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No ambition.


Walking around in expensive clothes and driving expensive cars.




Unsure of paternity.


Abusing the system.


These are some of the many stigmas attached to welfare recipients, particularly single mothers. Unfortunately, these stigmas are not only stereotypical, they are used to discriminate, judge, criticize, and demean other human beings.

My husband works third shift. He makes $8.25 an hour. His bi-weekly paychecks are a few dollars short of $500.00. We have three children. Our oldest, Emily, is four. My youngest, Xander, is 11 months old. My middle child, Sophia, turned 2 in February. My husband goes to school full-time. I also am a full-time student, but am able to go to school through the University of Wisconsin Colleges general education program online. If  I worked outside of the home, after paying for daycare, I would earn $50.00 a week. We are on welfare.

When I meet someone, tell them of our busy life, they praise me and my husband for both being in school, keeping a home and a family together with such busy schedules. When they ask how we do it and I tell them that we receive Food Stamps and Medicaid, they begin to sing a different tune. The acceptance in their eyes disappears and it filled with animosity. Now I am not someone who should be respected for working so hard for my family, I am someone who is loathed for being taken care of by them. Yeah, the taxes that they paid were put in a little fund with my name on it. It is THEIR money that is supporting us..

I don’t know what makes them more angry - that the stereotypes that people have in their minds about those on welfare are proven untrue by me and thousands like me, or that is us - THOSE PEOPLE- are looked down upon despite our situation and our hard work. I guess, though, it is easy to lump us all into the “abusing the system, too lazy to do anything with their lives, not worth anything, uneducated” stereotypes that welfare recipients are often characterized as.

Those against welfare, or that don’t understand it, have the same stories, the same reasoning, and the same point-of-view on welfare. There are four generalizations that the right has wrong when it comes to welfare. It is believed that anyone can get it, you just have to apply. It is believed that everyone who is on welfare drives an Escalade and wears high end clothing. It is believed that welfare is reserved for those who are uneducated, with no ambitions in life. And the biggest misconception, everyone on welfare is abusing the system in some way.

Getting welfare and abusing the system

Sarah, a single mother, is able to get $25.00 a month in food stamps, medical assistance, and child care assistance. Even with child care assistance, she is still paying $210.00 per month for her daughter to spend three days a week at in-home daycare. Bette and David, both recently unemployed, get housing assistance. They still pay $200.00 a month for rent. They are unable to get any monetary assistance because they are married. They receive $100.00 a month in food stamps. Erin, who became a single parent when her husband died two years ago, is unable to receive monetary assistance after next month. Monetary assistance can only be received for two years, and that is over the lifetime of the recipient.

Do you know that there is time limit restriction on welfare benefits? Did you know that over 90% of the people receiving welfare benefits receive them for four years or less? Or that if you are married or if the father of the children lives inside the home, you are ineligible for monetary benefits? Do you know that you can’t just go to the welfare office, ask for welfare, and get it? And caseworkers do not make the decisions about who does or does not get aid that a formula determines if you can and cannot get welfare and how much is awarded based on information entered into a computer?

Driving Escalades and Wearing Gucci

Every proponent of welfare knows someone that knows someone that knows someone that saw a woman get groceries with food stamps, leave the store, put her groceries into an Escalate (or insert your favorite expensive SUV here) and she was wearing Gucci, Chanel, or Vera Wang.. Let’s look at the logic of this urban legend. First of all, many times, individuals do not know who is using food stamps and who is not. Why? Because paper food stamps are now obsolete. Individuals are issued a card that looks like a credit card, complete with PIN number. The card is scanned through the credit card terminal like your check card or Citibank credit card.

Now onto the second point. How long does it take you to go through the grocery check out? Unless someone is purchasing one item, there is going to be a decent amount of time that passes from the time the person in front of them leaves the store to when they leave the store. Unless they are scanning the parking lot looking for the person in front of them, how do they know what they are driving And the odds of them being parked next to them, come on, let’s be real - slim to none. To give the right the benefit of the doubt, ok, they saw Ms. Smith get into an Escalade. Is it her Escalade? Are they her clothes? Did she have them before her husband divorced her and she lost everything? A second hand store? Hand me downs? The fact that so many aspects of a welfare recipients life are examined illustrates the stigma attached with welfare and the discrimination welfare recipients are victim of.

The Uneducated and Those with No Ambitions
Alisha is a stay-at-home mother. Her husband, John, is in medical school. They live off his financial aid and receive food stamps. Does that sound uneducated and lacking ambition? My husband goes to school full-time and works full-time. I work part-time from my home and go to school full-time. I have a 4.0 cumulative GPA. Does that sound uneducated to you? The two examples that I provided are among the thousands of individuals doing the same thing - getting an education, or having an education, and getting benefits. The most humbling experience that I have encountered was with Karen and Gordon. Karen has a nursing degree and Gordon has a degree in education. Both were employed and making a good living until they were in a car accident. Since their accident one year ago, they have been receiving assistance. Karen could no longer work due to the physical limitations caused from her accident injury and Gordon teaches part-time at an elementary school and teaches ESL night classes. He lost his job after his accident.

Before their accident, they held the same misconceptions about individuals on welfare. It wasn’t until they experienced loss, both monetarily and physically, that they realized that it wasn’t as easy being a welfare recipient as they had thought. They went from having an 1800 sq foot home in the country with 20 acres of land to living in a two bedroom apartment near the middle of the city. As fast as they had it all, they lost it.

Welfare proponents become personally offended when someone gets food benefits, medical benefits, or monetary help. Some even become offended that programs like the Pell Grant, which helps pay for education. They feel like individuals should be self-sufficient and if you cannot afford to have children, then don’t have them. However, they overlook the $150 billion spend on corporate welfare each year. That is more than all the general welfare programs (student aid, Food Stamps, WIC, AFDC, and housing) combined.

Instead of examining the fact that most low-wage jobs are held by women, education is not longer considered work according to welfare reform and TAFN eligibilities, very few companies are truly friendly family in wage, childcare, and scheduling, and individuals do work and still are not making enough to be free from assistance of any type, welfare recipients become the enemy. Instead of looking at why the problem exists and work on solutions, proponents of welfare would rather look the other way and write it off as individuals lacking personal responsibility.

Women become dependent on the system because society has failed her in other ways. Whether it was lack of comprehensive sex education and she became pregnant at an early age, or fair job opportunities available, to welfare reform that was created for re-election, to inadequate job training, society has failed these individuals. Instead of only being dependent upon a man, they are now dependent upon a system for their survival.

Unfortunately, it gets worst. Government is now trying to bribe single mothers into marriage to transfer their dependence upon the welfare system to another individual, not providing for them education or skills to be independent. Initiatives have been created to monetarily award single mothers who wed the fathers of their children. This, unfortunately, can trap women into abusive situations. Initiatives have also been created to offer couples counseling to those couples who do marry. These individuals are being prostituted by politicians to solve the welfare problem on paper, but ignoring the real problem.

It is all of our responsibilities to be aware of welfare, welfare reform, and to understand the problems. It is all of our responsibility to blame the system and demand change instead of merely blaming those who have been victim of the system, those our society has let down, those who are cast aside. You know, THOSE people.