Thursday, December 29, 2011
Spent ONE HOUR and 15 minutes on hold this afternoon. After spending over a half hour on hold this morning just to be directed to call back in the afternoon. And yesterday, also a half hour on hold, to do a phone interview for our low income benefits. So, what I'm wondering here is: after being baffled by the 18 page accompanying paperwork that makes zero sense, HOW do (and I'm not trying to make any jerky generalizations about the folks that receive these benefits) poor people do this? It's the most confusing process ever, and THEN you have to review all your information every couple months, in case things have changed.
What if I COULDN'T stay on the phone indefinitely? What if I couldn't figure out the information on the World's Most Confusing Application? And again, not trying to say anything degrading about people in this income bracket, (dang, I'M the poorest person I know at the moment, and occasionally feel like the dumbest too) but, statistically, the average education of someone at this level of poverty, well, it's less than mine, if that's possible. And I'M not understanding most of this. Admittedly, I'm a bit of a moron, but in actuality, my IQ is reasonably high, and here I am, ABLE to be on the phone during the day, somewhat, asking questions and trying to sort it out. What about the people that can't figure this out? What about the people that can't stay on hold for hours on end? What about the people who need to be out the door at 6AM to pour concrete? Do they just give up? Do they just starve? Oh, wait, I guess the answer is: if you're pouring concrete, you have an income. At least a small one. But still, what if you've got a bunch of little kids? What if your wife has cancer? What if you have a learning disability? What if you need HELP?
I'm mystified that the system doesn't really seem to understand the situations that would need the assistance the most...the kind of folks, for the most part, that can't deal with the crazy run-around involved in getting it. I'm not saying I have some brilliant idea to do away with poverty and get the welfare system working smoothly, and I'm sure (fibbing a smidge here) they are doing the best they can with what they have, it's simply a smack-in-the-face close-up look at how flawed our Government is. And I GET that there are those who use and abuse these things, and a lot of the run-around is in place to safeguard against that, but...holy, holy. There must be a better way.
You sign up for heat assistance and it somehow cancels out your VHAP health care...then to get it back, you must set up an interview at the Hartford office, after you fax in your most recent pay stubs and tax information FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME, and then, whoops! They signed you up for Reach Up and now you need a different application for heating. And then...call back to the Waterbury office and see about your food assistance because there's a new grant dealing with that and it needs to be filed on it's own. Once you file, you can add fuel help and have to switch it all back. (Don't forget that there's at least a half hour of scratchy saxophone music to sit through before you learn that the ONE person that can talk to you has left for lunch.) Then, "You're separated? Then we need to do all the paperwork over again with YOU being the head of the household, please fax us your own personal tax documents...Oh, it's only been a year and you've never filed separately before? Hmmmm, we don't know what to do about that." After a few days of this, you almost want to just give up and starve/freeze/whatever. Seriously, sitting on the floor, attached to the wall phone because I had been on hold so long that the cordless phone's batteries died, I moaned at one point "Oh my God, would wild dogs just come and eat me now?" And then there was a full ten minutes I believe, where I just sang over and over softly into the phone: "Your muuuuuuuusic sucks and soooooooo do youuuuuuu...."
Obviously, I need to use these programs right now, until I get my feet under me, and THANK GOD they exist. Only, know what? I'm awfully unhappy about using them. I'm unhappy because in our society it's a shameful thing, (I feel like a phony...like "Wait a minute, should I be doing this? This is in place to help the REAL poor people, not me!" But then I realize: "Emily, look at your bank account. Look at your income. Look at your bills. Who the heck do you think you are?! Zsa Zsa freaking Gabor?") AND also I'm unhappy because CRIPES! They've made it so damn hard to use these programs! In a way, I might be glad someday, glad to understand both ends of the income spectrum, (not that I ever was rich, by any means) I'll be glad I learned to swallow my pride, I'll be glad that I have a better understanding of what it's like to live like this. Today I'm just glad that they don't record what people say while on hold.
Posted by Emily at 1:18 PM