An Open Letter to the Mom on Welfare

Dear Mama,

You’ve decided to use some kind of government financial assistance to help your family get by in this season of your life. Whether you’re using SNAP (food stamps), the Women, Infant, and Children nutritional program (WIC), Medicaid, unemployment or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), your family has qualified to receive these services. I first want to say, I’m proud of you. You did not allow your ego to prevent you from doing what you need to do for your family.

There are all kinds of things people try to say about families on welfare. It comes with such stigma that sometimes it feels shameful to talk about. You don’t owe anyone an explanation or background about why you are where you are. My friend often says, “They haven’t walked a mile in your shoes.” It’s easy for people to judge when they have limited information, and even if they do know, they are not you.

Although I am not you either, I have been there. In fact, my family still uses our state medicaid health insurance, and with baby #2 coming and being a single-income household, I’m considering applying for WIC again just to give us even more wiggle room. The truth is, choosing to accept help is one of the wisest things you can do right now to set your family up for financial freedom in the future. Unlike credit cards and loans, you won’t ever have to pay this back (as long as you don’t lie on your applications). In fact, you or your family before you have been paying into the welfare system with the taxes you all have earned with your work. I have learned not to feel guilty for accepting something that is free, beneficial for my family, and helps us put money towards our savings and debt.

I want to encourage you to use the aid for as long as you need with the goal of getting back on your feet. Again, you don’t have to reveal this to anybody, just do you! I remember being afraid of what would happen if my husband got a raise or if I got a job that made enough money that disqualified us from services, especially health insurance. I have heard the stories about the hardship of the “in-between” — making barely enough to pay the bills, but making too much to qualify. The fear is real, but I know you will handle things wisely and you’ll make it through! We are no longer paycheck to paycheck and we have even been able to save our money. God has gotten you this far and He’s not going to let you down now or ever. The key is to stay connected to Him so that He can give you wisdom about what moves to make and when.

At one point, even though we desperately needed the help, I gave up my WIC benefits because I hated the dirty looks and nosy questions from the people behind me in the checkout lane at the grocery store. That was back when WIC was with paper checks instead of the “debit card.” It was at that time that I tried to get our whole family to go vegan to cut down our food bill. That’s another story for another day, but I will say that it did not work out well for us. The struggle was real! I got over my pride and reapplied for WIC until our income was more consistent. Then we started to really plan and dream for the future. My husband got a higher paying overnight job that helped tremendously. We prayed about me returning to school so that I could get my bachelor’s and be able to reenter the workforce in a field I’m good at and passionate about. Our finances seemed to change overnight, but the truth is during that time we had learned how to budget, how to cut our spending, and how to fight for lower bills. The hard part will be when we no longer qualify for Medicaid and have to pay into a company insurance policy, but when that time comes I know we’ll be okay because we learned how to manage our finances even when they were barely there.

I say all of that to say, you’re going to make it, Mama. You won’t need welfare forever. As you spend time with God, reading His Word, praying, and being in community with Christians, He will make your purpose so clear that someday you or your family will be doing something you’re so good at and maybe even passionate about that you bless people so much that they want to pay you. He’ll give you ideas about a side hustle or business. He’ll show you how to go after that second job. He’ll provide in ways you never expected. You may see debts suddenly forgiven, or needs met miraculously. And along the way, you will have learned how to take care of the “little” you have now so that God would entrust you with more. Until then, use the resources that are freely available to you and do not feel condemned. Do well with the money that is left over from not buying those items at the grocery store, or because you didn’t have to pay for crazy expensive insurance deductibles. Pray about and develop a dream and plan for the future, including any key household members. And be proud of yourself, too, that you did not allow society’s prejudices towards you to stop you from utilizing the tools God has made accessible to you to take your family to the next level. It’s “unconventional,” but what success stories are ever conventional? The best is yet to come.

I believe in you!

Love,

Imani

 

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