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FOOD STAMP BENEFITS: NOT FOR THE LAZY OR FAINT HEARTED
OBTAINING FOOD STAMPS: HARD WORK
FOOD STAMP APPLICANT: VALERIE DEAN BELEW
EDUCATION: MASTERS LEVEL
Degree: M. Div.
PRESENT EMPLOYMENT: Listed below
- demand Studios: Contract Writer
- Curves For Women: Part Time Assistant
- googlesense: Professional Writer of On-line articles on Revenue Share Basis
- (NAME WITHHELD) Assessment & Counseling Services, Inc.: Contract IN-Home Substance Abuse Assessment Counselor
WHY I WAS A FOOD STAMP APPLICANT AFTER 2008
Once upon a time I only needed one source of employment, completing in-home substance abuse assessments on a contract basis for Fulton County Department of Family & Children's Services (DFCS), through an Assessment & Counseling contract Service. I also completed substance abuse assessments in other areas, as well as for the Department of Juvenile Justice. I was paid considerably well, grossing $200 per completed assessment. It never occurred to me I would apply for food stamp benefits less than a year later.
My income level dropped drastically almost overnight to below poverty level when the then republican governor of Georgia cut the Substance Abuse Treatment services budget by 24 percent throughout the state. Shortly afterwards, I applied for food stamps. It took me well over four months to receive them. Here is my story as written in 2009 when this article was originally published.
MY EFFORTS TO EAT REGULAR MEALS
Four months ago, I applied for food stamps after my monthly income through an Assessment & Counseling service dropped to $200 a month. Since the corporation generally paid two months after the work was completed, I still had two checks yet to arrive. Though they were greatly reduced professional pay, they were adequate for simply getting by. I felt no need to apply for food stamp benefits until it became obvious I would earn only $200 in an upcoming month.
PROBLEMS AT THE ASSESSMENT & COUNSELING SERVICE
My contract employer was obviously feeling the affects of both the budget cuts and the present economic crisis. Suddenly my checks were arriving late, first by three weeks, then by an entire month, then by over a month and a few days. My first food stamp application was rejected, because I could only produce one paycheck stub. I could only produce one pay check stub because the Assessment & Counseling service owed me $200 that had been earned three months earlier but was yet to be paid. The late check(s) also caused my bank account to overdraw, costing additional money in overdraft charges, and late fees on all of my bills. In the meantime, family and friends fed me with leftover food whenever they could do so, and I visited a food pantry.
I received my food stamp rejection letter, and immediately drove to the Butts County Food Stamp office with my appeal request. When I did not hear anything, I hand delivered a letter on July 1, 2009, now with the pay check stub I had finally received from the assessment & Counseling service attached to the letter, requesting that I be reconsidered for food stamp benefits.
On July 16, 2009, I had heard nothing, and once again hand delivered a letter to Butts County DFCS requesting assistance with food stamp benefits. Two days later I mailed a letter to Butts County DFCS, stating that I would contact them every other day until I received some response to my correspondence. The next day I received a telephone call at home from my caseworker.
On July 28, 2009, I faxed information related to my income working at demand Studios, where I had began writing articles on-line for $15 each, but DFCS had still received no word from the Assessment & Counseling Service, in spite of attempts to reach them by telephone. I sent an email directly to the Assessment & Counseling Service requesting that they send my income information to Butts County DFCS immediately, and provided my DFCS caseworker with all information I had to make reaching the assessment and counseling service staff easier. She reported that she had reached them on one occasion, but had failed to receive a call back from them verifying my income level or the amount of my last check.
On August 8, 2009, I faxed another letter to Butts County DFCS, reporting that nothing had been done about my application, though I had been living with less than enough income to pay my utility bills, or eat, for well over three months. I also mailed a copy of the same letter to Butts County DFCS via the postal service. I received a call back from my caseworker that day, who reported that the contract service had finally sent information about the amount of my last check, as well as the date it had been sent. Upon further conversation; however, it became obvious the wrong amount of money had been reported, and an incorrect date for its arrival. I drove to Butts County DFCS, and hand delivered the actual check stub, and a bank statement proof of the date it was deposited into my account.
My caseworker approved my food stamp application inside her office at that time, and shared with me the exact amount of my benefits. I drove home, feeling I had finally accomplished something for the first time since I had originally applied for the benefits three months earlier. A few days later, I received a mailed verification of my food stamp approval dated August 10, 2009, and the summary notification informed me I would receive my card within a few days.
Today, August 28, 2009, I contacted my caseworker again to inform her that the card never arrived, and to ask if this is common, or cause for concern. She assured me that the card should have arrived within five days, and suggested I have the card voided, and allow her to request another be sent to my home. I did so, and hopefully, will receive a food stamp card within the next week. It has now been well over four months since my first application was completed for food stamp benefits.
In 2009, It took well over four months to receive food stamp benefits after losing a healthy income through no fault of my own. Today, on August 2014, food stamp benefit programs have been cut even more drastically since 2009, thanks to a republican anti entitlement congress that implies often a sentiment that people who receive food stamps are not interested in working, and instead want something for nothing. This line of thinking has been verbalized by conservative thinkers since Ronald Reagan coined the image of the "Welfare Queen," an image demonizing single mothers along with others in need of public assistance. I would like to make it very clear to my readers that the image of "Welfare Queen" has not been my experience.
People who request snaps (food stamp benefits) are not all lazy, or unwilling to work. As food stamp applicants, we have not all been unemployed, unmotivated, or drug addicted, and many of us have worked full time, or part time on two or more minimum wage jobs. I worked as hard on my food stamp application in 2009 as I worked on any of my employment sources. My problem then was that none of my employment sources paid very well; the problem was not that I did not have them. Had my employment sources equaled together a living wage, I would not have been seeking food stamp assistance.
When gainfully employed, I pay my required income tax, both to the federal government and to the state, and nobody expresses guilt about accepting either from me. As a United States citizen, and tax paying resident of the state of Georgia for many years, I believe I am entitled to food stamp benefits should I again become poor enough to qualify, and that I am as much entitled to proper diet and Affordable healthcare as the governor who approved the budget cuts that left me with little or no income. I feel neither guilt nor shame over accepting food stamps should they again be needed, and don't think anybody else should feel bad about doing so. Next time a republican governor wants to cut the budget, perhaps he should consider cutting his own budget, high salary and benefits first, before eliminating those of other vulnerable Americans.
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