I became a CalWORKS recipient after my unemployment benefits were exhausted, and I was in dire need of another source of income to prevent severe hardship. Within a few months of facing this predicament, I was accepted to my dream school. During the summer prior to my first term at the University, I applied for CalWORKS benefits, I was approved and participated in the CalWORKS’ job club and job search program in order to continue receiving aid and avoid a lapse. After the fall term ended, I was notified by my case worker that my program would no longer be supported beginning the next quarter because my major of choice was not listed as a “approved vocational training program”.
After realizing that I may face a dilemma that would require working or volunteering twenty hours per week while attending college full time in addition to caring for my child, I filed an appeal as an attempt to continue receiving assistance. I did not want to create such a strain on myself, or cause my grades to suffer, which would be permanently reflected on my transcript. The appeal was disregarded shortly after, and I was told that I would need to re-file a second one because my major was not going to be supported for the upcoming term. I filed a second appeal (a couple of months later) after being told that my next quarter would not be financially supported by CalWORKS. After filing the second appeal, I was encouraged to contact LIFETIME to assist me with my case in hopes of having my appeal withdrawn and granting full support for the duration at the University until my program has been completed.
The problems that I have experienced with the welfare system have led to my inquiry regarding the rights of recipients to prevent (or at least lessen) their chances of being denied benefits when in fact, they are entitled to receive them. I have begun examining the policies that are implemented in areas of public assistance (TANF, Food Stamps, Medi-Cal, and childcare); there are several guidelines that are failing our families. One fact to consider is that many of these resources are standardized in other countries. Since we live in a country that possesses the most powerful economy in the world, it raises the question: why aren’t we taking better care of our citizens?
Main problems with the current welfare system include, but are not limited to:
- The 60 month time limit, including strict (and at times uncompromising and unforgiving), highly demanding of requirements that need fulfillment, swift actions taken to sanction recipients for circumstances that are often beyond the their control (i.e. cases of domestic violence or trouble with finding childcare or transportation to work/school that hinder one’s ability to meet requirements).
- TANF’s primary focus on employment rather than education, which includes offering more supportive services for low wage, dead end jobs than attending school, which has significantly stronger long term benefits for recipients.
Additionally, I have read several pieces of research literature which analyze the following issues with respect to the U.S. job market:
- When examining today’s workforce, the cost of living, and the current state of our (U.S.) economy, the demand for employment combined with the massive shortage of jobs nationwide has been more excruciating for job seekers than ever before as we are shifting to a primarily service based market, where low skilled-to-white collar jobs are increasingly being offshored and outsourced, resulting in thousands of U.S. jobs lost, leaving countless individuals and families competing for minimal job availability. Furthermore, an increasing amount of employers are requiring higher education degrees (Bachelor’s degrees) from candidates.
Regulations that are delegated by Employment and Human Service agencies around the United States are in serious need of amendment. I hope that by reading my story, you are motivated to take action against unjust decisions or denials of benefits as I did, seek assistance from organizations such as LIFETIME (which I did too), or become advocates for families who want to obtain higher education but do not have the necessary resources to do so without assistance from other individuals or agencies.