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Social Safety Net – Religion and Politics

You may think government programs are generally pretty decent, that’s not been my experience. Even now, I’ve been waiting for a decision on my local unemployment insurance for the past six weeks. I’ve been off work (and looking desperately for more), for three months. Part of the delay was my fault, the rest is on the government. Trust me when I tell you, people definitely do get lost in the shuffle.

Years ago there was a young man. He was going through a pretty rough patch. His wife had decided for the second time, to leave him. He’d two young children, and had just left the U. S. Air Force a short time earlier.

He got a job in the civilian world before he left the military, the company for whom he worked at that time hired him for what he did in the service, mainframe computer operations. That organization—a hundred and twenty year old department store, was going out of business.

He continued working there until they closed their doors; he even bought a PC they were liquidating when they went under.

There was a small company nearby, who did direct mailing. They hired him as a “personal computer operator.” That meant someone who was technically responsible for creating labels used on direct mail pieces.

In short order, he began writing software in the language used for label generation (FoxBase ®, the precursor to FoxPro ®). He worked hard to keep that job, but it wasn’t to be. He was let go by the company when they hired on another couple of people from a competing entity. That wasn’t why they said he was released, but it was a large part of the reason it happened.

At the time, he was acting more or less as the sole provider for two children under the age of ten. I won’t go into detail, but he loved those children, and did his very best to ensure they were provided for.

After losing that position, he thought initially about starting his own business, but soon realized he was woefully unprepared for that undertaking.

While trying to figure out how to make that happen, he sought to live on unemployment and food stamps.

There was only one problem, he slipped through the cracks.

How? Well, he went to the unemployment office, and that worked out just fine, it wasn’t enough to really pay his debts, but at least it took care of some of what was wanted.

Next, he made his way to the entity who issued food stamps. He applied, and was told he would be able to get them.

Thinking things were looking okay, he set out to pursue his dream; to create a company that offered backup solutions to other local businesses.

He filed for unemployment on a weekly basis, as was required in that state, and was paid as expected.

But one day, the food stamps didn’t arrive in the mail. He’d received just one set when that occurred. Instead he got a letter of rejection.

That letter essentially said this,

Dear sir or madam,

We regret to inform you that your food stamps have been terminated.

The reason is that you received too much income for the month of (fill in month here).

You may contest this and possibly get food stamps as a result, or you may reapply, which also may or may not cause you to receive food stamps in the future.

Thank you,

The Food Stamps People.

This is obviously not a word-for-word transcript of the letter, which the person has long since discarded. There was more.

To begin with, they did specify the reason for termination. Why did it happen? The individual was informed he had “earned” too much from his unemployment insurance for the period in question.

Allow me to explain. He filed for the last week of, say January, but didn’t get paid for that week until the first week of February. Because he ended up getting one “extra” check in that month, he went over the income line for food stamps.Remember, the money paid was for January though the check was sent in February.

It was at that point our intrepid hero learned a valuable lesson. When you put bureaucrats in charge of pretty much anything, they will make decisions and take actions that lack any relationship to common sense at times.

He thought seriously about appealing the utterly ridiculous decision, only to realize it would mean he and the children spending another day in the food stamp office, with potentially no beneficial outcome.

Worse than that though, he came to recognize that this kind of thing could happen at any time. Simply put, he was at the mercy of the agency in question.

Shortly after that, the fellow got a job at a local gas station, where he could be close to his children. He made basically nothing at that job.

Without making too much noise about things, his wife (they still hadn’t gone through the steps to dissolve the union at the time) had someone acting as a “sugar daddy,” who helped her to concoct a plan.

She would ask for the children over a three day weekend, then disappear.

The woman moved with her new guy, a couple of counties away, filed divorce, and filed a restraining order, making it impossible to find out what she’d actually done.

The irony? He wasn’t even allowed to see his children, and was deemed a “run risk.” Government strikes again!

Shortly after that, he left the area, and ended up three days away by bus with no money, seeking to rebuild his life. Years later, he’s still working on that process, but that’s an entirely different story.

By now, you may’ve figured out that man, is this one—the one writing this tale of woe.

Being able to tell this story makes me a bit of first-hand anecdotal evidence.

Where I haven’t done the research, and doubt seriously it’d be easily possible to tell, I would bet I’m far from alone in this type of experience.

Most folks probably fought a good deal harder to get their “benefits” than did I, so even if you could get data on people denied various programmed assets, it would probably paint a far happier picture than the one I’ve conveyed.

You may think government programs are generally pretty decent, that’s not been my experience. Even now, I’ve been waiting for a decision on my local unemployment insurance for the past six weeks. I’ve been off work (and looking desperately for more), for three months. Part of the delay was my fault, the rest is on the government. Trust me when I tell you, people definitely do get lost in the shuffle.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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