Getting on welfare easier than getting off
Regardless of the definition of poverty or opinions on solutions for change, one thing is certain: Getting on government assistance is a lot easier than getting off. Many single mothers who become dependent on welfare programs find the road to self-sufficiency difficult.
Tanya Shavers, a 34-year-old mother of four who recently moved out of the Section 8 Payton Garden housing complex in Pearl, said living on the federal dole is a Catch-22.
“It seems like the system punishes you when you try to get up out of poverty,” said Tanya, telling the story of a $79 disability check that showed up one day from the father of one of her four children. The check shifted her — by one dollar — into a lower food stamp bracket, which made it tough to buy enough groceries to feed her family. Tanya wanted to send the check back since it hurt more than it helped.
Too much money on a paycheck will do the same thing. Public housing managers keep close tabs on tenants, making sure that any new money coming in makes assistance money go out. Shavers said trying to get off welfare is like putting water in a bucket with a hole in it.
At one time she was employed full-time working as a nurse’s assistant making almost $8 hour, but she had to cut back to part time. She is now on disability.
Tanya first became pregnant when she was 16 and moved out on her own and into a house with a new, much older boyfriend. The babies kept coming. Shavers is now a proud homeowner who teaches abstinence to her kids.
A tool showing the amount of money a Mississippi family with up to three children needs to be self-sufficient is the Mississippi Economic Policy Center’s “Self-sufficiency Calculator,” which can be found online at www.mepconline.org/self-sufficiency-standard. MEPC director Ed Sivak said the tool is an accurate way to calculate whether or not a family lives in real poverty.
According to the calculator, a self-sufficiency salary for a single mother with two children living in Hinds County, for example, is $36,176 a year — a salary that most likely could only be made at a job requiring advanced skills or a post-secondary degree.
The Self-Sufficiency Standard
How much a family needs to live in a Mississippi county without public or private assistance.
Family Type: 1 adult, 1 infant and 1 preschooler in Hinds County
Child Care: $836.33
Health Care: $378.44
Earned Income Tax Credit: ($72.27)
Child Tax Credit: ($166.67)
Making Work Pay Credit: ($33.33)
Self Sufficiency Wage:
Note: Housing category includes electric, water and gas bills. Miscellaneous category includes phone bill. Housing cost is based on HUD Fair Market Rents.
Source: Mississippi Economic Policy Center, www.mepconline.org/self-sufficiency-standard/