Welfare and My Moral Dilemma
After some years of unemployment, an expensive divorce, and an imprisoned and non-contributing ex-husband, I finally have a job.
Of course, it’s a part-time temporary job with no benefits, but a job nonetheless. I am teaching freshmen how to write (and think) at a local university.
In the meantime, I have been keeping myself and my kids going with
a) a small unemployment check each week, based on the income from my last part-time low-paying job.
b) food stamps (SNAP)
d) most of what’s left of my 401k after my divorce lawyer got hold of it.
e) “loans” from family, and, finally, after years, some money from my ex-husband, who has been released from prison and already has a job.
I am now faced with a moral dilemma. Do I hasten to call Social Services to let them know that I have some income? Do I assume (conveniently) that when I file my weekly unemployment and check the box that I have been working and fill in the amount I make per week that Social Services will magically know about my change in status through the state’s computerized bureaucracy? Or do I wait for them to send one of those periodic notices asking me to verify my status, income and living situation?
Or do I just lie? I only have a part-time job for only one semester. As an adjunct professor, I am not guaranteed ongoing employment and the only benefit I get is a daily free cup of coffee (well, I get to be called “Professor” too). What if I tell all the agencies I’m employed and it lasts only four months? Then I will have to start the whole benefits application process over again.
Another issue — both of my kids have gone off to boarding school. Boarding schools have shorter school years, because they are 24/7, and they have month-long vacations in the middle, just like college. So I figure my kids are away about two-thirds of the time, perhaps three-fourths. But I am still their sole guardian (and paying fees to the schools; despite their generous scholarships there are still expenses); their legal home is my address. Does social services need to know about this? I get letters to my apartment saying my kids can have a free lunch at the local public school — yet my son has never gone to school in this town and we have notified the district that my daughter will be away. The head doesn’t seem to know what the body is doing, as they say. I could just “forget” to tell them things — and see how long it takes them to figure it out.
Then I could just say, “Whoops!”
My conscience tells me that yes, Social Services needs to know. They are giving me food stamps for three people year-round. But I can’t say I haven’t played with the idea of lying or at least just not being quite as proactive as I might have been.
Perhaps you can imagine how frightening it is to let go of these safety nets. . .to actually go about initiating the process that will remove them. The devil on my left shoulder says, “Just wait until they catch up with you” and the angel on my right shoulder says,” You need to call them and write a letter immediately. The support from the government has helped you through a frighteningly rough time; it has saved you and your kids — now it’s someone else’s turn.” The notices from Social Services say, “You must inform us immediately of a change in status.”
I think, Clearly I am no longer eligible for the unemployment and the food stamps for three. But I’m still not making much money — what if they decide to take away the Medicaid? I don’t know what I’ll do.
Are you in suspense? Well, luckily for me I not only have a strong moral compass, I also have the spectacle of my ex-husband going to prison to remind me about doing the right thing. I have two kids I have to set an example for. I also have a column in which I share all my financial adventures. Wouldn’t it be funny if I were writing here “Haha! I have a job but still get unemployment benefits because I lie!”
I’m sure that would make me very popular.
So I called my social worker and explained the situation. I sent the letter with all the details per his instructions. I filed my last Unemployment form and checked the box that I am working. Wham! Unemployment benefits gone and food stamps reduced dramatically (I was surprised to see that, at least for now, they will still give me a small amount — but that tells you how much adjunct college professors get paid). I can imagine that a lot of people have a hard time resisting the temptation to defraud the welfare system when the time comes to wean themselves off. But that doesn’t mean that I think that the government safety nets are a bad thing. Inequities in education/jobs/taxes are a bad thing. Our economy is a bad thing.
And one last factor for me — my job doesn’t pay me anything until I have been working for a month. And my kids needed lots of clothes (uniforms) and whatnot for school. So this month I have been using my credit card to survive. Let’s see how that works out.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 2 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 3 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 4 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 5 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 6 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 7 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 8 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 9 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Strartup
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook