Earlier this year, I got all excited about how I was going to write a post about how applying for food stamps was a freaking DREAM compared to when I had to apply for Medi-Cal nine years ago. See, because back in the dark ages they had this policy where you showed up in person like the ancient people of 15 and more years ago. In. Person. It was torture. And – I swear I am not making this up* – we waited in that room for FIVE HOURS. To get an appointment.
But 2011 is awesome in so very many ways. And one of those ways is that the government figured out how to use the internet at some point in the last nine years. So all I had to do to apply for food stamps was spend about 30 minutes online filling out a form and sending scans of my info in. They called me back the next day and within a week and only an additional 20 minutes spent at the office itself to sign papers and get my fancy ATM-looking card, I was finished. It was awesome.
More awesome? All the places that take food stamps. Which is pretty much everywhere. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods – even Costco! And while WIC didn’t work well for my family all those years ago (I think there have been some good changes to the program, but I really don’t know) due to all the dairy and processed foods, food stamps allow me to buy all sorts of awesome, organic, gluten-free, whole and healthy foods. It’s awesome.
And I know some people feel ashamed at needing help, but I don’t feel ashamed about being low income – I’m certainly not cheating the system, I’m just trying to live. (Admittedly, help feels more awkward coming from friends or family than from a faceless government.) I’m pretty strongly Democrat in this way – I think the government should act as a parent to its people by supporting them when necessary. (I think there should also be a choice to how much the government requires of its people who are receiving help – and also those who aren’t, but that’s a different subject entirely.)
So things were going along swimmingly until Matt Lauer screwed up my life. I won’t repeat the Week o’ Thursdays I wrote about in that post, but suffice it to say that it was really, really difficult to wade through that giant, stinking pile of bureaucracy. But it was all smoothed over and Life was OK again.
And then I got a letter. This letter stated clearly that since my income had changed, therefore my monthly allowance had changed from $42.23 to $42.23. That’s not the actual amount I get, just some geeky numbers thrown in as an example to show you what the letter looked like. Yeah. They actually spent time, money and resources on that, not to mention postage. A few weeks later I got another letter in the mail. This letter stated that if my income ever goes above $______ I need to alert the County within 10 days. Unlike my first example in which I changed the facts to protect my privacy a bit on the interwebz, this time I changed NOTHING. Yeah. They sent me a letter with absolutely zero helpful information in it. Now I don’t mind paying taxes at all, but I really generally prefer they go to more important things like teachers or roads or fire departments. But that’s crazy. Or, more correctly: it’s crazy when Vogons are in charge. Which is clearly what’s going on here.
And, of course, I still can never get through. I try to be patient because with all the budget cuts and the terrible economy it means that more people need more help and there are less people to help them. I feel more sad than anything when I’m unable to get through. Sad for the state of things.
And just a little bit afraid that they might try to read me poetry.
*To borrow a phrase from the Wise Dave Barry.