Home | About | Donate

The Art of Balancing the Ledger While in Poverty

The Art of Balancing the Ledger While in Poverty

Stephanie Land

When you live at or under the federal poverty level, you’d better be good at crunching numbers. Every cent coming in or going out needs to be accounted for. My day planners have always been filled with the kind of detailed ledger you’d find in any small business: Rent, at $430 with our housing assistance, is at the top of the list, due on the first of the month. Second is Netflix, at $8, due on the 10th. On the 12th, a $25 payment for a credit card that’s maxed out at $500 and has a 12 percent interest rate.

1 Like

I once told my two sons “Merry Christmas, we have electricity!”. Another Christmas, though he was told “No Dumpster Diving!”, my youngest found Christmas presents, still wrapped, in the dumpster. The presents were clothing that fitted my oldest son and so he had Christmas. I never had money to buy Christmas presents so I was grateful for my son’s Grandparents’ lavish buying.
I was working as a Child Protection caseworker for the State of Indiana at the time. At least we had insurance, but with a $250 deductible per person, it was never used.
I got my degree and worked with the homeless and mentally ill and low income families. Social workers in Indiana don’t get paid much. That translates into a minimum Social Security income after retirement, because it depends on income while you are working. Also Social Security drops dramatically if you lose your job of many years and have to take minimum wage jobs prior to retirement. As both happened to me, I am living on less than $18,000 per year. I make just over the amount to get food stamps or assistance for my Medicare and medicine payments.
I agree with you that when you have no ability to save for emergencies, Anything that happens will take you down. My clients would have a car break down, lose their job, then their apartments. When they got a minimum wage job, they moved into the local motel and were never able to move out due to the costs of Deposits on apartments and Utilities. It makes me sad to sit behind a school bus that is unloading children in front of a motel.
Childcare out my way, for kids who are not in school, costs more than the gross of a full time minimum wage job so it is understandable that you work from home. Most people don’t understand how it is for most families now.

Way back in 1972 when after experiencing cervical cancer, though I did
well as a dining room waitress, even with no child support for 4 pre and teens, I was far more fortunate than you nor any are today. Community college was tuition free and I had no need for child care. By the time I transferred to acquire a BA and then an MA I had remarried and was a husband away from poverty.

Perhaps, the also underpaid, AFDC at that time, caseworker might have also had some experiences as you had, because when Reagan and the GOP in CA changed the rules and I had to register for employment (a sure thing if I said I was a waitress), she told me to lie and she would cover for me.

Later, until Prop 13 in CA took the job teaching at the community college I had attended, I never hesitated to tell my personal story to students like me
who were struggling and trying to make ends meet to be able to pay the
rent and keep the utilities on and try to make the food stamps last the month for hungry kids.

Now at age 80, as an Agent Orange widow, I find myself back pinching pennies, even with no one, but myself to feed and a paid for residence.
The benefits provided by the VA and my late husbands military benefits with a small Federal retirement received as a former Congressional caseworker and SSA get me by and I have a bit for emergencies. But oh how I remember those days and with all the changes made since then. I see young women struggling as I did and understand. Unlike too many, especially those in Congress, who for the most part haven’t a clue. It is also repugnant when
some pull out that SNAP card when shopping for groceries and then are treated badly or questioned about any item the well paid union cashier might decide is not allowed. Not lacking for speaking out, at times I’ve intervened.

Not much more today about “working” oneself out of poverty except it’s a job almost impossible to accomplish without help and every year it seems like it is always, be it state or Federal, the first place to cut. Even worse since it denies those children, all claim to love, an equal start in life, the hypocrisy is sickening.

Strangely, this article has drawn little comment, even from those who write
away about their disgust and hatred of any and all in “government.” Perhaps
they too have little or no understanding or empathy for those who struggle.

Hello, They talk about Government employees being so well off. I worked for the State Of Indiana. The Gov at the time, Mitch Daniels, Privatized the whole food stamp, medicaid system, and then added CPS too. I fought them and went to every local and county newspaper in the State, by Letter to the Editor, and tried to raise the Alarm. I took files full of info to the local paper. No one cared. I managed to get an early partial retirement, after 20 years. I was unemployed for a year and had no income for 6 months as the State fought my Unemployment. After almost losing my home and dog, I got back pay and 6 months later was the first Winter Homeless Shelter Supervisor in town.
My former coworkers were not so lucky. They still work, doing their same jobs, and everyone is really close to Retirement. This started in 2007. They were switched to working for the private corporation, IBM. They lost their retirement with the state. It was put into corporation stock. They now have no Sick, or Vacation pay. They have no health insurance. They have been switched to a Temp Agency employer. Almost everyone of them has done their same job for 30-40 years. They supported their clients in their caseload. Now people only have a Call Center and the privatization has failed. Children are dying due to CPS being funneled through a Call Center Board to decide if the reports should be sent to the Counties.
Things are much worse than either of use could ever have imagined.

Am I surprised to hear your response explaining how your situation grew worse? No as all those claims of needing to care for our " beloved children", forget about their mothers or those who work trying to help them, has become nothing, but one more human nightmare.

Even though I had a bit of “juice” in my position, and the MC I was employed by supported and though it was against the rules, allowed me to go to the press on a number of occasions, my calls for those living in cars and in local
parks, brought next to nothing from the local media. So it hardly surprises me you attempts ended similarly.

How does that old saw go? “You can’t fight City Hall?” Your experiences
unquestionably make the case. And pooka even worse here on this website
claimed to be for " progressives" the cold hard fact do date, I’ve been the single person even responding to this article and your posts.

No problem damning again and again the government of the US or those who
serve it nor Obama daily. Who the f–k, do they think are doing the work out
there in the under staffed and underfunding state and Federal bureaucracies
who are supposed to be providing for those beloved “children?” Who do they think take care of those children? It is the mothers who receive the pittance from the combination of Federal and State funds, cut to the bone with every budget of either.

I wish I wasn’t sitting here furious. Not good for this ancient woman’s blood pressure, but who the hell if one cares could not?

Hugs is all I have to offer, but please accept all the virtual ones I can give. Love to you pooka, what a true hero you are!

Those in poverty have no money to balance, and no ledgers to balance it in. Low wage workers and the poor are two separate chunks of the population. While post-Reagan libs weren’t looking, times changed dramatically. The US shipped out a huge number of jobs since the 1980s, ended actual welfare in the 1990s, and it shouldn’t be hard to figure out the consequences. Libs question if people can get by OK on $15 per hour, ignoring that chunk of the population who are lucky to be able to accumulate $15 per week. At least have the balls to recognize their existence, the integrity to admit the gross failings in our socioeconomic agenda that created such deep poverty right here in America.

I would ask how the poor, and those who get why unrelieved poverty is sinking the US, can “fight back” against Democrats and the liberal bourgeoisie/media – fight for their very survival.

DH Fabian, when you’ve been there and done that perhaps you gain the right to ask such ridiculous political questions. Until then since the two of us who have commented have actual experience in "the Art of Balancing the Ledger While in Povery, don’t expect a polite answer from me, If you had any real experience or understood the Party in power who does the least other than create programs that deny the help required, forget it. But perhaps that was your point. Make 'em work no matter how they ended up in their impoverished situation. And be sure to cut any assistance be it SNAP and cash compensation to include the waiting in line to attempt to acquire subsidized housing. Cut early childhood education so fewer have a chance when they are growing up in poverty and never force the the person who fathered those children to provide for them since he has a life.

I could be wrong, but over a long life time when it comes time to provide for
the children only women primarily end up providing for because of who makes the laws, all too many times, I’ve heard she wouldn’t need to have
support for those children if she hadn’t spread her legs. Are you one of those or just an ignorant, lack of experience Repuglican?

Maybe you should explain why you chose to attack one who has had the experience of attempting to balance the ledger?