My cousin Mike posted this to his Facebook timeline. At the time, our family was part of the CalFresh program, which is still called “Food Stamps” even though there are no stamps involved. I also have an iPhone, although it is not a “new” iPhone, but an iPhone 3GS, purchased in 2010. At the time that Mike posted this, the “new” iPhone was almost one year old.
There are so many reasons why a person may use Food Stamps, yet have a nice phone.
- When I was in NH, I had a friend who worked at one of those cell phone kiosks in the mall. She worked on commission, so she was sometimes late on rent, but she always had the latest, greatest phone. She got it for free. I’m sure there are several people who have jobs that give them nice phones, but not enough pay to actually live on.
- A phone can be a gift, as Max’s new phone was from his parents this Christmas. His 2010 Blackberry no longer had a functioning keyboard.
- A phone can cost 1 penny if you sign up for a new service contract. Over the summer, Max’s contract lapsed and AT&T offered the iPhone 4S for 1 penny. We tried to add him on to my contract because it would have been cheaper, but AT&T Wireless sucks and we couldn’t.
- Battered womens’ shelters and homeless shelters often give out phones. I don’t doubt that some companies donate like-new or refurbished phones for the tax write-off.
- Most logically, when the person bought the phone, they didn’t know they’d be reliant on Food Stamps a short time later.
And let’s keep in mind, getting out of a cell phone contract is an expensive proposition in itself. More people are relying on cell phones than landlines now. We cancelled ours and saved $40+ per month. When cell phone service costs about the same as a landline, you go with the cell, obviously.
While we’re talking about people on Food Stamps having nice things, I have seen complaints of the “welfare moms” who have kids wearing $100 shoes. How do you know those shoes cost $100? They could be factory seconds. They could be a gift from Uncle Steve who comes into town once a year and showers the children with lavish presents. The kid could have saved his newspaper route money and bought the shoes himself.
If you looked closely at Cassie’s clothes this summer, you would have seen a lot of Gymboree and Children’s Place. All hand-me-downs. We’ve been incredibly fortunate thus far and have had several people give us their old children’s clothes. I refuse to dress my children in raggy clothes to fit someone’s stereotype.
Recently, some foster parents, who are encouraged to apply for and use WIC for their foster kids, were talking about how checkout clerks treated them when they used their WIC. I was very fortunate that I never received any comments at all about using EBT, even when I bought my Halloween candy with it. Yes, you read that right – I bought Halloween candy with my EBT. Every month, we had about $50 left over. One month, I used the extra to stock up on baby food, then snacks for Jackson’s lunches, then pasta, and in October, I decided I’d use some of it for Halloween candy. When I stocked up on baby food, I had to go to Whole Foods, because they have cases of Earth’s Best. When I ran my card through, it wasn’t accepted. Lather, rinse, repeat. Finally, the cashier realized, “You’re using EBT!”. She apologized, pressed the right button, and I got the food. No snobbery.
Our county (maybe the state, I don’t know) calculates Food Stamps quarterly. Thus, we were eligible through the end of October, even though Max had an income by then. This was very helpful, as we were able to do things like get my brakes fixed when my master brake cylinder “disintegrated.” We knew we had food covered, so we could pay for other necessary items, like the garbage bill and PG&E. However, we somehow received benefits for November. I knew that wasn’t right, so I never used them. And it’s a good thing too – because we got a letter from the county in December telling us we owed them the amount of November’s benefits. Even though the county admitted they were at fault – I got our paperwork in on time, but the worker didn’t process it on time – we had to pay for their mistake. Fortunately, I hadn’t used the money, so I told them they could just take the money off the card, which was an option on the payment form. In January, I got another letter stating that we owed them money. I wrote to them, because you can’t get a person on the Food Stamps line since they merged with the Medi-Cal line, and told them TAKE THE MONEY OFF THE CARD. I actually got a phone call from the county, from a lovely woman who said “I just set the option that your worker didn’t. You’re all set. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.”
Food Stamps were awesome. Because of Food Stamps, we could pay our other bills*. It really is that simple. I’m not exactly proud of being in the situation where I had to use them, but Max and I paid our taxes for seven years as a part of California’s highest income tax bracket.** We paid into the system, and the system helped us when we were unable to pay. It was, in its own way, comforting.
By the way, Baby Dust Diaries did a great post on “welfare” and she talks about her iPhone too.
* Well, except for PG&E, which is insane for our house. But that’s another post.
** It’s not that Max and I made a crazy amount of money. Until this past election, California’s highest income tax bracket was woefully behind the times.