Welfare vs Work in the USA 2013

Warning: Political triggers. If the topic of welfare incites your political troll, then troll on by. 

Disclaimer: This is long, but necessarily so. There are “from the horse’s mouth” facts and information about several “welfare” programs.

A woman I admire and respect tremendously, someone whom I share a spiritual faith with and value as having been a positive influence in my life, even for the brief time it was face to face and has now become another meme and link sharer in the Facebook news stream, shared something today that really lit a fire inside of me.

“No wonder we have the highest unemployment. . . .

On Labor Day 2013, Welfare Pays More Than Minimum-Wage Work in 35 States

A mutual FB friend, who is a member of the same church community where I met my friend had this to say: “Good ol’ Oregon!” to which my friend replied, “I want to move to Texas…”

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

That’s how I feel about right now, especially the, “Fire burn, and cauldron bubble,” bit. I am beyond heated, I am bubbling, boiling angry!

I am angry because the researchers and writers and propagandists are essentially stating that people on welfare would prefer to stay on welfare handouts because it is more profitable than working a minimum wage job. Then, the end of the article laments at how companies who essentially have built huge fortunes for their investors off of wage-slave laborers are being hurt by Obamacare’s requirements.

What?!?!

I’m sorry that the billions you have made off of the time, energy, health, and well-being of your workers and the ones most vulnerable to the insidious marketeering of your employment practices and non-nutritive, styrofoam valued products and services are now being threatened because legislation is now forcing you to do what being human should have inspired you to do on your own – take care of your employees and enable them to actually not become indentured servants in this post-postmodern era.

When this article talks about “welfare,” it lumps in a large variety of programs: SNAP, TANF, WIC, medicaid, housing assistance, utilities assistance, and the Emergency Food Assistance Program. Let me talk about each of these programs for a bit.

First let me establish my credentials: I worked for three years as an assistant manager for a for profit professional management company which contracts with housing owners who receive funding from federal programs under a variety of tax-credit and subsidy programs, the most commonly known of which is the Section 8 “choice voucher.” I worked for almost five years as a customer service representative for an electric utility company. I worked for three different fast food franchises of two of the named companies at the end of the article. I have worked for a community based social service agency while stationed in a state “welfare” office. I have been a single parent receiving cash assistance, food stamps, and medical benefits. I have been a working, single-parent receiving food benefits, medical, and childcare assistance. I have received WIC. I have received utility assistance. I have received emergency food. I am currently a non-working parent in a two parent household with the other parent being unemployed living in subsidized housing, receiving food benefits, and in between looking for work, waiting for a determination on the Unemployment Insurance claim, and not receiving cash benefits.

In other words, we have only the change in our daughter’s change jar and nothing else to buy food, pay bills, or purchase toilet paper. The only reason I can write this is because he worked hard enough to get caught up on all of our bills before leaving the over the road job, so he could find a job closer to home, because our family needed him here. But, I digress.

WIC – Women, Infants, and Children: $6 a month to purchase fresh or frozen produce or seeds for planting produce. A 16-oz loaf of bread or whole wheat tortillas. A dozen eggs. An 18 oz jar of peanut butter or a 16 oz bag of dried beans. 36 oz of specifically approved brands of cereal in their specified options. A couple of cans of frozen juice or their bottled equivalent. 1 lb of cheese. Approximately 3 gallons of milk +/- half a gallon. Breastfeeding mothers get a few cans of tuna or extra beans. Babies on formula get several cans per month, but I don’t know how many (Formula is EXPENSIVE!). Per month. Per child under 6 years of age. I could be misremembering some of the amounts, like the milk, and forgetting an option or two. All together, I would imagine that maxing out each available voucher and using them all in a month equates to less than $100/month per child.

TANF – Lifetime, time-limit per adult household member = 18 – 24 months, in most cases, to my knowledge. A single parent with two children receives less than $550/mo cash assistance in the state of Oregon. Prior to receiving cash assistance the adult(s) have to attend one – four weeks of job readiness and work-search classes. There are mandated job search requirements and action plans and goals that have to be adhered to or the adult members get “sanctioned” off of the benefits, reducing the monthly grant by their portion.

SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, still known as Food Stamps: A household of three with zero income might receive $500 +/- each month to purchase ONLY food. No toilet paper. No diapers. No feminine sanitary products. No shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, or household supplies of any kind.

Utility Assistance: a) Every utility customer pays a few cents to a few dollars on each utility bill into a fund that provides energy assistance, including “welfare” recipients who pay for utilities (when there is enough money left over from paying rent and buying toilet paper). b) Once every twelve months. Different community service agencies administer different sets of energy assistance funds and how much is available is kind of dependent on how much money the utility companies received from their customers in the area, so there is no gurantee funds are available when needed or that a household will have the ability to call and get an appointment at the exactly right time. c) Maximum yearly assistance per household is $300 +/- for the year.

Emergency food: see Utility Assistance. Different programs administered by different agencies. A food box provides 2 – 5 days worth of food per household member. However, the government provided foods are insufficient to meet need. Which explains why I can get a food box with lots of cheap carbs like Hamburger Helper, but no hamburger to use with it, and cheap, knock off junk foods because people can go to the Dollar Store and purchase the required number of non-perishible items to donate so they can go see a movie at Regal Cinemas for “free” once a year. Some agencies allow emergency food boxes once a month, some once every three months.

Housing Assistance: Multiple programs, multiple funding streams, multiple income guidlines and eligibility requirements. Section 8 choice voucher or project-based (subsidy stays with the unit not the people living in the unit) uses the following formula to calculate how much rent is paid. Let’s use our single parent of two children who is receiving TANF:

Child credit $480/child x 2 children = $960/yr.

Utility allowance is the average cost of usage for same size unit in area, calculated annually.For our example let’s say $70/mo.

Monthly Cash Assistance: $550.00
X 12 months $12.00
Annual Income $6,600.00
– Child Credit -$960.00
Adjusted Annual Income $5,640.00
X 30% 30.00%
Annualized rent $1,692.00
/ 12 months $12.00
Monthly Rent $141.00
– utility allowance -$70.00
Monthly Rent $71.00

Wow! $70/mo for rent. WooHoo! That leave this parent $480 for electricity, household goods, laundry, diapers and/or replacement clothes the children are outgrowing, and transportation. A monthly bus pass is $100, unless there is a certified medical disability, then a monthly pass is $26.

If the property has the voucher, the parent waited 1 – 7 years to get a call that a unit was coming availabable and to drop everything and come fill out a new application ASAP. Bring all proof of citizenship documents for all family members, fill out a 1/4 inch thick stack of papers and documents authorizing all assistance agencies, people who help with periodic assistance, whatever form it may take, and any banking institutions, then wait 1 – 3 weeks for all documentation to be returned from the requested agencies and organization and for the management office to input the data and send paperwork off for approval or denial at the corporate level. If they are approved, then they give their 30 day notice where they are at, but have to move in and pay move in expenses concurrently with existing rent due at current place.

The housing provider gets to charge going market rate in the neighborhood. Project based housing is often in neighborhoods that have been targeted for gentrification, thereby raising property values and what market rate is for housing in the area. Brand new, eco-friendly, energy efficient apartments with all amenities can charge $850 – $1200/mo. in my neighborhood. My apartment was built in the 1970’s. No amenities besides the requisite apartment sized refrigerater and range oven. One laundry room with one coin washer and dryer set shared between six units. Less than 1,000 square feet. Market rent for this unit is almost $900/mo.

Sure the single parent of two on welfare is only paying $70/mo. rent. The housing provider is receiving almost 13 times that from the government in subsidies. This is just one type of calculation for people receiving housing assistance. There are many, many, many other types of Affordable Housing Housing Subsidies which fall under the heading of Housing Assistance.

As soon as the adult gets paid employment, they begin a transition off of TANF and receive Employment Related Daycare, meaning a portion of their earnings is paid in co-pays to a child care provider. At the same time, rent gets recalculated and increased with a slight modification for having to pay some child care expenses. SNAP benefits get reduced, and eligiblity for other services are reduced as well, including loss of Medicaid for the adult member after a transitional period. Oh, let’s not forget that all benefits are calculated off of gross earnings, not net. So, not only do all benefits decrease as the income increases, the increased income is taxed, resulting in a net paycheck that could wind up leaving the family with an overall decreased ability to be self-sufficient.

Oregon Minimum Wage is $8.95. Very few if any of the minimum wage job providers offer full-time employment. Let’s be generous and say that a fast food vendor is offering 30 hours a week employment at $8.95/hr. That’s $268.50/wk multiplied by 52 weeks, that is $13,962 year, more than double the cash assistance. Rent jumps to $255.05. Food stamps might drop to about $250 – $300/mo. Childcare copay could be $100 – $200 +/- each month. 

Let’s abolish most of the taxes, tax credits, and various forms of corporate welfare, mandate that all jobs are paid a standard living wage that doesn’t keep people from wanting to pursue their best selves, establish laws requiring employers to provide for their employees before their stockholders and owners, at least for business that are earning billions for owners, upper managment, stockholders and the like while crushing their labor force or eliminating it altogether and shipping jobs to other countries where human rights are not expected to be upheld.

Let’s establish a public child education and wellbeing system that begins at conception to help support, educate, encourage, treat, and build up ALL families, providing truly equal access to medical, vision, dental, mental health, art, physical education, and academics which promotes excellence in cooperative advancement for all, instead of falsely weighted apples to oranges competetiveness, one upsmanship, and building one’s success on another’s failure.

Let’s stop blaming the people and start fixing the problem.

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One comment

  1. I am glad that someone did the math on this. I am glad that you are reaching out to post this for others to see. People need to know what’s going on everywhere with mothers, fathers and what the government is actually doing and not doing for families. And even your state is lucky to have as much as it does. I am a single mother of three, going through a divorce. I have a 1 year old that needs diapers and wipes, a 2 year old that needs pull-ups and I have a 4 year old (not to mention; cremes, shampoo, powder, cloths, ect.) WIC is barely 100 dollars a child. My max TANF benefits are $240.00 a month and that’s not reduced. When I had just my first child and I was split-up with my husband, I received $190.00 a month. Minimum wage here is 7.25/hr. Day Care tuition costs are $200.00 a week and supply fees are $237.00 a week. TANF only pays for registration fees, which in my case, there were none. I was not lucky enough to find a job before a month on TANF so it is mandatory to start the volunteer program of 30 a week to keep my assistance. I have $456.00 in Food Assistance. We are allowed $400.00 a year for utility allowance through a program that is open twice a year. We have a 4 year section 8 waiting list and most/all subsidized housing in Mobile, AL has a year or two waiting list of their own. TANF gives you certain vouchers in some cases for Uniforms but not much. $25.00 for shoes, $50.00 for Uniform pants and shirt, and a sheet of paper to write down your gas mileage … not how much you pay in gas or how much gas your car drinks, just mileage x .25 cents. When I think of how I am going to make it through this week alone is unbearable. When just the costs of Day Care are paid, then it doesn’t even matter how much the necessities of your children are or gas because you simply do not have it. How can people say that it pays more than a job… even a part-time job. I just don’t get it.

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