Oh, the tangled mess that is government aid!
I have been helping a single mom with four daughters try to get enough money and aid to keep them off the streets. The problem is that her four daughters are native-born Americans; she is not. Without a green card or Social Security number, she can't get a legal job. And with the crackdown on illegal immigrants, finding a job in Merced County is like winning the lottery.
Yes, she did have a job in Modesto, but she can't own a car -- let alone get a driver's license -- and there is no one with whom to car-pool
(I have previously written about the impossible public transportation system), so she is stuck
and dependent on welfare and child support payments from the fathers of the daughters.
The circles that spin around government aid keep my friend trapped in their web. Someone at the Stanislaus County Department of Child Support Services claimed she received $900 in payments when in fact she only received $90. Because of that mistake, county welfare cut her benefits to $70 for the entire month. It took two weeks for my friend to rectify that mistake. In the meantime, she lived on rice and breakfast cereal and some groceries from me.
We tried to get her signed up for the Merced Food Bank, but they won't accept the only photo ID she has -- one from a liquor store where she cashes her child support checks. Plus, she lives in Planada, so she doesn't qualify for the Merced Food Bank.
Unfortunately, the food available from the Planada food bank is not as much as that in Merced -- and not enough to feed her and her daughters for a week.
We looked into getting her a green card, but the only way is if one of her daughters sponsors her. The daughter has to be 18, and her oldest daughter is only 14. And there's a fee of $355.
She could apply for citizenship, but the fee is $1,000 and the waiting list is five years. As if she could even get $1,000; she can barely get the $500 owed her in back payments from child support.
The father of her youngest daughter quit his job with a paycheck to work for a man who pays cash so he could get out of paying child support. Her ex-husband is still in jail and is not paying his child support, either. Welfare has cut her benefits until the birth certificate for daughter No. 3 arrives, and that takes two weeks longer than necessary simply because that's the way Los Angeles County does things.
So my friend is stuck. No car, no job. She needs an ID to get aid, but has no way to get an ID. And a family of five suffers because of the obstacles erected by our government agencies.
Holt is a wife, mother and student at Merced College. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.