Thursday, April 2, 2015

In case anyone says the government just hands out money

I think our food stamps are reinstated. The web portal thing is showing that we're getting $66 per month this time.

What did I have to do to get this $66 per month?

February 23: Faxed the updated income information to DTA.

Several times in the weeks after that: Looked in the online portal, saw that nothing had been received or processed.

March 19: Finally called them, which involves six minutes of typing in my EBT card number, social, ZIP code, birthdate, and pressing keys acknowledging that I know that the info can be found online (no it can't; that's why I'm calling), then waiting on hold for 10-30 minutes.

Was informed that my fax arrived there on the 23rd but even though it was clearly labeled with my name and SSN, it got filed to another household member's SSN, not mine, and that person isn't listed as a head of household with an open case, so it just sat there having nothing done with it. They then decided they would process the info and give me my benefits back.

March 30: Nothing had been done, called back. Someone was confused about one family member having self-employment income plus W-2 income. Decided we were trying to call the job self-employment and deduct things we aren't allowed to. Instead of just realizing people can have two jobs, they mailed me a paper letter which I never got, asking for entire business records for said self-employment income (which is about $1000 a year). Person on the phone actually agreed the records weren't necessary and cleared that request out. Spent several minutes asking me for the name of the family member's business. Couldn't seem to wrap brain around that most people filing Schedule C don't have a business and you put the person's name under "business name." Kept saying "I need a business name."

April 2: Saw on online thing that we were given benefits starting next month, along with summary of our household income and how they had arrived at $66. Called to ask why they weren't put in going back to when the paystubs were from, which was what they said would happen. Spent 45 minutes on phone, while worker asked me about every paystub, whether that was my correct income, whether relative's disability income was correct -- pretty much just read the entire file to me and asked me questions about it, even though the previous workers had already calculated the amount and I was just asking about the retroactive part. Worker agreed that retroactive benefits were due and would be deposited. Said something about how "if you don't say anything, no one knows that you didn't get the benefits we said you would."

Is this some kind of intentional cost-saving measure? Or are they just incompetent?

I'm thinking it isn't worth $66 per month to do all this faxing and calling and waiting on hold. Maybe that's the point? Still, I'm sitting here in the richest country in the world, and every time I have a small victory over DTA, the school system, the community health center or some other organization that hoped we would just go away, I can't help but think of all the people who don't have the resources I do and are just hanging up the phone defeated. Should you only be able to feed your family if you previously worked in finance and know to correct DTA's math and correct their understanding of tax codes? Should your kids only get services if you know people who know special education law and Medicaid policies?

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