were warned that the whole process could take up to 2 years--if you were even approved.  We had very little in our savings account, and were forced to turn to our families for help.

We both have wonderful and supportive families, who helped as much as they could, but as the months went by, it was becoming apparrant that they wouldn't be able to continue supporting us financially.  I started looking at everything we had and tried to figure out ways to cut costs and bring in more money.

The Answer

One night, 2 of my girlfriends took me out to dinner since they knew I needed a break. I was telling them about all my financial struggles and how desperate I was. That's when my one friend asked me if I had applied for any government assitance. I was kind of surprised by that question, I had never even considered government assistance. I mean I was still working a full time job, and I was still able to keep my electricity on. I figured that I would never qualify for financial assistance. So my friend gave me a website to look at and as soon as I got home I checked it out. The county I live in, has a social services website that lets you input all your information regarding income, and financial obligations, and then tells you what you would qualify for. I was shocked! I qualified for food stamps, and energy assistance. All I had to do was send in an official application along with documentation and wait for a response. It took about 2 weeks, and I got correspondence back from social services regarding my food stamps application. I was approved for $370 a month!! Then soon after I got approved by my electric company for energy assistance, which resulted in a decrease in my monthly bill. These 2 government aides made such a difference, taking a big financial weight off my shoulders. I was never ashamed of using my food stamp card at the grocery store-I felt like I had earned those benefits being a working American, suffering through hard economic times.

My husband did eventually become approved for Social Security Disability, at almost exactly 2 years from the time we started.  I no longer qualified for financial assistance, but with his disability money, we are able to manage.  I still put myself on a tight budget and always look for ways to save money.  I like to share any information I can with other people who might me in the same financial situation, and didn't know their options like I did.  I know things will get better over time, but I would have never even gotten this far with all the financial help.

Ignorant no more!!

Now when I hear the words-Welfare, Food stamps, financial assistance-I think a lot differently.  I think of unfortunate, unlucky people who are suffering through hard times and need help.  I see families who are just trying to survive and are doing the best they can.  I see me.

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