Most middle class families do not understand how someone could fall into poverty…until it happens to them. It could be an illness or death in the family, divorce, a job loss, or any number of other reasons or a combination of these. I myself had never received financial assistance from any entity such as food stamps, Medicaid, or the dreaded welfare until the divorce. My income fell so quickly that my entire life was changed as was my child’s. Don’t look down on people in these programs as they do not want to be on them any more than you want them to be on them! Sometimes there is no other choice. So to help you better understand how poor people have to live these days, here is life from their perspective:
1. A really bad crash occurs and bystanders run to the car to find the bleeding driver bawling. “Oh no, my car! What am I going to do without a car? It is the only thing I had!” Poor people have no extra money for full coverage insurance on their vehicles. They feel lucky to meet the minimum legal insurance limits.
2. A mother hears that Scouts are free, based on income so enrolls her child. Only to be embarrassed when Scout Leaders ask her for money in front of everyone at the first meeting. They never go back.
3. To have a traditional Thanksgiving meal for her children, a mother eats rice and beans all week long. It takes figuring down to the last penny to accomplish this. Seeing her children’s smiles makes it worth it.
4. Bringing a snack for the entire group of Scouts, class, daycare once a week or once a month causes a hardship on these families. They are lucky to have snacks for their own children!
5. They are required to look for work/work while on welfare benefits but what most people do not know is that these parents are forced to leave their little ones with less than savory babysitters. The state has a childcare list but they are only checked out once a year if that. Expect overcrowded conditions with up to 20 children of varying ages left in the care of one childcare provider. After school children tend not to be counted nor do the children of the provider.
6. Poor families are forced to live in low income housing where violence and drugs run rampant. They really can’t afford anything else. Their children are never allowed to play outside as it isn’t safe.
7. Food stamps and WIC are only enough to cover part of the food and infant formula costs, not all. So many mothers do without so their children do not.
8. To accomplish Christmas, mothers and fathers sell off what they have such as jewelry so their kids will have a Christmas. Or they don’t pay one bill until January, hoping the lights or the water is not turned off by then.
9. Poor parents may work 80 hours in the weeks heading up to Christmas so their children get the one things on their list that they want. With low minimum wage limits, these parents have to work that many hours just to have extra money.
10. Once a tire blows out or goes flat, they have to go down to the used tire shop and buy a used tire for $10. They will be back within 2 weeks to buy another one once this tire blows. They can’t afford hundreds of dollars to buy new tires.
11. They can’t take off from work when sick because they need the money and the job would fire them if they did. Unless the illness or injury needs emergency surgery, they will show up at work.
12. They accept free clothes from anywhere and anyone as their children need clothes. Clothes is the last item on their list and they never have extra money for clothing.
13. One older woman has taken to gluing her teeth back together once they break off. Most minimum wage jobs do not have dental nor medical insurance coverage.
14. Hospice funds were cut and a dying man lays in his own waste hoping that Hospice will be able to come back to see him before he dies.
15. Medicare will not cover prescription costs so one woman now has to take less of her medications to make them last through the month.
16. Poor people go to the emergency rooms for medical care for everything. They have to do this as no doctor or dentist will see them even for emergencies or severe medical issues.
So what constitutes an emergency problem for poor people? It could be a blown tire and no money to fix it or get a new tire. They will have no way to get to work or even to go places they need to go. The baby is sick and needs medication. The family was $10 over the limit to get Medicaid for the children. The doctor says little Johnny needs Pedialyte to replace fluids but the family has no money. A single mother breaks her arm and has no one to help with the baby nor can she not go in to work the next day. Insurance premiums are raised and now the family has to drive without the legal minimum requirements for insurance. The single mother is laid off and can’t get food stamps as her income was too high in the previous month…when she was working. A person stands in line at the Salvation Army with their children for hours to pick up a box of donated food only to find that the food has bugs in it. Now the family has no food and no way of getting any more assistance as they just picked up this box of food from the Salvation Army. A family’s money has run out so the gas was not paid. They have no heat for the month of December. All it takes is one simple issue for poor families to be in serious trouble. More than one issue and the family is sinking fast towards homelessness. THESE are the people who did not receive the tax stimulus package last year. The ones who needed it worst of all.