The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.

Becoming poor

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Wow, has it really been over 2 months since I last posted?  I apologize.

I’ve been unemployed since May, which means I am now out of unemployment benefits.  Oh, dear, now that IS a problem.  Because I haven’t had in interview since October and I need to pay rent and eat.

How does this happen?  I can only tell my story, such as it is.

About 5 years ago, I was laid off.  I was unemployed for almost 2 years, then I got a job at a bank.  I did the job for about 20 months as a temp, then was changed to a direct hire and did the job for another 15 months.  Over time, the job changed from the opportunity to really help customers to an outbound call center.  I do not have the right temperament to work in a call center, but I kept going in while trying to find something else.

In the meantime, my daughter came to live with me.  She had been living with her dad before then.  Although he is happy to have her here, he refuses to sign her over to me unless I agree not to file against him for child support.  I won’t agree so he retains custody, but I now have all the expense and other costs of being a parent.  My daughter has had some trauma in her life and is diagnosed with PTSD.  How is that relevant?  Well, between my boss’s dislike of my unsuitability to the job and the impact that caring for a PTSD person had on things like sleeping and my morning routine, I got fired.

The official reason for being fired was consistent lateness.  Well, the biggest single factor for that is that I don’t own a car.  This is not a choice so much as an economic necessity.  That means I rely on DART to get to work, and DART is not reliable.  On good days, it took about 45 minutes to get to work.  If connections didn’t work, which was at least once a week, I could be 15 or 20 minutes late.  If the bus was early or I was late, well, rush hour buses in Dallas are half an hour apart so I would be something like 45 minutes late, or an hour if the connections didn’t work.  Since DART’s poor scheduling is out of my control, and since the company knew when they hired me that I was a DART rider, the unemployment office honored my request for payment.

I didn’t expect to be unemployed this long.  I got my first job when I was 16, so I’ve been working for close to 35 years now.  Except for those times when I was a full time student and when I was an at-home mom of a preschooler, I have had a job.  It’s weird to me that I don’t even get called for interviews any more.  I haven’t had an interview since October.

About 5 years ago I got laid off from a government job.  At that time, when unemployment ran out, you got an extension.  Sometimes there were issues with the timing, that is, I’d run out just after the extension period ended so I’d keep requesting payments but no money was sent to me.  Then another extension would be approved and I’d be caught up for missed payments.  Once money was awarded to you, it was sent to you util the money ran out, even if the extension qualification period ended.

This time, I have come to the end of unemployment and there is no extension.  Don’t get me wrong.  I went to the web site and at that time it still said Tier 1 and Tier 2 extensions were available.  My benefits ran out 12/17, but last day to request payment was 12/22, almost a week later.  That meant that instead of getting paid for 2 weeks, I’d only get paid for 1.  Well, really, right ahead of Christmas, right ahead of rent due on the first, and for me right ahead of my lease renewing which included a 10% increase plus pet rent.  (We have a new management company so the pet rent is a new policy on pets that have lived here with me for 2 years already.)  Very bad timing to have a delay in getting paid.

So I called the unemployment office to see if there was any way to expedite the process.  I went round and round with the lady, who kept telling me that there were no extensions after the 28th.  I told her that my benefits would run out well in advance of the 28th and she kept insisting that I wouldn’t get an extension.  Finally I explained to her that I had been unemployed before for an extended period of time and that in the past, as long as I was qualified before the cut off date, I would get the extension.  The lady put me on hold for several minutes.  When she came back, she told me that she consulted her supervisor who told her that per the Federal government, even if I qualified for the extension, no funds could be disbursed after 12/28.

Let me say that again.  I would probably qualify for the extension based on the available guidelines however the Federal government would not allow states to issue payment to claimants after December 28 even if they had already qualified and been awarded funds.

So I have applied to the government for welfare now, since I have to feed and house my child.  I had the interview for that this morning.  I need to gather further information for some of the programs, but it looks like food stamps could be awarded to me as soon as tomorrow. It will take another couple of days to get the card, but that’s okay, I can live with that.

The irony for my ex husband?  TANF is considered a child support program.  They require me to file with the attorney general for the collection of child support in order to qualify.  Also, since I don’t have health insurance at this time, if I qualify for Medicaid, that cost too can be passed on the my ex.  (Actually, I think that’s unreasonable.  He’s responsible for his child, sure; but 10 years after the divorce is final, I hardly think he should be responsible for my health insurance.)  So he could have agreed to child support, or he could have signed her over to me without even mentioning child support, but he had to stand on his principles.  And I simply won’t give away any of my daughter’s rights to child support, which worked in my favor because it means I’m not going against court orders to qualify for assistance.

So that’s how is happens.  That’s how people become poor.  I’m not whining, I’m not looking for pity, I’m just telling my story.

Author: Allison Leonard / Kiss5Tigers

I like sci-fi movies, and I noticed that I like the noir ones best. They are almost universally set in a sort of post-apocalyptic dystopia. I later realized, I find them comforting and familiar, probably because I live there, at least in my inner life. Perhaps things are not as bleak as they seem, or perhaps I am simply learning to keep a better attitude. This is the chronicle of my adventures. May you find something valuable here.

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