I still keep my EBT card with my other sentimental items like movie tickets and family photos. While I was a new mom and struggling to make ends meet while in school and working 20-30 hours a week, government programs helped keep my family afloat. I look back to this period with fondness and recognize the immense blessing it was to be able to birth my son at no financial cost, care for my son’s thyroid condition through Medicaid, and not have to worry about where our next meal was coming from. Government assistance programs allowed me to be a mom, make ends meet, finish school, and create the life I wanted.
Then, my world got turned upside down when my food stamps were denied because I made .82 cents over the cap. I was able to recover but it wasn’t easy. Fortunately in the last year, I got a stable job with good pay and benefits but for many families, this isn’t how this story winds up. Cuts like this can wreak total havoc on families.
So when I heard about Integrating Resources, 9to5’s focus groups on improving public assistance and low-wage work this past January, I knew I had to be a part of it. As participants in the focus groups (which have happened in Colorado, Georgia, and Massachusetts), we were a part of the initial story collection that is laying the groundwork for life-changing policy initiatives. Being in that room with so many other parents was incredibly validating, healing, and empowering. We knew our voices mattered and that the findings that came from our group are not just going to wind up in some dusty report but instead, our words will continue to take shape and make better policies for all parents.
As soon as the focus group wrapped up, I became a member of 9to5. I’m so thankful for this experience, for being heard, and for the opportunity to listen. Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work!