Tonight I went to the market to buy food, only to find out my SNAP card had 0.00 dollars on it. I had to put almost everything back, which was so embarrassing. The glares of the woman behind me bored a hole. Was I like that ever, when I had money? I hope not. (all that standing and walking hurt for nothing!).
Normally on this day each month, funds are added for SNAP to my EBT card. The automated phone line I then called to find out what the problem was said they "closed my case", on January 8th (!!!)because, the voice intoned, I did not submit the required renewal documentation. The floor seemed to open under me. I had in fact submitted their re-application a month ago.
My newish poverty has taught me how some low income Americans live their entire lives. Getting by daily, weekly, monthly is a construction like a house of cards. Remove one linchpin and it can collapses. Small changes resulting in a deficit of even 1-2 hundred dollars per month (or less), can be make-or-break. SNAP is a linchpin for me, since I became disabled, too disabled to work at anything I can find. With rent 2/3rds of my disability check, life can't add up without SNAP. I can't see how I can do it. I also can't afford to move to a cheaper place-I'm priced out of the area. How would I pack anyway? How can you be homeless when it is impossible to physically for you to walk much, stand for more than a few minutes, or sit in a wheelchair? Homeless people have to stand in line for almost everything. I can no longer go to food pantries because of this same thing. I'll stop with the forward speculation now. It's so easy to catastrophize. Breathe.
I had received the SNAP re-application the 2nd week in December and mailed it out to them the day after-it was easy to fill out because there were no changes. They have it set up that way.
I want to scream, and also kick myself. Whenever I do any sort of document or official communication I always photo copy it, and remind other people also the wisdom of doing so. But I've been injured and ill, and lack the means as always to copy or scan anything at home. I need to go out to a copy center to make photo copies. Hurt knees means going down the stairs is an ordeal. And the form was so simple, it seemed like a formality (I'd not had to renew before). Stupid, stupid, stupid.
It infuriates me when Republicans, some Libertarians, and others vilify SNAP and those on it as a corrupt program full of cheaters. It is SO hard to get onto, in my experience. I have work experience gathering supporting documentation to meet requirements (in my case I was enrolling cancer patients onto clinical trials), so knew how to and did provide supportive documentation for each and every necessary point. I still was denied the first time and to this date no one can figure out why. I had applied through the generic state office-note I'm in MA so the people might be even more inclined to help theoretically than some places. It was a hungry 6 months after denial. I tried again because I wasn't eating well, this time going through my local office talking to an actual human being. I submitted the exact same data, identical application, and was approved. Because I was eligible and always had been.
Now the automated voice tells me that SNAP is no longer handled by local offices in my state. You no longer have your own assigned human being, ie case manager, who you deal with ongoingly. Instead, you call and after a lengthy phone tree, can be connected with a random "case manager", seemingly a different person each time. I find it difficult to believe that a random worker could be particularly motivated to help me or others they have no relationship with, if it appears I/we broke a rule. I have trouble believing it would be material to them when I claim to have sent in my application when I cannot prove it. I imagine they have a list of rules and are unlikely to be in the position to bend them. They may have less autonomy than people in local offices. I have in mind the first time the statewide office rejected my application which was identical to the one that was later approved. I will soon find out.
It just felt so damn cruel to hear the disembodied voice intoning that I had not been in touch with them to submit documents in 2 years so they closed my case. Period. I wanted to argue with that voice. Since they recently switched their system, did it/they think perhaps the mistake might be on Their end? I am only one person dealing with one application, while they have thousands. Isn't it more likely they lost my one of thousands than I lost my very important one of one? Why didn't they Warn me they were closing my case?!, This is what ran through my head, rational or not.
I strongly suspect the random person I might finally reach tomorrow will be saying the same thing. You didn't send it in. Period. I fear it will be like the first time I applied. I can't prove I sent their renewal documentation. My only logical supporting argument is that I'd have to be a crazy person to have not have sent it in, since my life setup hinges on receiving SNAP for food.
I'm sitting here at midnight wanting to "tell someone". It's excruciating to have to wait to move forward on this, for good or ill, until tomorrow morning. Now maybe I'll sleep some!
We will see. Let my intuition be wrong about how this will go tomorrow. Thanks for reading.
Addendum: wow Rec list! Am honored and touched. I didn't sleep last night unfortunately, so will be now and back later.