We Need To Expand The Social Safety Net

We Need To Expand The Social Safety Net

Or at least make it more efficient.

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One thing that has surprised me the most as I have been studying social work has been what a patchwork system we have to help people. When I had heard "the Welfare system" before my classes I had always imagined, well, a system. A complete end-to-end program which was in itself equipped to help whomever with any problem, from food insecurity to unstable housing, to mental health concerns, etc. Perhaps most importantly, I thought that the "Welfare system" was equipped to handle a person with multiple needs. As you can imagine, if you are struggling to pay rent, buying groceries can't be going to well either. People often have more than one problem. What has become quite the realization is the fact that we do not have such a system.

Instead, it is a mess of some government aid, non-governmental social services, the government "contracting" out to other non-government agencies, plus churches, and people acting neighborly. And as much as I would love to embrace the mess, the sad truth is, many people fall through the cracks because of this patchwork system. But the system is how it is for a reason, and I think that comes from some misconceptions about welfare, some misconceptions I had myself until studying it.

So for one thing, what most people refer to as "welfare" is actually only the TANF program or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. As in, TANF is the program which provides families with direct cash assistance. But it isn't quite so simple. TANF became what it is in 1996 when President Clinton signed a bill reforming welfare, leading to a variety of changes, '"Most of the money went directly to cash benefit for families," says Liz Schott, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "Now states can spend in all kinds of ways," including job programmes and childcare, but also transfers to other state programmes, like foster care payments and child protection services.' Also, as the name implies, TANF is temporary, and "there are now also stricter requirements about what percent of aid recipients needed to be involved in some sort of work activity" which does not include getting a college degree, although some short-term training count.

When it comes to, SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (you might know it as food stamps). Its use during recessions shows that "a $1 increase in SNAP benefits ... is estimated to produce an additional $1.70 in economic activity." Although the list of restricted items is too much in my opinion, restricted items being "Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco Any nonfood items, such as: pet foods ,soaps, paper products, household supplies, vitamins and medicines, food that will be eaten in the store, Hot foods." Hot foods even including a rotisserie chicken you can buy at Jewel, a meal I know my family always found convenient on days both my parents worked, and they needed to feed their 3 kids something for dinner. And notice how it said medication isn't covered? Well for that you need Medicaid, specifically plan D, which hopefully you enrolled in when you first eligible, otherwise, you have to pay a late fee - keep in mind this is a program for people in poverty, and it's charging people a late fee.

All of that isn't including going to a township for rent help, and trying to find affordable childcare. Every new problem involves going to a new agency to fill out another form and needing to jump through whatever hoop they have as an eligibility requirement. It makes you wonder if it would be better just to take all the money spent on this and give it to families below a certain income directly. But whatever the solution, no one can look at this and think it's a system which is working as effectively as it can to provide the best support to families. Something must change.

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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5 Thoughts You've Probably Had About The Government Shutdown If You, Like Cardi B, Are Paying Attention

I'm not sure if Trump thinks he's playing a real-life game of "The Sims," but I can assure you that a wall will not keep out those that are truly determined to get in.

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2019 — what a time to be alive, am I right? Normally I would use that phrase sarcastically, but each day I am more and more confused, transfixed, and curious (with just a dash of anticipation) about our current state as a society and the direction we're going. Even though most of the time the world seems like sh*t, you've got to admit that out of all the times in history, the current one we're in has a lot of cool perks. I mean, 70 years ago, who would've guessed that there'd be computers and a world wide web filled with endless information and apps that allow 125 million people to see cute pictures of Kim Kardashian's baby. And compared to life in the 1600s, an airplane seems just as extraordinary as the second coming of Jesus.

We're making a lot of wonderful and exciting progress, like our advancements in medicine, but for some reason, we've hit an impasse in terms of social improvement. Not even three years ago would I have guessed that the U.S. would elect an unqualified, most likely racist, reality TV star as president, but alas, here we are, which brings me to his latest antics.

The government shutdown.

Despite how bleak the future seems, a little part of me is just a tad grateful that I'm alive to see this all go down. Like everyone else, however, I've had quite a few thoughts about it all over the past few weeks...

1. So we're screwed, right?

We briefly had a government shutdown in 2013, but for some reason, I have absolutely no recollection of it (my 14-year-old self was probably too preoccupied with who was posted on my high school's Instagram "thot page." Spoiler alert: I was), so this is like my first experience dealing with one. There have been more than a dozen in U.S. history, but the current shutdown is the longest out of the list. My first thought when hearing about the news was "what the hell does THIS mean?" I immediately jumped to the conclusion that we were in a total state of anarchy, but of course, that isn't even partially true. According to The Balance, a government shutdown is "when non-essential discretionary federal programs close." The shutdown doesn't affect state social services, like the Department of Public Safety, and thankfully for us broke college students, funding for financial aid was approved last September, meaning there's no current effect on student financial aid programs.

However, federal services and agencies like the IRS (don't get too excited... you still have to pay taxes), Department of Labor, Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Institute of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration are completely shut down while the budget process is in limbo. With no current end in sight, this is bound to get very bad, very soon.

Already, hundreds of thousands of government employees have been sent home without pay and will continue to not be paid as long as the shutdown is in effect. People living in low-income housing may be evicted as HUD freezes funds for programs. Without funding, all of these services very well may close. Not only that, but the shut down is costing us money: approximately $1.2 billion every week. I wouldn't normally be worried, but Trump is the exact type of immature and petty to where he'll keep this going until he gets his way (or he's impeached, whichever comes first). His attitude firmly suggests that he's not backing down, and if services do close, there will be terrible effects on affected departments and citizen well-being.

Should we just drink the kool-aid now?

2. All of this over... a wall?

Out of all of the things that a president could request funding for, the one we currently have wants $5 billion for a damn steel wall? I'm not sure if he thinks he's playing a real-life game of The Sims, but I can assure you that real humans are much more crafty than we give each other credit for and that a wall will not keep out those that are truly determined to get in. Trump has said that the wall is the "only solution for a growing security and humanitarian crisis at the border," yet common sense and many politicians/organizations can tell you that that's complete and utter bullsh*t. Not only that, but Trump's whole presidency has revolved around quelling illegal immigration, but no one has stopped to ask why he's only focusing on the border.

How would a wall decrease the number of people who overstay their visas? How would it decrease the number of illegal immigrants who aren't even crossing the border?!

While I am not well-versed in how much of a threat illegal immigration presents to the U.S. people and government, I still am convinced that there are way more important issues that the president should be concerned with. F*** global warming and renewable energy, let's build a wall, right?!?

Trump's obsession with his wall is a pathetic attempt to flex his self-professed prowess and a way to appease his hate-filled fanatics who only voted for him because he promised he could get it done.

What happened to Mexico paying for it? Oh right, that was just more bullsh*t.

3. People actually donated to this sh*t?

I just... People's stupidity and callousness never cease to amaze me. Before GoFundMe rightfully shut this fundraiser down, over 345,000 people actually donated $20 million dollars for a (wait for it) steel wall. Why is this the thing that people feel their money is worthy of being spent on? Imagine if we all banded together to raise $20 million dollars to help end homelessness or food insecurity. Or better yet, pay the federal employees who are getting screwed over by this whole ordeal.

4. How do Trump supporters feel about all of this?

I know that die-hard fans can take a lot of sh"t from their idols, but I think that after a while it's only natural for them to get fed up. Out of the 62 million people who voted for Trump, there's probably a good portion of them who are significantly affected by the shutdown. The ones who are government employees are feeling the brunt of it now, but if this continues on for months or even years like Trump is threatening, then we're all going to feel it and I can't think of any good excuses that someone could come up with in order to justify such a foolish and reckless decision made by the president. To a federally-employed Trump supporter, I can't imagine how it feels to go 26 days without a paycheck because the president you voted for is desperately trying to propose funding for a wall that you want to be built. It's got to be a catch-22, but hell, I feel like almost all Trump supporters are delusional anyway, so they're probably thinking they're undergoing some grand act of martyrdom.

5. Even Cardi B is worried... Now you know we're screwed.

Cardi B took to Instagram recently to post a video of her addressing her worries about the government shutdown. While not eloquently put, the rap princess is really only just voicing the thoughts and opinions of a lot of us out here. If Cardi B is taking the time out of her day to stop popping off at her haters and fantasizing about Offset's peen, then you know that this issue is a pretty big deal. The self-proclaimed gang member and boss bit** has admitted that she's scared. I think that warrants us to all be.

Well, there you have it, folks. Five of my most pressing thoughts about the government shutdown. As it continues, I'm sure they'll be thousands more that pop into all of our heads. But hey, let's look on the bright side -- we've made history; now's the only time we can say the government has been shut down all year.

Hopefully, we won't be able to say it for much longer.

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