Kelly: Accepted assistanceWritten by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
Recently I was at the grocery store, standing at the meat counter. A guy my age was ordering a bunch of seafood and other meat. He was a really friendly guy so we started talking. I mentioned something about how great it would be to have dinner at his house because of all the awesome food he was getting. He mentioned that he was really excited about it too, and we left it at that. I went through the store and did the rest of my shopping.
As I went to the checkout I saw him again. I decided to get in the lane with him so I had someone to talk to. We got to chatting as his stuff was being checked out. When it came time to pay I noticed he paid with his EBT card. If you’re fortunate enough to not know what that is, it’s a debit card the state gives you to pay for your groceries. It’s the new way to give out “food stamps.”
I got really mad by letting myself think too much about what I was seeing. Before I get into why, let me tell you about another person I bounced into.
I needed to get some baby food for my 9-month-old son. As I was in the aisle going through the various forms of veggies and fruits, I noticed a mom picking out formula for her child. She had stacked nine cans of formula in her cart. At $17 a shot, you tend to take notice of people who throw that amount of money in their cart. Just in formula, there was $153 in her cart. As she stacked the formula into the basket, I noticed she was using the WIC program. I also took notice that the mom had a brand-new iPhone 5S (I could tell because we had a conversation about the phone when she asked Siri for help with directions) and she was carrying a huge Coach purse.
I want to make something extremely clear. I have no problem with people using any of the assistance programs the state and federal government make available. Those programs are there to make sure you and your children continue to survive when you’re faced with unfortunate situations.
What I do have a (big) problem with is the fact that I don’t believe these people deserved the assistance they were getting.
I found the exact purse this woman was carrying around the store. It’s from this season, and the cheapest price I could find was $338. I also looked up the price of the iPhone she had. That’s a $129 phone, and she had to have a plan for it. Since I knew the company she used, I can tell you that the cheapest plan for that phone is about $37 plus other costs. All that is if she just bought the phone and got a current price.
This woman is on assistance and carrying around a purse that she didn’t need, and a really expensive phone that she also didn’t need. Is it possible that someone gave these things to her as a present? Sure, but it’s unlikely.
Let’s go back to the crab legs guy. That guy was getting whatever amount every week so his family can eat. Do they need to eat crab legs? No, they don’t. They need to eat food that makes the most sense. Getting food that is $13 a pound is not a smart purchase. He could get 3 pounds of ground beef or 2.5 pounds of chicken.
I speak about these things from a position of knowledge. My wife and I had our first daughter in 2008. In 2009 I lost my job and 70 percent of my family’s income. We also lost health coverage and our nest egg. I didn’t have money for groceries and we chose to apply for assistance. I was OK with doing it because it was what I needed to do for my family to survive, and I knew it was temporary.
But too many people approach assistance as a vacation. They party it up by buying candy, crab legs and other things that aren’t necessary for survival. They use the money they didn’t spend on food for their kids on expensive phones, purses, nights out and alcohol. That’s not what you should do. You should save that extra money so you can get off of the assistance programs.
These situations serve another purpose: To remind us that we need to keep our lives in perspective. Just because something is there for you to use and you can do it, doesn’t mean you should take advantage of it. After all, you have to be OK with what you’ve done when you lie down at night. I know that I’m OK with what I did while I accepted assistance.
Would you be?
Sid Kelly is host of “The Morning Rush,” weekday mornings on 92.5 KISS FM.