#1
Old 12-25-2009, 08:28 PM
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Ask the Person on Food Stamps

I'm really hoping this doesn't turn into a bad idea....

After two years of financial struggle where my employment has been intermittent, temporary, and low pay my savings are now exhausted. My prospects for employment from December through March look even more thin than they were this summer. After much soul-searching, and looking at program qualifications, I applied for food stamps on December 1, 2009. It has been for the most part a good thing, although the actual operation of the program was a bit more complicated in some aspects than I anticipated.

Well, that sets the stage. Anyone else on or who has been on food stamps (which is now the "EBT benefit") feel free to contribute as well. No mud-slinging or personal attacks - this is about being on the program, not how people came to be on it.

Any questions?
#2
Old 12-25-2009, 08:40 PM
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I just started a thread about this, about my niece's eligibility.

So, you use the EBT card. I used to work at a store that had that function, but there were complications in the computer program. So:

1. Do you use self help lanes at the supermarket, and does the card work there, or do you need a live clerk to take care of that?

2. Did the caseworker look like he was more in need of help than you?

3. Did they ask you questions about why you weren't working? If so, were they jerks, or neutral?

Thanks,
hh

Last edited by handsomeharry; 12-25-2009 at 08:42 PM.
#3
Old 12-25-2009, 09:11 PM
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So what model Cadillac do you drive? (I keed, I keed! I think "Welfare Cadillac" is an incredibly offensive song.)

But along those lines, I'm sure that attitude exists. Have you been subjected to disapproval -- either subtle or outright?

How does it work? When you're checking out at the store, do you just swipe your card through the EBT reader and it applies your EBT allotment against your total of eligible purchases?

I know EBT benefits can't be used for tobacco and alcohol. Can you use it for any non-food items, like ibuprofen or tampons or aluminum foil?

Has your EBT benefit affected the way you plan meals, buy groceries, etc.?

What does EBT stand for, anyway?
#4
Old 12-25-2009, 09:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by handsomeharry View Post
1. Do you use self help lanes at the supermarket, and does the card work there, or do you need a live clerk to take care of that?
I shop for food at three places on a regular basis. One is the local butcher shop, which has comparable prices to the supermarket but lets me buy as small a portion as I want without any hassle. Another store is Aldi's. Another store is Meijer's Of those three, two have no self-help lanes, only Meijer's does. And Meijer's self-help lanes do take EBT cards. So, for my shopping habits, where there is a self-help lane I can use my benefit card there with no problem. I usually go to the live clerk lane, though, because I tend to shop infrequently and thus have a fairly large amount of stuff, more then they really want you to take through self-help.

It wouldn't surprise me if there is considerable variation in whether or not self-help lanes take EBT or not these days.

Quote:
2. Did the caseworker look like he was more in need of help than you?
Nope.

Quote:
3. Did they ask you questions about why you weren't working? If so, were they jerks, or neutral?
Actually, I am working, I just don't have enough work. My case worker at the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA a.k.a. "welfare office") was very decent about the whole thing, and very helpful at instructing me as to what documentation was necessary to get full credit both for my work (I'm self-employed at present, it complicates things - I'd much rather be on payroll but when I couldn't get such a position I did what I had to do and could do) and for my husband's disability application.

While we were assembling that, I had to go to the IMPACT program (I forget what the acronym stands for exactly and don't feel like looking it up at the moment). THOSE gals were a bit on the jerk side, but I quickly figured out that their attitude had a lot to do with the average person they were dealing with, many of whom are dysfunctional. Of course they were skeptical when I said I shouldn't be in their program. But I stayed polite to everyone and followed the rules/program while I was in it no matter how much of a pain in the ass it was. When I was able to get my program status officially changed and no longer had to go to their program they were quite pleasant, as clearly I was on the level. Also, like I said, I'd been quite pleasant to them, funny how that works.

Work is very thin right now. However, any day I am not working for money I am looking for paying work, starting at nine and ending 4:30 or 5 (with time for a good, nutritious lunch). The only exception is that I took the last few days of this week of for the holidays. Starting Monday it's back to work (either doing it or looking for it). The biggest frustration with IMPACT is that some of what I do to get work, such as phoning potential customers, or following up on jobs I get as a contractor, they don't accept as "looking for work" even though that is what has gotten me most of the work I've had over the past two years. It is very oriented towards getting a payroll job and not at all towards the self-employed. I didn't argue, though, I just had to make sure I did enough "regular job search" to meet their requirements, document it properly, and attend their required meetings (again, not oriented towards me - most of it was about childcare and geared towards young single mothers. I am middle-aged and childless). I have several days of work with one customer scheduled for next week, and more with another the first week of January.

All of which is getting a little off track.

I was asked how I was paying my bills, which information I provided as requested. This was figured into how much a month we receive in food stamps.
#5
Old 12-25-2009, 09:21 PM
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Threads such as "ask the ....." belong in MPSIMS. Moved from GQ.

samclem. Moderator, General Questions
#6
Old 12-25-2009, 09:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
While we were assembling that, I had to go to the IMPACT program . . .
What kind of program is this? Budgeting? Nutrition?
#7
Old 12-25-2009, 09:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by freckafree View Post
So what model Cadillac do you drive? (I keed, I keed! I think "Welfare Cadillac" is an incredibly offensive song.)


Since some of us on "welfare" these days were, only a short time ago, middle class or better it is entire conceivable that someone could own a Caddy and legitimately be on public aid. However, I am not one of them.

I have a 7 year old Toyota Echo and an 11 year old Ford Ranger pickup, both paid for years ago. I use the truck for hauling ladders and lawn mowers and such for gainful employment, although at the moment it has a broken torsion rod and damaged tie rods and I don't know how I'm going to fix that yet. I've gotten an estimate from a mechanic I trust and might be able to work out some barter for labor if I can find a way to pay for the parts, however, it is unsafe even to drive out of the driveway at this point, I will have to have it towed. Since I'm not mowing lawns during the winter I have some time to work on this problem. The car, at least for now, is functioning well.

Quote:
But along those lines, I'm sure that attitude exists. Have you been subjected to disapproval -- either subtle or outright?
Oh, yes - I have been criticized for having a leather coat, for example. Nevermind that my husband bought me that coat 10 years ago when we were well off and I've taken care of it. I've been blasted for having a computer at home (again, paid for years ago), internet access at home (there are examples of that on this very forum), and so on and so forth. This ties into the assumption that the only people on welfare are the generational welfare and that middle class people don't wind up in the safety net. We do, obviously. I still retain resources and assets I purchased back when I was solidly in the middle class.

I was required to document certain types of assets when I applied for the benefit. Some things count in assessing your current ability to support yourself, some don't. Among other things, I had to bring in proof of ownership of my vehicles which of course revealed what they were and their value.

Quote:
How does it work? When you're checking out at the store, do you just swipe your card through the EBT reader and it applies your EBT allotment against your total of eligible purchases?
Yep. And it's the same reader all the other debit/credit cards go through.

I pile everything into the cart just like before. The cashier (or me, in a self-help lane) runs everything through. I swipe my EBT card and the amount of eligible items is deducted from my food stamp (SNAP) account. Anything left over I pay for with my usual card, or a check, or cash. Very easy, eliminates guess work over what is eligible, and keeps nosy busy-bodies from realizing I'm on food stamps and giving them an opportunity to criticize my purchases.

Quote:
I know EBT benefits can't be used for tobacco and alcohol. Can you use it for any non-food items, like ibuprofen or tampons or aluminum foil?
Nope. Food and only food.

Some people receive TANF, which is cash assistance, which is another account on the same card. If you do see someone use an EBT card to pay for any non-food item they're using their TANF account, not their SNAP (which is the food part).

My household does not qualify for TANF, we only get SNAP. My employment (such as it is) has to pay for all other things other than food.

Quote:
Has your EBT benefit affected the way you plan meals, buy groceries, etc.?
Yes.

We qualified for $367/month for two people. This is, in fact, a more generous benefit than I expected. In part, it's because SNAP benefits were increased this year by the Obama administration. It is also because my husband is disabled, which allows for a slightly higher benefit level. Prior to getting this, I was budgeting only $280/month for food for us. The result is we actually have a higher food budget than before (keep in mind, I had a large garden this summer, I have a freezer full of home-grown vegetables which does help keep costs down).

So... now, when I bake muffins I can afford to add nuts to them. Instead of buying the cheapest fruit available I can buy a variety. Instead of a 3 pound bag of apples last time I went shopping I skipped the apples (a little tired of them) and bought two grapefruit, a pomegranate, several bananas, and a starfruit. I bought radishes to go with the salad lettuce. I did indulge in a 4 ounce piece of smoked salmon, outrageous, I know (I love smoked salmon). I restocked the pantry (this summer, when I actually had some surplus, I bought a stash of canned goods, which we've slowly been eating our way through). We'll be buying brown rice again instead of just white (which is cheap but not as nutritious). I bought some bacon - we haven't had bacon for about seven months. I did buy some snack food like chips and pretzels. I still haven't used all our money for the month.

So, for us, it has resulted a more varied and probably better diet. On the other hand, we're adults heading into middle age. If I was trying to feed, say, an 18 year old active man/boy it might be a lot harder to stretch the budget. Also, I have a fully equipped kitchen and I know how to cook from scratch. And, due to sparser than I'd like employment, I have the time to cook from scratch. When work picks up again I will likely be buying some convenience foods which cost more, but then I'll have some money coming in that could supplement the food stamps. I do have to report an uptick in income, so that could also result in a reduction of food benefits if I start earning significantly more.

Quote:
What does EBT stand for, anyway?
EBT = Electronic Benefit Transfer

SNAP = Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

TANF = Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
#8
Old 12-25-2009, 10:15 PM
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When you use your EBT card at any store do they charge you a user / transaction fee for the service?
#9
Old 12-25-2009, 10:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AuntiePam View Post
What kind of program is this? Budgeting? Nutrition?
Work

When you're on the program you either have to document a certain amount of job searching or actually do a certain amount of work per week, 20-35 hours depending on circumstances (it's a bit complex, and I don't fully understand their formulas). So, if you aren't employed you need to document, say, 25 hours of looking for work a week. This includes filling out applications, interviews, and attending IMPACT required workshops. If you get, say, 10 hours of work then you have your 10 hours of work and you'll need 15 hours of additional job searching. If you get 30 hours of work a week, congratulations, your job fulfills your requirement.

If, after 5 weeks, you have not secured employment they will enroll you in a community work program of some sort, I'm not clear on the details. Basically, you'll do work that is subsidized by the state in exchange for your benefits.

Education also counts. When I was there I met a woman who was enrolled in nursing school. Provided she attended classes and kept her grades up her schooling counted towards her required quota of hours.

Basically, the whole point is to get people working. Able-bodied adults must work under this program. If they don't ALL benefits are cut off.

If one member of a family fails to comply everyone in the family is cut off, even if everyone else is fully compliant.

Now, there are people who are exempt from this requirement. Among them the elderly, the disabled, and parents caring for infants or disabled family members. Also, people working a certain number of hours per week are exempt. In our case, my husband's disability exempted him, and between caring for him AND my average amount of work per week over the year (my work is variable, some weeks nothing, some weeks over 40 hours) we are exempt. The main problem was I had to document everything to the satisfaction of the state, which took me a week and a half, during which I was not only chasing documents but also having to comply with IMPACT. It was a hell of a week.

So far as I know there is no nutritional counseling for people on SNAP. It could be I wasn't in that part of the system long enough to encounter it. I don't know if there was budgeting education or not, again probably for similar reasons. However, from talking with the caseworkers I suspect that it is available.

The woman I spoke with most often at IMPACT in a one-on-one situation was ... politely probing. I was asked about what obstacles there might be to employment, including problems with other family members, transportation issues, and so forth. There seemed to be a genuine focus on solving any problems standing in the way of self-sufficiency. For example, I was asked about the condition of my vehicles. Apparently there is some money available for limited repairs and maintenance in order to maintain a client's ability to seek and keep work. I was going to ask if I could get help fixing my truck, however, since I am no longer in IMPACT I no longer have access to help from that source. Other people might get subsidized bus fare (we had one person with a seizure disorder who wasn't allowed to drive, for example). Most of this sort of counseling was private, but I did overhear other clients discussing how to enroll in GED or college level courses. There was a LOT of emphasis on childcare, including one woman seeking certification as a childcare provider who was being advised how to set it up as a well organized business. As it happens, my major obstacle was obtaining proper documentation. They were quite helpful in telling me what exactly was required and where to get it.

Back when I worked for the Census earlier this year 2 or 3 people on my work crew were on IMPACT at that point, so this wasn't my first encounter with the program, just the first time I was on it. From my viewpoint, I don't find it unreasonable to comply with such requirements in exchange for the state paying for my food even if some of the requirements can be a pain in the ass.

Last edited by Broomstick; 12-25-2009 at 10:22 PM.
#10
Old 12-25-2009, 10:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spezza View Post
When you use your EBT card at any store do they charge you a user / transaction fee for the service?
No.

At least, not so far. I am still learning the system. I'm not sure if there's a limit to how many times I can tap the account in a month. If there is, I haven't reached it yet.

Basically, I can only access the SNAP money by buying food. The TANF account, which case be accessed by ATM as well as by purchase, might well have different rules. As I said, though, I don't have a TANF benefit so I can't tell you any more about it.
#11
Old 12-25-2009, 11:39 PM
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I have a couple of questions: when you say you have to document, say, 25 hours of looking for work a week, could you clarify what that means? How do you spend 25 hours a week looking for work, and how would you document it? Does that mean you have to apply at various offices and fill out applications for 5 hours every day? That sounds like a part-time job in itself, only with no pay!

My second question is, are you allowed to have any money in the bank, or a CD, or do you have to have nothing in savings at all before you can get food stamps?
#12
Old 12-26-2009, 01:40 AM
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Education also counts. When I was there I met a woman who was enrolled in nursing school. Provided she attended classes and kept her grades up her schooling counted towards her required quota of hours.

Does this also apply to people enrolled in online schools? Naturally, I mean accredited online schools, not some diploma mill handing out "degrees" in Hypnotism.

ETA:

Errr..wait. Now that I think about it, I'm sure many people on programs like these might not be able to afford a computer or Internet connection. In other words: I'm an idiot.

Last edited by kidneyfailure; 12-26-2009 at 01:41 AM.
#13
Old 12-26-2009, 03:20 AM
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Quote:
Basically, I can only access the SNAP money by buying food. The TANF account, which case be accessed by ATM as well as by purchase, might well have different rules. As I said, though, I don't have a TANF benefit so I can't tell you any more about it.
When I looked into going on food stamps (back in the days when the things were actually bits of paper), seeds for growing food were also eligible. Since you garden anyway, that might be something to keep in mind.
#14
Old 12-26-2009, 04:46 AM
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What about health insurance, do you get some sort of help with that?
(I dont know the american system)
It sounds like a tough time for you, good luck.
#15
Old 12-26-2009, 08:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by salinqmind View Post
I have a couple of questions: when you say you have to document, say, 25 hours of looking for work a week, could you clarify what that means? How do you spend 25 hours a week looking for work, and how would you document it? Does that mean you have to apply at various offices and fill out applications for 5 hours every day? That sounds like a part-time job in itself, only with no pay!
Yes. Basically you need to fill out applications an average of five hours per day. Yes, it's basically turning looking for work into a part time job. Your "pay" is the benefits you receive from the government.

You need to record the name of the company, your contact there, and how long you spent filling out an app or interviewing. If you're applying on line (which is more and more getting to be the case) you need to print out the "thank you for submitting your application" most sites give you.

Quote:
My second question is, are you allowed to have any money in the bank, or a CD, or do you have to have nothing in savings at all before you can get food stamps?
You are allowed up to $2,000 in cash or equivalent, or $3,000 with a disabled family member. You are, after all, expected to pay rent, bills, purchase non-food items, etc. So a CD would count, but not most retirement plans since you can't easily get to the money. The eligibility requirements are here
#16
Old 12-26-2009, 08:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kidneyfailure View Post
Quote:
Education also counts. When I was there I met a woman who was enrolled in nursing school. Provided she attended classes and kept her grades up her schooling counted towards her required quota of hours.
Does this also apply to people enrolled in online schools? Naturally, I mean accredited online schools, not some diploma mill handing out "degrees" in Hypnotism.
Education has to be at an accredited school, whether bricks and mortar or on line.

Quote:
Errr..wait. Now that I think about it, I'm sure many people on programs like these might not be able to afford a computer or Internet connection. In other words: I'm an idiot.
Correct (about computers, not that you're an idiot ). The IMPACT office I went to had two rooms with a half dozen computers in each, printers, and phones their clients could use in job searches. There are other sites in the county, such as the unemployment office and the public library branches, where this could also be done (although the library does charge for printing items). Some of the people there were coming in despite having an internet connection at home because their living situation was overcrowded/disruptive and the IMPACT office was a place to look for work in a quiet, undisturbed room.

Others, like myself, have computers and internet at home, usually purchased in better times (the computer is the big cost, not so much the internet).
#17
Old 12-26-2009, 08:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Bodoni View Post
When I looked into going on food stamps (back in the days when the things were actually bits of paper), seeds for growing food were also eligible. Since you garden anyway, that might be something to keep in mind.
Yes, that was mentioned as part of what is covered (interesting trivia: in rural Alaska it also covers the purchase of some types of hunting equipment). As it happens, I still have a stash of seeds from last year which should still be good, but it certainly makes contemplating expanding the variety of stuff in the garden easier.

If you're clever you can actually get some extra mileage from the benefit by, for example, using vinegar and baking soda as cleaning agents. However, judging by the folks I met during my visits to various offices, most of them are unaware of that sort of thing. I run a frugal and efficient household even in good times, such skills still serve me well now. Part of some peoples' problems is a sort of institutional ignorance in the family, where they aren't aware of some solutions to their problems, nor aware of how to find out information. Sad, really.


Quote:
Originally Posted by chromaticity View Post
What about health insurance, do you get some sort of help with that?
(I dont know the american system)
Over a year ago I got into a program called the Healthy Indiana Plan, limited to residents of my state, which subsidizes the purchase of insurance for those with low incomes, so we're covered. It's not the greatest insurance, but it does cover my husband's needs - without insurance, his medical costs exceed the amount we pay for housing. When I went to apply for food stamps some of the process was shortened because we were already in the FSSA computers due to being in that program.

Quote:
It sounds like a tough time for you, good luck.
Thank you, it has been a difficult few years. Even so, for people on welfare we're the "rich" ones, having some assets that others don't, no debt, and some education.
#18
Old 12-26-2009, 10:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
I still haven't used all our money for the month.
If you have money left over at the end of the month, does it roll over or does your account reset to zero at the beginning of each month?
#19
Old 12-26-2009, 10:29 AM
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It rolls over.
#20
Old 12-26-2009, 11:24 AM
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I take it that your vehicles do not count toward the $2000 maximum assets you're allowed to have? What else does not count? If someone owns their home (or has a mortgage), does that count?
#21
Old 12-26-2009, 11:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by broomstick
using vinegar and baking soda as cleaning agents. However, judging by the folks I met during my visits to various offices, most of them are unaware of that sort of thing. I run a frugal and efficient household even in good times, such skills still serve me well now.
That, and being able to garden are skills that matter. I don't know the status of "home ec" education these days, but cooking from scratch is cheaper and healthier than eating processed, pre-prepared food. Gardening even more so (though not available to everyone). We could learn a lot from our far more thrifty great and grand parents, eh? Because you and I may not always have the luxury of eating out and buying ready-made.

Good luck, and hopefully things will be better for you in 2010.
#22
Old 12-26-2009, 12:03 PM
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Broomstick, are you able (or interested) to use coupons with your card? My wife religiously clips coupons out of every source she can find, and shares and swaps them with anyone and everyone--if you're interested, PM me with specific things we might set aside for you.

Tripler
My midsection girth is directly proportional to the money she saves with coupons.
#23
Old 12-26-2009, 12:39 PM
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I don't know about coupons - when was the last time you saw a coupon for a pound of raw carrots? I don't use them much, because they never seem suited for what we actually buy. But thanks for the offer.
#24
Old 12-26-2009, 12:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratatoskK View Post
I take it that your vehicles do not count toward the $2000 maximum assets you're allowed to have? What else does not count? If someone owns their home (or has a mortgage), does that count?
If I recall correctly, any value of our vehicles over $4,500 is counted, and since our youngest vehicle is 7 years old, well, by the book they aren't work much. There are also some other rules about vehicles involving number of adults and such, but in our case, no, their value is not counted against us.

Home ownership does not count, so far as I know.

Retirement accounts do not count towards that $2,000 total.
#25
Old 12-26-2009, 12:55 PM
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Has anyone given you grief in the stores when using your benefits card?
Has anyone in your community or family had unkind words about your need for assistance?
#26
Old 12-26-2009, 01:01 PM
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Sorry if I missed this..... Was your husband's application for disability ever approved? I recall that it was taking a while and you guys had to fight for it.
#27
Old 12-26-2009, 02:18 PM
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Do you have to sort your eligible and non-eligible purchases?

I was behind a woman in the supermarket line the other day, and she had carefully kept aside a few non-eligible items (a convenience-sized orange juice and some kind of prepared food - probably her lunch). However, one of the items in her "eligible" pile turned out not to be eligible after all (saurkraut) and the fact that it had been rung up with the other stuff turned into a huge nightmare involving a manager and several cashiers fighting with the computer. She was paying with paper benefit checks - I don't know if that made a difference.
#28
Old 12-26-2009, 02:42 PM
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If the employment situation is so bleak, have you thought about moving somewhere that might have a better job outlook? What is it that you do? Do you feel that food stamp recipients should be required to undergo nutrition and cooking classes to teach them how to maximize their benefit? I was behind a woman last week paying for a cartful of food with her EBT card, and every single item was a prepared food. I wanted to tell her that she could buy a lot more boxes of instant pudding mix for the same cost of a 24-pack of pudding cups, but of course I didn't.

StG
#29
Old 12-26-2009, 02:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
I don't know about coupons - when was the last time you saw a coupon for a pound of raw carrots? I don't use them much, because they never seem suited for what we actually buy. But thanks for the offer.
Well, they are a lot less frequent, and you have to *dig* for them--but my wife is an expert on them and knows where to find them: For example, clementines - http://cutiescitrus.com/ Register in the upper right-hand corner for two printable coupons for clementines; print several, they're good through May. There are many great blogs out there but my wife uses UtahDealDiva.com.

There is a coupon for fresh dairy (milk or cheese) of any brand (sponsored by the Milk Council) about every other month. Around the holidays there are coupons in many store circulars for fruit/veggie trays. Kroger tip - go around the produce, meat, bakery and dairy and look for orange Manager's Special price tags; the earlier in the day the better. Many times they'll have items from the deli marked down as well but EBT may not apply to prepared foods.

This may help you, it may help other Dopers, on EBT or not. Hopefully it does help, even just "a skoach. . ."

Tripler
Just gotta keep eyes open.
#30
Old 12-26-2009, 05:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tumbleddown View Post
Has anyone given you grief in the stores when using your benefits card?
Nope. Honestly, I don't think anyone has noticed. In the past, once in a great while, I had noticed someone using such a card but I pretty much just ignored such instances as none of my business. I'm guessing a lot of other folks do, too. (In Indiana it is possible to have your food stamps, cash award, and medicaid accounts all on one card, so you might encounter such card use almost anywhere from an ATM to a local store to a health clinic)

So far the cashiers I've interacted with have been very kind as well, particularly the first time when I had questions about how to use the card at Meijer's. Of course, they see these cards all the time.

I have had people wish me a better year next year, and comment that a LOT more people are winding up on the system. On the other hand, I'm a slender white woman in her 40's without multiple kids in tow and a cart full of healthy food, I don't fit the stereotype of "welfare queen" at all. When I was on the Census crew some of the black women did speak of getting harassed for being "welfare queens" so I really think prejudice can be a huge factor in how someone is treated.

Quote:
Has anyone in your community or family had unkind words about your need for assistance?
No. My dad feels bad and wanted to send me more money. However, I have a sister who is in FAR more dire straits than I am and who needs more of the family resources than I do, particuarly if I can get help from elsewhere (My sister lost her home, her slot in college, her job, her car, and has had both her sons hospitalized this year with life-threatening problems. One of the boys still has at least another year and a half in rehab. She spent about three months this summer homeless. No question her problems are far greater than mine at the moment.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by vivalostwages View Post
Sorry if I missed this..... Was your husband's application for disability ever approved? I recall that it was taking a while and you guys had to fight for it.
Our application for Federal disability benefits has not yet been approved... but we are so far along in the process the state is allowing my husband to claim disability in the food stamp program. He's in a peculiar sort of limbo in regards to that - for many purposes the State of Indiana does have him in the system as officially disabled, but the Feds are another matter, and there's some overlap between jurisdictions regarding aid programs. That is why I had to spend a week and a half in the IMPACT program, providing the needed documentation was a little more complicated without him being on social security disability.

We probably won't hear from anyone on the Federal disability claim until mid-January. We are also considering firing our current lawyer and getting one more competant, but that's a completely different topic.

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Originally Posted by mischievous View Post
Do you have to sort your eligible and non-eligible purchases?
Not at the stores I shop at. Between the card, the card reader, and the store system it is done automatically.

Quote:
I was behind a woman in the supermarket line the other day, and she had carefully kept aside a few non-eligible items (a convenience-sized orange juice and some kind of prepared food - probably her lunch). However, one of the items in her "eligible" pile turned out not to be eligible after all (saurkraut) and the fact that it had been rung up with the other stuff turned into a huge nightmare involving a manager and several cashiers fighting with the computer. She was paying with paper benefit checks - I don't know if that made a difference.
Well, I'm puzzled by that - even a small bottle orange juice should be eligible as there are no size limits, as should sauerkraut. Also, there are no paper benefit checks for SNAP, the "food stamp" program. That sounds more like WIC, which still uses paper, restricts the sizes of certain items, and wouldn't include sauerkraut. So... she was probably using WIC (that's food aid for Women, Infants, and Children).

I remember back when I worked in social services we had a single father who got hell for using WIC - because he wasn't a woman. Well, no, he wasn't, but he was raising four kids, including an infant, and THEY qualified for WIC and they's why the kids got it - and being their parent he was, of course, doing the shopping for them.

I don't know why WIC isn't using a card and electronic funds - or maybe it's an option that not everyone takes advantage of. As I have no children I am not qualified for that program and know only a few things about it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by StGermain View Post
If the employment situation is so bleak, have you thought about moving somewhere that might have a better job outlook?
WHERE????

Here, at least, I have a safe place to live, low rent, friends, and a few people who can employ me. I am NOT UNemployed! I am not employed enough. If I went elsewhere I'd have the cost of moving, plus I'd be somewhere without friends or network. IF I could find a job elsewhere and IF I was hired, yes, I'd move, but moving somewhere cold doesn't strike me as smart right now.

Keep in mind - I have to move TWO people. My husband is unable to help me move. Well, OK, there is some very limited packing he can do, and he can sort stuff, but he can not help move boxes, carry things, or doing anything requiring much physical effort. It's quite a daunting prospect. Sure, I have friends willing to help me load a truck on this end... but who will help me unload it at the other?

Also, our health insurance is absolutely tied to being a resident of Indiana. If, for example, I moved to Buffalo (I have family there) the first thing that would happen is that both my husband and I would lose ALL health insurance. This is a problem, given my husband is disabled and has multiple health problems requiring daily medication.

Last summer I was doing well enough to actually save a little money for a few months in a row. Unfortunately, it being winter, the lawn mowing and painting of house exteriors is not possible, thus severely limiting my income. Hence, food stamps, to keep us fed.

Quote:
What is it that you do?
Right now? Cleaning, light carpentry, hanging dry wall, mowing lawns, painting houses (inside and outside). I have also worked at a candy store (but was laid off to do dropping business) and for the US Census (strictly temporary). Prior to that - adminsitrative support in corporate America. Also worked at a health clinic, briefly for Marvel Comics and First Comics, and free lance artwork. I have also been paid for my writing. Really, I can do a LOT of different things, and have - but there is very little work to be had around here right now.

Quote:
Do you feel that food stamp recipients should be required to undergo nutrition and cooking classes to teach them how to maximize their benefit?
No.

First of all - are you assuming that a person such as myself is simply sitting at home doing nothing all day? I either work for money - in which case I may well be gone all day, often doing manual labor that leaves me quite tired - or I am looking for work. I am not sitting at home. If you mandate that I must take classes - because why should you believe me when I tell you I know how to cook and such? - you WILL be taking time away from either my gainful emploment or looking for gainful employment. Does that actually help me?

Second - even if you teach it, it's not like you can force people to actually use the information. I think pouring resources into getting people employed makes more sense, because that's what will get them off the public dole.

Quote:
I was behind a woman last week paying for a cartful of food with her EBT card, and every single item was a prepared food. I wanted to tell her that she could buy a lot more boxes of instant pudding mix for the same cost of a 24-pack of pudding cups, but of course I didn't.
I appreciate that you didn't, because you don't know her situation.

I do most of our cooking from scratch, but recently my husband went into the hospital for surgery. That week I actually did get some paying work, I was looking for work, AND I was dealing with him being in the hospital. Do you really think I was going to spend a lot of time cooking that week? No. I ate out of boxes and cans, except for when I was at the hospital all day and spent money eating in their cafeteria. Sometimes the use of convenience foods makes a lot of sense. There is only so much me and so much time in the day. I have to figure out the most cost-effective way to get everything done that needs to be done.

Or take my husband - January and February of 2009 my mother was dying and I more or less spent 2 months living with her while she was in home hospice, in another state hundreds of miles away. Now, remember, my husband is disabled. It is dangerous for him to cook on a stovetop because he has diminished sense of touch in his hands, so he can easily burn himself severely without realizing it, he is weak so lifting many of our pots and pans when full is beyond his ability, and he is very unsteady on his feet, making him likely to fall, particularly when burdened. Forcing him to cook from scratch will only save money until he is injured and winds up in the hospital. Skin grafts required from burns suffered while cooking will cost the taxpayers FAR more than our food stamp allotment will! (And yes, my husband does have burn scars from before he stopped trying to cook. As it happens, he was on private insurance at that time, it was a long time ago, but just because we aren't paying for it I don't see the logic in risking it. He would still be the one suffering pain and scars from it) If I must be away for awhile he eats convenience foods out of boxes and cans because it's a hell of a lot safer for him to heat stuff in the microwave than to cook it from scratch on a stove or in an oven (that is one reason the disabled get a slightly higher allowance on the program, to allow for precisely that situation).

Or how about my sister, who was homeless part of this year? She didn't have a kitchen. HOW would she make pudding mix into pudding without a kitchen? She didn't look homeless, she kept herself clean, wore decent clothes, etc., she wasn't living in a cardboard box out on the street, but she was still homeless and without a kitchen for a couple months. What choice did she have?

That's my point, you can't know what situation these people are in. Was the woman you saw working two jobs leaving her no time to cook? Is she working AND going to school, again leaving her with little time to cook? Did she need food a disabled person or child could safely prepare? Was she homeless/in a shelter with very limited cooking facilities? Or, yes, she could simply be making very poor choices. That is certainly a possibility, but you can't know that.

Yes, yes, I, too, feel frustration when I see someone overweight with kids in tow load up a cart with frozen boxes and junk regardless of how they pay ... but I don't say anything because I don't really know what's going on with those people.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you only get so much a month. Sure, load up a cart with lobster and steak.... but you won't have enough money to buy a month's worth of food at those prices. If you run out you run out, which can be a powerful incentive to learn to make better choices. The benefits are generous enough to allow you to eat well, even have an occasional indulgence, but you can NOT rack up a normal suburban middle class food bill with this. You CAN'T have steak and lobster every night. It works out to around $4 for every meal. Doable, yes, but hardly extravagant. Granted, some meals come in considerably under that price, which allows for some higher priced meals a few times a week, but it's not extravagant living by any stretch. If ever you DO see me buying a lobster we'll be eating beans and rice the rest of the week. I do buy steak.... which I cut up for stir fries or stews. So 1 steak I'll get at least 2 and sometimes as many as 4 meals out of it.
#31
Old 12-26-2009, 05:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tripler View Post
Well, they are a lot less frequent, and you have to *dig* for them.
I'll keep that in mind, but then we're back to the time and energy problem. Right now, it might make more sense for me to seek coupons on thinks like toilet paper which I have to pay for with MY money - and I do use such coupons when I find them.

Quote:
There is a coupon for fresh dairy (milk or cheese) of any brand (sponsored by the Milk Council) about every other month. Around the holidays there are coupons in many store circulars for fruit/veggie trays. Kroger tip - go around the produce, meat, bakery and dairy and look for orange Manager's Special price tags; the earlier in the day the better. Many times they'll have items from the deli marked down as well but EBT may not apply to prepared foods.
It depends. HOT prepared foods no, they don't qualify, but a surprising number of cold prepared foods do. Sometimes you just have to try and see if it goes through as qualified or not on the reader machine.

Quote:
This may help you, it may help other Dopers, on EBT or not. Hopefully it does help, even just "a skoach. . ."
Yes, and if it doesn't help me it certainly might help someone else.
#32
Old 12-26-2009, 07:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
Well, I'm puzzled by that - even a small bottle orange juice should be eligible as there are no size limits, as should sauerkraut. Also, there are no paper benefit checks for SNAP, the "food stamp" program. That sounds more like WIC, which still uses paper, restricts the sizes of certain items, and wouldn't include sauerkraut. So... she was probably using WIC (that's food aid for Women, Infants, and Children).
That's entirely possible. I was curious, but I wasn't going to try to hang over her shoulder to see who was writing her benefit checks - that was obviously none of my business. I limited my role in the interaction to not acting annoyed by the clusterfuck that wasn't her fault at all.

I just thought it was odd - she was buying a load of groceries that any nutritionist would have given a gold star, including lots of milk and fresh vegetables, rice, beans, and canned and frozen vegetables (presumably for later). Why the canned corn was okay but the canned sauerkraut wasn't... I just don't know.

Last edited by mischievous; 12-26-2009 at 07:59 PM.
#33
Old 12-27-2009, 01:30 AM
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The thread made me curious, and I checked and found out that CostCo will soon start accepting EBT at all their locations. The $50 a year membership isn't covered, but they aren't especially rigid about how they define members of a family, so I imagine two families could pool one card. You can save a considerable amount of money at warehouse clubs.
#34
Old 12-27-2009, 05:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mischievous View Post
I just thought it was odd - she was buying a load of groceries that any nutritionist would have given a gold star, including lots of milk and fresh vegetables, rice, beans, and canned and frozen vegetables (presumably for later). Why the canned corn was okay but the canned sauerkraut wasn't... I just don't know.
I worked part-time as a supermarket cashier back when I was in high school in Pennsylvania, and one thing I clearly remember from that time is that the WIC list was weird. At that time (late 1980s) WIC covered a smaller number of categories than it does today - no vegetables, most importantly - so I don't know how that works. But, for instance, for breakfast cereals, a customer could only use a WIC check to buy a brand listed on the poster or a generic or store-brand equivalent. Obviously they wanted the customer to choose something more nutritious than Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs, but not all cereals that appeared to be low-sugar and reasonably nutritious were included. Also there was a size restriction, so even though the big bag of our store-brand Cheerio knock-offs was cheaper than the smaller box of actual Cheerios, the customer had to buy the name brand because the store brand packaging was too large. And the cheese had to be a domestic variety, even if an imported variety was on sale for the same or a lower price. I don't know how much the system has been simplified - for the sake of both the families who use it and the cashiers who serve them, I hope a lot - but it certainly has a history of being full of unpredictable complications.

We didn't get a lot of food stamp customers (many WIC clients don't qualify for food stamps) but one incident stands out in my mind. On July 2nd or 3rd one yar, a woman came through my line with hot dogs, ground beef, rolls, potato chips, pretzels... and she paid for them with food stamps. The woman behind her started snarling about her tax dollars going for junk food like that. The customer with the food stamps lost her temper and said she'd been careful all through May and June so she'd have extra stamps to give her kids a Fourth of July picnic just like all the other kids. Well, this teenager was deeply embarrassed by the scene... Madame Snarkypants, on the other hand, didn't seem bothered a bit. Apparently if you're on benefits you're not allowed to celebrate holidays....
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#35
Old 12-27-2009, 09:40 AM
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Oh, yes, that's true about Snarkypants People and poor folks having holidays. There really is a type of person out there who wants the poor to suffer, we've seen it in other threads on this board, and they are VERY judgmental.

I've gotten crap from people who insist my job search should be 24/7 with nothing else in my life until I get a "real job". Um, right. I'll job search from 9 to 5 (or 8 to 4 or whatever) and I do - outrageous! - take a lunch break. Basically, I treat it as a job. And that means I get days off, like, say, the weekend. If I don't I'd go insane or my health would suffer or both.

That IMPACT program I mentioned? They gave their clients Christmas Eve and Christmas off - in other words, no job searching required, they get credit for those two days. A "paid" holiday if you will. I'm sure there are folks out there who would scream bloody murder over that, welfare people getting a holiday, but screw 'em. IMPACT tries to set up the job search as if it's a job (or as I put it - your job is to look for a job) and what's a common feature of jobs? That's right - paid holidays. There's also a means to call in sick if you have the flu or something and really shouldn't be out spreading germs while job seeking. In other words, it helps prepare people who have never had a job for some of the features of having a job and not by lectures or simply telling them but by it's very structure.

Likewise, the woman who saved all May and June for her July 4th picnic? That's budgeting and planning. These are immensely valuable skills for ANYONE Yet she is being criticized for collecting her "prize". The very people who criticize the poor for being lazy, shiftless, and without foresight are the very ones who seem to pounce fastest when someone poor demonstrates such skills as frugality, foresight, and planning. That picnic didn't cost the taxpayers anything additional, it wasn't extra - it did mean some poor folks might enjoy their day, and that, to me, seems to be the root cause of irritation in many of the Snarkypants crowd.
#36
Old 12-27-2009, 03:03 PM
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I've been on "food stamps" before...currently not eligible since I am a widow who receives SS benefits for myself and the children and they count that as "unearned income" (NOT! That is money my late DH earned before he died, dipshits!) so even though I was/am unemployed (currently a FT college student) and barely scraping by, I was over the limit. Something to be aware of...had that income been earned by me through working, I would certainly have qualified for benefits, but because it was in the form of death benefits, nada.

Also, foods from the deli are NOT covered by EBT. Anything that is prepared, (even, as I learned once, a make it yourself, by the pound salad from a grocery store salad bar) is not eleigible. That's why the cluster [email protected] at the check-out. Silly that you can buy soda pop, candy, all sort of costly and/or junky processed foods off the shelf, no deli stuff, no matter how cheap or healthy.

This month, being between terms and STILL waiting on my student funding to be released (should be in a few days), I have had to use my sis-in-law's EBT card twice to keep us fed. (then I will pay them back in cash when I get my funding). Yes, I know, not kosher, but neither is a family of 3 starving.

Last edited by InterestedObserver; 12-27-2009 at 03:06 PM.
#37
Old 12-27-2009, 03:38 PM
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Illegal, but I'm not going to say squat - the moral good of keeping a family fed outweighs the technicality in that case.

I keep thinking there's something that's been overlooked or that will come back to haunt us, then we'll be nailed by a "gotcha!" and be forced to pay back everything with fines on top of it or some such. Probably just a little paranoia speaking, but I've had so much crap happen to me these past few years I'm a little twitchy.
#38
Old 12-27-2009, 03:53 PM
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In New York (and, I think California and some other places) there has been a big push recently to make EBT accepted at city Farmer's Markets. Do you see something like that being helpful to you personally if it were to be implemented in your area (or if it is already)?
#39
Old 12-27-2009, 04:02 PM
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Here in Oregon you can use EBT at farmer's markets (at least if the market accepts it/has the means to process it).

On getting "gotcha'd", we never had a problem, even though our income flucuated a lot since we were both self-employed at the time. What they did was set our benefits and set a level of income we could reach before we had to report any changes. As long as you report any income over that limit in a timely manner (within 10 days, I think it was) you are fine.
#40
Old 12-27-2009, 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Hello Again View Post
In New York (and, I think California and some other places) there has been a big push recently to make EBT accepted at city Farmer's Markets. Do you see something like that being helpful to you personally if it were to be implemented in your area (or if it is already)?
Not really.

First of all, I have a big garden out back where I get most of my fresh vegetables during the summer, so I don't frequent Farmer's Markets. (I do want to try a paw-paw, which don't grow in my yard, but I've yet to see any for sale around here despite it's alternate name of "Indiana banana".)

Second, at least in my area, Farmer's Markets tend to have notably higher prices than the stores. Requiring the vendors, who tend to be small scale farmers, to purchase the equipment required for EBT readers strikes me as something that will only drive the prices up further. If something could be worked out that doesn't impose further burdens on either the farmers or the poor people using the system fine, but I'm not sure how that would work.

Maybe, if it was a market sponsored by a large municipality and it was large enough in size it might be practical for the sponsor to provide such equipment as it would potentially draw in even more people and result in more profit for all, but the roadside stands and small scale markets that exist in my area... I just don't think it would be a good idea. You have to let the vendors make some profit, otherwise why would they come? And you need to keep the prices on the merchandise reasonably competitive with local stores.

There's also the added wrinkle in my area of the Amish farmer. The Amish are, as we all know, a bit spotty in what technology they will deal with. When I worked in the Chicago Loop there was an Amish bakery that sent people out to the big skyscrapers during the week to sell their wares. They would take cash or check but adamantly refused to get a credit card reader or accept any sort of card for payment, even when it cost them business. They had plenty of business otherwise, apparently. Amish produce and products are a significant draw at local markets in my area, even more so heading east. I'm not sure how that would work with everything else.

So... in sum, in some areas it would work just fine but in others requiring EBT as payment may, in fact, work against these very small local markets.

Many food stamp recipients do not receive a full benefit, it's a supplement to their food budget not the whole of it. As virtually all people receiving EBT has some discretionary income otherwise this doesn't prevent them from visiting Farmer's Markets and paying cash. By helping recipients get the basic, it may well free up some other funds for higher quality, specialty, or locally produced foods such as those found at farmer's market. If they choose to go. If it's important enough to vendors/sponsors of farmer's markets to capture the "food stamp" crowd they'll figure out a way to do this without it being mandated. Since EBT folds in with accepting credit cards and debit cards this should be easy to incorporate in any venue that accepts the latter, which would, again, capture more potential customers. Just have to wonder at what point doing that becomes cost-effective.

Last edited by Broomstick; 12-27-2009 at 06:36 PM.
#41
Old 12-27-2009, 06:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InterestedObserver View Post
On getting "gotcha'd", we never had a problem, even though our income flucuated a lot since we were both self-employed at the time. What they did was set our benefits and set a level of income we could reach before we had to report any changes. As long as you report any income over that limit in a timely manner (within 10 days, I think it was) you are fine.
That's what they did for us, and they also told us the "within 10 days" rule. If I have a sudden uptick in my income I'll certainly let them know. I would be thrilled to be making too much to qualify for this program.

Income wise we could have qualified earlier this year, but we had too much in savings/assets so it wasn't until we spent those that we qualified for the program.

Last edited by Broomstick; 12-27-2009 at 06:38 PM.
#42
Old 12-27-2009, 07:12 PM
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I don't think WIC has gotten any more simplified. I know Nevada uses EBT/Debit cards for the state social services but a few weeks ago I recall a shopper being handed 2 8oz blocks of cheese and being told they weren't on the list but 1 16oz block of cheese was. I've never been involved in WIC but it seems like it is more of shopping list to follow then a freeform "food money" program like food stamps. Sort of like a food pantry that doesn't rely on donations or even a distribution site.
#43
Old 12-27-2009, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by gaffa View Post
The thread made me curious, and I checked and found out that CostCo will soon start accepting EBT at all their locations. The $50 a year membership isn't covered, but they aren't especially rigid about how they define members of a family, so I imagine two families could pool one card. You can save a considerable amount of money at warehouse clubs.
Sam's Club accepts EBT as well. It's a huge help.
#44
Old 12-27-2009, 08:10 PM
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Funny they are still called food stamps. There was a time that they were stamps in different denominations. Now it is a credit card.
#45
Old 12-27-2009, 08:19 PM
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It's like saying "your phone is ringing" when it's really playing a fully orchestrated MP3 of Beethoven's Fifth - language is funny that way.
#46
Old 12-28-2009, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
Also worked at a health clinic, briefly for Marvel Comics and First Comics, and free lance artwork.
Off topic, but do you have an online portfolio?
#47
Old 12-28-2009, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
Oh, yes, that's true about Snarkypants People and poor folks having holidays. There really is a type of person out there who wants the poor to suffer, we've seen it in other threads on this board, and they are VERY judgmental.
These sorts of people have never known what it's like to be poor. They're the same assholes who believe that if you don't have a steady job, then you should never be allowed to treat yourself, even if treating yourself only means buying $2 VHS tapes at the thrift store or buying an occasional six pack of cheap beer.

Last edited by joebuck20; 12-28-2009 at 01:27 PM.
#48
Old 12-28-2009, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by HeadNinja View Post
Off topic, but do you have an online portfolio?
No, I did that work 20 years ago. Some of the backgrounds in the first Punisher graphic novel are mine, but I took money over official credit for the work. Some of my background work appeared in First Comics Badger, Grimjack, and Tailgunner Jo. For Marvel I worked as an assistant to the main colorist on the Punisher during the latter half of her first pregnancy and during some of the first years after that (a young child can make working at home difficult, especially at the toddler stage in a home with lots of pretty art supplies to get into). It pretty much predated the Internet as we currently know it. I also did some work on one of the Buck Godot graphic novels. Phil Foglio wrote and drew the books, but other artists did work on the project, particularly the coloring and lettering.

After awhile I moved on to other things
#49
Old 12-28-2009, 08:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
Oh, yes, that's true about Snarkypants People and poor folks having holidays. There really is a type of person out there who wants the poor to suffer, we've seen it in other threads on this board, and they are VERY judgmental.

I remember one of these threads in which a poster said he disagreed with food stamps going to EBT cards because he thought the "embarassment" of using paper stamps was a better incentive for people to get off of them. Ridiculous, but unfortunately a lot of people share this attitude.

Personally, I don't think it's anyone's business what people on food stamps buy. I kinda doubt that most buying junk food are really doing it because they've bought healthy all month and are giving themselves a treat, but it wouldn't occur to me to think I know better what other families should be eating. And this is one reason why I think the EBT card is a wonderful substitute for the old food stamps. No one has to know how you are paying unless you tell them.

I hope things get better for you and your family. Until then, don't let anyone make you feel bad about being on those benefits. That's what they are there for.
#50
Old 12-28-2009, 10:29 PM
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Oh, I don't feel bad at all. We've eaten better this month than we have for nearly a year. What we were eating before was nutritious enough, but now we have variety we didn't before, especially in regards to fruit.

Today while shopping a cashier actually mis-entered into her machine, thinking I was using a debit card (probably remembered me, a regular, using that form of payment in the past). Well, yes, it's that unnoticeable I guess.

Both that lady and the lady at the butcher shop where I buy most of my meat remarked to me that they're seeing more and more people using those cards in my area. Seems they always see an increase during the winter because of some people having seasonal work, but it's still more than usual. The owners of local shops have no problem with EBT users - people with an EBT card sometimes start buying more food than before, such as myself, which is good for their business. Or they buy more than just ground beef at the butcher (I bought a round steak - that will be a couple stir fry dinners - bacon and sausage instead of just ground beef) which also helps the bottom line.

Pretty much done with shopping for this month, but I still have $30 left over in the account. Guess I'm not one of those greedy, junk-food slurping welfare queens after all! My pantry is fully stocked, meals are planned for the week... I'm not going to simply buy food because I can, I'll buy what I'll use and if there's money left over so what.
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