Ahem. May I get your attention for a moment please while I get up on my soapbox and complain? You may not want to hear it, but I need to say it, so thanks for your listening ear (or seeing eyes in this case I suppose).
For ten years I was a single mother. I take full responsibility for that due to the bad choices I’ve made in my life. For the entire time that I was a single mom I struggled to make ends meet without the help of my children’s father’s. Occasionally I would receive assistance from the state in the form of food stamps or medical coverage, but usually I was in this dead-zone on my income level where I made too much to qualify for assistance, but not enough to adequately provide for my family. Every once in a while one of my kid’s dad’s would get a job and I would receive child support, but said dad would usually quit his job as soon as his wages started getting garnished. As of today I am still owed in excess of $30,000 in arrears.
Six years ago I sent my children to live with my sister and her husband. I felt like with their dual income and stability they could provide a better life for my children than I was able to. For the first year everything was great. My kids were thriving under my sister’s tutelage, my sister and her husband bought a home and I was working on getting my life together. Around this time my sister found out that she could qualify to get the kids medical coverage through the state which would save her a significant amount of money by not covering them on her private insurance. It was at this time that the state of Utah began garnishing my wages in order to reimburse themselves for the medical coverage they were providing for my children.
Initially the garnishment wasn’t so bad – only about $200 a month. I can live with that and do so happily in the knowledge that my children are provided for and have excellent medical coverage. Over the past six years the garnishment has increased slightly based on cost of living and wage increases. Last year I received notice that the garnishment was going to increase from about $365 a month to around $1200 a month. I almost died when I received this notice. The state of Utah had decided that they would take the maximum amount allowed under law – 50% of my wages. I immediately appealed based on the financial hardship this would cause and successfully got the amount lowered to $850 a month. This was still a huge financial hardship for me, but better than the $1200 a month they had wanted.
I buckled down and worked my ass off – in the end bringing home less than minimum wage. Everyone suggested I apply for low-income housing, food stamps medical. So I did. The result of that is this: Government agencies who provide help to low income persons base their assistance on the GROSS income of said applicant. Based on my gross income – I make decent money, too much to qualify for assistance. They (the government agencies) never take into consideration that I don’t see half of that gross amount!
I was able to find an apartment that was about $30 less than what I had been paying so I moved as soon as I was able to. I didn’t realize that the electric bill (which I hadn’t paid at my previous residence) was going to be over a hundred dollars a month, so I actually ended up being worse off than before. Add to this the fact that 2 months ago my rent was increased by $150 a month with only 1 months notice.
So here I sit. It’s payday. My paycheck was $540. My rent is $650. Because of my financial situation I’ve paid my rent in two payments each month part with the first paycheck, the rest with the second. I’ve been informed that I can no longer do this. I need to pay my rent in full at the first of the month. I understand the rules behind this, but – you do the math. “Ah! But what about your second check?” you might say. “Why don’t you just pay ahead a little with your second check?” Lets think about this. If I’m $110 short of paying my rent that means I’m going to have to borrow that money from someone and will have to pay that money back. I also have my cell phone and I pay for cell phone service for 2 of my 3 children. Keep in mind I still have electric to pay for as well as I need food. By the time I get my second check it’s already spent.
I live in a technology free home. I have the cheapest cell phone possible. I don’t have Internet or TV (local or cable). I go to food banks and lie about my circumstance so that I can have food in my house. I’ve lost 10 pounds because I haven’t been able to afford groceries in about 3 months. And yet – I make too much to qualify for assistance.
If this money were going directly to my children and my sister I would have an easier time swallowing my circumstances, but it doesn’t. It goes instead to the bloated government that runs our country. They are the Sheriff of Nottingham, robbing from the poor to give to the wealthy – and it disgusts me. As I sit here in tears wondering if I will be evicted this month I envision the fat cats who run the government sleeping in their cozy beds with full bellies and money to waste and I want to throw my hands up in the air and say “I GIVE UP!” but I can’t.
So I hustle. I have a houseboy who is helping me with rent in exchange for a place to sleep. I do massage when I can to earn extra money, I borrow from Bob to pay Joe. And I continue working my ass off, doing the best I know how in this job that I love so that eventually I can get a promotion and a raise and maybe pop my head above the water for a brief moment so that I can breathe.
-Steps off her soap box and continues her day.
P.S. I categorized this under “Global Change” because I think there is something seriously wrong with a government which opperates this way and would like to see changes in policy with regards to the maximum amount they are allowed to withold from someone’s wages, as well as a change in policy which would allow government agencies to provide assistance based on one’s NET income as opposed to their GROSS income.
P.P.S. It occured to me that taxes are based on Gross income also – So I’m taxed for my gross, then the garnishment is witheld and I’m left with the pittance which remains. Ok…I’m really done now.
Posted on October 5, 2012, in Global Change and tagged Child support, Government assistance, Government Programs, Government spending, Gross income, Labor, Medicaid, Poverty, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Tax, Utah, Wage. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.