On a good day, my armor, this thick skin, quick wit, easy laugh and sharp tongue I wield as a Single Black Woman with Kids is lightweight and flexible. I am Superwoman leaping tall buildings in a single bound, bringing home the bacon, frying it, serving it… All that.
Then the tables turn and what once felt like a pebble aimed at a steel fortress, becomes a boulder hurled at aluminum foil.
Today has been one of those days.
Now I get to bore you with the minutiae of dealing with Social Services in Washington, DC: My kid got sick. She’s 4 years old. When I went to fill her prescription, the pharmacy wouldn’t accept my Medicaid insurance. I found out that even though I’d just applied for benefits in April and even though I’d just gotten new cards from a new provider in July, that it had expired in September. And now in December, I needed to reapply for medical insurance. On this same day, in the same office, I was also informed that I needed to RECERTIFY to continue receiving SNAP (i.e., food stamps). Fortunately (so I thought) it was the last day of the month and I was appreciative to get this information. I filled out my recertification form, the clerked looked it over thoroughly and deemed it correct, there were no changes or updates, and ISSUED ME A RECEIPT DATE STAMPED WITH 12/31/2013.
Stay with me now…
New Years Day was a Wednesday. On the 2nd I checked my balance for food stamps. Nothing. I thought, “well yesterday was a holiday”. Friday? Nothing. Now it’s the weekend, I have just lived through 2 weeks of four, 1-2-3-4, FOUR school age kids home on Winter break, eating and sleeping and eating and playing and eating and screaming and eating and fighting and eating. I’m tired. I don’t like them anymore. Plus, the cupboards and fridge are bare. And so, I dip into my meager funds and buy food for the final weekend before we go back to school. I’ll take care of it Monday, I think. Nope. Life intervenes. Over the next week I visit the hell that is The District of Columbia Economic Security Administration (on Good Times it was known as the Welfare office) no less than three times. On every single occasion, nothing gets done. I do not get seen. I am given misinformation. And finally I am told that my case was never transferred from the office I applied at WHEN I WAS TOLD IT WOULD BE back in June. And now I was required to trek from Northwest DC to Southeast and complete my transaction.
Meanwhile, kids still gotta eat. Momma begs, steals and borrows to make that happen. It becomes my every waking thought, “How do I feed my kids today?” Then, the polar ice caps relocate to the United States. Then, the snow comes. And I can’t do anything because I don’t have boots. Finally, TODAY is here. No snow. 40 degree weather. I can go take care of my business. I’m positive. What’s done is done, I won’t complain. I get to the Anacostia service center in SE, I get a number and wait. I’m still optimistic. Even though I’ve had no coffee or breakfast, the wifi is working, so I’m good. I wait about an hour or so. I go to the counter, thinking “Well it hasn’t been over 30 days, so I’ll fill out the recert and I’ll have food stamps tomorrow.”
Yall know that didn’t happen right? Yeah ok.
I was told that unlike cash assistance or medical benefits, if you miss your recertification for SNAP —wait for it— YOU HAVE TO REAPPLY! In my mind there was an explosion and I was turned into a pool of black, viscous bitterness that covered everything and everyone in that place in that moment. I was devastated. But wait, there’s more… And no more applications were being taken today AT 10:30 am ON A MONDAY, but I can come back tomorrow or Wednesday.
Yeah, when I got outside, I shed a thug tear.
…and that was only the first part of my day. I’ll be back.