Food No, MOOD Stamps

22 Apr

“Working the system” is not really a thing anymore.  When you apply for government aid (food stamps/EBT) you are jumping through a lot of hoops.

America's Next Top Model

I think politicians must get bogged down in the details:  you have to work a minimum of 20 hours/wk to qualify, but you can’t make over such-and-such dollar amount.  Who does that leave in between?

If you’re a student they count your current loans for tuition against you as if it’s income, but they don’t count the school loans you’re paying back as an expenditure.  I say if you count one you have to count the other–it’s the same story.

At the federal level, you can’t legally marry or domestically partner with someone same-sex in order to get all the dreams of desirefinancial benefits “traditional” married couples garner.  BUT you have to count that person in your rent instead of claiming the whole thing.  Which is convenient–for the government.

The process = ridiculous!

You fill out an online quiz, but they never say you don’t qualify there–that would be too easy.  They send you the first (of about a thousand) mailers telling you to come in 4 days later for an “appointment.”  Be careful when you apply because this “appointment” is always a very quick turn-around and if you miss it, it’s a no-go on the stamps.  When you get there, you quickly see the location (the DSHS) is crawling with people.  Unshowered, unhygienic, desperate-looking people all smelling of cigarette smoke and greasy hair.  Suddenly, you feel too clean, too put-together.  You’re sorry you chose freshly washed clothes and even sorrier if something is a known brand.  Known brands, even the crummiest of brands, are a big no no at the DSHS.

You also quickly realize you’d better get in the long line.  Behind the coughing people, the women toting four small, dirty-faced children, and the adults with meth-mouth.  You thought your letter said “appointment” which implies a set time to meet with one person, but everyone else is lined up outside the door.

When you get inside, it’s like a bus stop.  Uncomfortable, worn plastic seats and tired looking employees.  The workers at the DSHS look jaded and worn down.  They have seen it all and they are not going to put up with shenanigans.  You have to touch the computer screen to sign up, and with all this sniffing and coughing, you begin to worry about catching a cold or flu.

Then, the waiting.  It seems there’s no rhyme or reason for who gets called first or where they are called to.  Someone from back behind you in line gets called to window 13, the lady with the 4 kids that was first in line, fills the seats and hollars sporadically for so and so to stop kicking that chair (nevermind the man in it).  Another person gets called to the doors to be led back to the cubicle area.

You notice 2 armed security officers, windows and counters between the public and the employees and wonder about your safety.  When you are finally called, you are grateful to stop waiting, and to get away from ill-people, bad smells, and unruly children.  But soon see this was a false sense of relief–the worker looks accusatory.

The Girls Who Starts to Lose Her CoolThey don’t ask to see any of the (many, many) documents your letter requested you bring.  The documents you had to search around for, get signed, jump through hoops to collect.  They never want any of those things.  Even though you brought your lease, they may not ask for it.  They’ll say–how much rent do you pay?  And take your word about the answer.  This last time they asked me, “How much do you think your car is worth?”  Rather then asking for my registration, looking at the blue book value, or tapping into the DMV’s government system.  They will say, where’s proof of this?  And you hadn’t thought of this, nor had your letter requested it.  They print you out more forms–you must have your school sign this (that’s a process that requires a week of time, three steps, and five people) and you must bring some check stubs, a letter from so and so, and this other paper.  You have 4 days.

The process is not standardized at all.  It depends on who you get and how tired/jaded that person is, also how their day is going, and their perceptions of you.  When I had just spent a lot of money moving from Seattle to the opposite side of the state, had to pay first/last/deposit on an apartment, and didn’t have a job yet (ie the time I MOST legitamately needed financial help) I was denied before my paperwork was processed, and I suspect it’s because the lady I got at the DSHS felt like my Roxi capris I wore said $$$$.  But that shouldn’t matter, or cause judgement.  I could have gotten the name-brand jeans at Goodwill, got them as a gift, borrowed them from a friend, or had them for ten years. . .  The clothes someone is wearing does not give an accurate picture of their monetary situation.  While Cool got another gay who saw she was “family” and didn’t ask for any paperwork then hooked her up with the maximum amount.  So it’s not about what your situation is, any max dollars or min hours–it’s all in the employee you get that day.

So this particular time I got caught in several loops.  I’m a student, so they want to see my loans, but not the undergrad loans I pay back.  Because I am a part-time student in a non-degree program they couldn’t count the loans though–much to their dismay.  BUT you have to work 20 hours a week or have work study to qualify.  Because unemployed people with zero income need food stamps least of all?  So I didn’t make ENOUGH money to get the stamps, weirdly enough.  But I took the work study paperwork, thinking that there was a slight chance my tutoring may count. . .

But the paper required me to sign up for the tutoring gal, complete the government forms at HR, go back to the tutoring gal and have her sign off the hours, make an appointment with my financial aid advisor who informed me work study money was depleted long ago, then she had to fax my form to someone and call DSHS (the work study application is good enough), then I had to take the signed form baaaack to the DSHS and wait a second time.  Lots of time and hooping jumping.

I was invested.

I got a youngish dude so I felt hopeful.  The men are always a little friendlier than the crabby old women employees for whatever reason.  He read my work study hours aloud “5-10 per week.”  Then he asked another lady what the work study code was.  When I saw her I knew my chances of qualifying for food stamps were gone.  She looked as if she had worked there for the last 30 years, and especially tired and jaded.  She told him they would need to see my financial aid letter (my incoming student loans) which would immediately disqualify me.  And when she left, he said he had done a work study before and knew they required a minimum of 16 hours/wk.  Which no one had told me.  And my tutoring employer hadn’t known what amount of hours to put so she randomly said 5-10.  So that’s a pain, I could have told her right in the beginning or not bothered around with it at all, if my first DSHA lady had informed me of the complete criteria (16 hours/week),  So Juan said he had to deny me, too bad it didn’t say 16. . .

And that sucked just because of all the time I had now wasted being for nothing.  And I knew Juan had wanted to hook angel 3me up with EBT, because he had already seen those hours, but I knew he wasn’t able to because he involved that lady who had seen my paper, and was probably some superior to him.  So she ruined everything!  I wish the internet had told me of the work hours criteria so I wouldn’t have wasted any time at all with their stupid process!

Later that day I had a voicemail:  Juan said he thought I had dependants, which would require 16 hours of work study, but I’m only applying for myself so that weekly hour amount doesn’t apply to me.  So I do indeed qualify for the max amount of food stamps.

But that makes no sense because they primarily try to give people with children the aid most of all.  So a mom would probably have less restrictions and get more food stamps, then me.  It makes sense to me that Juan was going to give me EBT, but then he couldn’t in front of that lady–so he waited until she was gone and hooked me up later.

Juan hooked me up!  When I go through the list of things I’m thankful for every night before sleep, he is often featured for his compassion and generosity–and for tweaking the rules.

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One Response to “Food No, MOOD Stamps”

  1. Sarah April 23, 2014 at 9:25 AM #

    Man, I hate applying for food stamps (and everything you described I have experienced countless times) but I find that pulling the “I’m going to act super polite and humble, calling everyone ma’m or sir” has helped me get a little help in the past when I didn’t “technically” qualify. Glad things worked out for you this go around!

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