Friday, March 11, 2011

Benefits and barriers

We’ve been preparing for a “Meet and Greet” with our local, state and federal legislators. In thinking about the issues we want to bring to their attention - barriers our families face in their path to self-sufficiency- we got another real time example. The mom in one of our client families – homeless until the family came to live in our housing – has a new job. She was stunned to find out that she also lost food stamps and has to come up with $70 per month to keep Medicaid for her baby. No time to accumulate some money. No tapering off. It’s just cut off. It’s ironic that a step toward self-sufficiency caused her to question whether her family could afford for her to work.

Our economy is really complex, and we have to be grateful that our government has created safety nets for people at the lowest end of the economic scale. Unfortunately, you can lose some of those safety net benefits even if you’re the working poor. Nobody intentionally designs government programs to discourage marriage for people who need childcare assistance or make it so that someone is better off economically if they turn down a raise to keep their food stamps. But, that’s what happens.