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A Light in the Dark

“But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won’t help him–how can God’s love be within him?” (1 John 3:17)

SNAP benefits’ cuts…that’s what’s been in the headlines this past week. It breaks my heart. If you’re a Christian, this is supposed to be a season of giving, a time when we open our hearts and welcome all of our brothers and sisters.

Instead our government is going to forget them.

No, not the single mother with children. Or the elderly (albeit, many of the aforementioned are lucky to receive even $16 a month…). They should be keeping their benefits. It’s those recipients that the government deems capable of working. They (gov’t) tout the “booming” economy, the lower unemployment rates and say, you need to look for a job.

Okay.

The best way to end poverty, supposedly, is to teach people how to fish instead of just giving them the fish. But, if they’re already starving, how will they find the strength to do the fishing in the first place? And our unemployment numbers–statistics–do not reflect the true situation for so many, many Americans.

Most people who have been reading this blog know that I suffered an injury a year ago and I’m now facing foreclosure due to time lost recovering and the loss of the first full-time job that I’ve been able to find in almost 10 years. Yeah. 10 years! It didn’t pay very well, and I had to drive over an hour to get to it because the northeastern corner of Connecticut has a pretty slow turnaround as far as getting people back to work…and most of the jobs found are part-time, seasonal, and/or temporary. In short, there’s not a lot of industry here. We’re considered one of the worst areas in that regard by the Department of Labor. But we’re not really unique. The job market in America is made up of lots of part-time, seasonal, temporary and/or minimum wage positions and few, if any, full-time with benefits’ positions. So many people are working 2-3 of those low-paying, part-time endeavors just to make ends meet…and they’re still just a layoff, injury or illness away from losing everything they’ve ever worked for.

Yes, worked for.

Add to these situations people with disabilities–not full disability status, but they have limitations. They will be hurt by these cuts. And people with a similar situation as my own, people still recovering from an illness, an injury, a major economic setback, who haven’t quite gotten their legs underneath them again, they, too, will be affected.

No, I’m not on SNAP benefits. Mom and I have a combined income of almost $25K a year; we only qualify for $16 a month. We pay that in copies and postage to get the necessary paperwork in to Social Services so why bother? Especially when Social Services will freeze your benefits if you happen to work a few hours of overtime next month…or change jobs (they tend to neglect to remove the old job and count both incomes…and there’s an obligatory jump through bureaucratic hoops to re-instate everything).

I read an article today from USA Today. While not always the most accurate periodical, this particular article hit the nail on the head about how it is for so many of our nation’s poor…and what these cuts will mean for so many. The qualifications are already quite low. They’re designed for the really impoverished, those making even less than Mom & I. The article talks about how many of the people who will be affected by the cuts are already living on the streets–homeless. Yes, some are recovering addicts, whether alcohol or drugs, but many simply lost a job, got sick, suffered an injury and lost everything. Many of them are veterans…also forgotten by our government. The average SNAP allowance is, roughly, $120 a month if you qualify for full benefits (Schnell & Hughes, 2019). How far does that stretch? And what type of food will it buy? Certainly not the fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat and fish, etc. that provide the energy and good health needed to work those 2-3 jobs. And, if you’re already living on the streets, a lot of places won’t hire you. You need a permanent address.

The article also addresses the attitude towards extremely impoverished people. This particular cut in benefits does so with the suggestion that many people take advantage of the system. That may be true. But the cut will hurt many more who are not taking advantage and are truly in need.

As for those who do take advantage? I’m not sure why anyone would. I don’t doubt that there are lazy people in the U.S. who abuse the system, but the whole process of jumping through those aforementioned hoops–both to obtain and then retain benefits–is quite stressful. Your whole life comes under a microscope and you’re made to feel like a slug for even asking. I get it. I really do. You think I don’t want to work and that’s why I’m here. Suddenly, I’m the roach crawling across the floor. I’ve asked for it. Again, I’m not sure why anyone would ask for this kind of existence. And, despite the theory that SNAP and welfare and all the other myriad programs are supposed to be that hand up to those fallen on hard times, the truth is, they’re really designed to keep those fallen on hard times impoverished. As I mentioned before, if you even get a little overtime, they’re ready to strip those benefits away…even if the overtime is a temporary thing. If you’re in the system, you have very little chance of getting back out of it again. And I get that that may be the reason for the cuts: to force people out of the system. But, the end result, I predict, will be a lot more people going hungry, falling off the wagon of their addiction, more theft and violence and suicide.

I know. Not a very merry post during the Yuletide season. And, if I had all the answers on how to solve this dilemma, I would be the most sought-after person on the planet. I guess what I’m trying to say is not to forget those in need this holiday season. The article in USA Today also mentioned how hard it will be for food banks and churches and other resources to help meet the needs of those hurt by these cuts. If you can give to them, please do. If you’re hurting yourself, seek them out. Or volunteer your time to help them help others. You never know what tomorrow may bring. At the very least, keep our brothers and sisters in your prayers. They need every one they can get.

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Schnell, Lindsay & Hughes, Trevor (2019). “Cuts to SNAP Benefits will hit 700,000 Food-Insecure Americans.” USA Today. Retrieved from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/12/21/trump-food-stamps-cut-snap-benefits-more-hungry-americans/2710146001/?fbclid=lwAR3JUXAzoyO0LZZ1LY9_Nr10_xNk3M8QombVEOAdcnvuhdori21jUWnMDJw

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