Guest Voz: Raquel Magana, a Latina Immigrant mother of 4, who has Cancer and is currently receiving assistance. Understand, this is NOT the story Republicans promote about those receiving assistance. Instead, this is a true story about a loving Mother, with an illness, in modern America, looking for a means towards a better life for her children.
A little insight to government assistance, because I am not embarrassed or ashamed about who I am and what I am capable of in this life, I am able to be transparent about it:
I started assistance what will be 2-yrs ago this coming June when I was introduced to it by a family advocate that was involved with my family. Mind you, coming in from a life in Mexico, this was big. I remember the intake worker saying that I would receive $600 a month and I was floored. I thought that was so much money for doing nothing. She was floored in return by my response because she was used to clients complaining that $600 was peanuts and wanted more. Again, I was coming in from Mexico where $600 a month could mean instant middle class status, or at least meat at dinner.
The past year and a half that I have received assistance I have been a full-time student, did the whole cancer battle thing, and now travel back and forth over an hour away to secure work, field work, and classes. Basically my daily schedule is close to throwing myself over the ledge and bouncing off the terrain the entire way down. I keep myself from focusing on all of the things that are not "right" because I have to focus on one thing and that is finishing. Otherwise, we are stuck in this life. No, not stuck, but screwed. There is no option. There is no out. There is only one way and that is to finish with at minimum a masters.
Last year through my chemo and surgeries I was involved in a year-long program that allowed me to use my classes as my "back to work 20-hr/wk requirement" that welfare has adopted I do believe in the year 1996 with half a dozen other rich white guy failed reforms - another topic. I still had to achieve the requirements of 20-hrs a week work related obligations to get any benefits, like assistance and the kids going to the YMCA, if, for example, I happened to have surgery scheduled. I would have to do a "job search" that added up to 20 hours that week of surgery or chemo or whatever. Now this year I work for Easter Seals for that 20 hour requirement. School does not count twds that 20-hr requirement. Only work can count towards the requirement.
The year that I was able to count my school classes for the 20 hr requirement, I was given $600 cash, actually $580. That was helpful, but certainly not living up to the label "getting rich off of the system" with four kids. When I took the job at the Easter Seals, the adjustment to that assistance went to $200/month, because I made $400 a month (200 every 2wks) at my new job. Actually, my last check was 196, 173 of it went to pay for internet so that I can do my homework. That is how we live.
If we make anymore than that, we will not get assistance. That will change the kids' circumstances at the YMCA enrollment that is only $10/wk for me instead of the $2,500 per year.
Julian, now 16 wants to get a job. He can't if he lives with me because it will count towards household income. Because we all know he will be paying my electric and heating bill - yeah, right. It would be helpful if he could drive, but we just can't. So a house of single mom and four kids is only allowed to make 600.
Think about that when you consider the welfare system. WHO is going to get out of that type of life? No one that is who. I am because I started with school long before assistance affected me. I came from middle class and I have a lot of advantages with my own experiences and connections etc.
The only way that a person on assistance can have a different life is to die and come back as someone else. I know. It's all scraps thrown to you and your kids.
That is the truth.
Meanwhile, the kids and I look around in our house and analyze what we have and where we are and we have it good. We are rich compared to our life in Mexico. We have carpet. We have a couch. Granted, it was someone's garbage, but we have one. And our house is absolutely adorable. We have lamps and actual kitchen cupboards with real dishes in them. We have hot water - well most of the time - except for that month or two that I was fighting with the gas company. We have beds with pillows. We are appreciative in comparison to where we have been. We have access to a Laundromat - instead of a creek and washboard with Zote.
I don't know. Something's messed up. One day I will figure it out I hope. I can say that my family is tired of being oddballs in society. We are tired of being different and of knowing that a typical person's trivial complaints remind us instantly of where we have been and where we actually are. It's human nature.
Julian worked for money in Mexico in the tortillaria (tortilla making store). He also bought paletas (hand-made popsicles) for 2.50 in town and sold them in our neighborhood for 5-pesos each. And he was like nine/ten/eleven yrs-old?
Now he can't go get a job or our family's existence will be imbalanced and screwed up and he can't until I finish school.
That's something that I cannot wrap my head around. To tell my son, no you can't work, even though it is good for you. No you can't drive, even though I need you to. Julian used to shop for me in Mexico. Every day I would give him and Leah 20 or 50 pesos to run up the road to get "this, this and that" to make dinner and if that store doesn't have it, go up to that other place over on the corner. They were little.
Imagine how it is to learn about inequality and poverty and all of the stuff that social work is expected to "cure" about the USA and the things that I am to learn. And I just have to think about the whole deal in a neutral way. In each class I feel like I am going through the motions to get the degree of things that I've lived. I guess the entire trialzzzz can be considered my field work. Or validation, one or the other.
One politician gets in my face one day. Just one.. I hope I live long enough.