CURIOUS WEDNESDAY // food stamps

Over the past few months I have written some fairly subjective stories about this show or that movie, even a story about a creep-tastic stalker accompanied by an amazing video. I was going to write this one a few weeks ago but first I had to write the

aforementioned creepy prelude

to this helpful little bit.

Flashback – after hearing the said creep boast for weeks about his multiple benefits cards [supposedly he had both his and his ex-girlfriends aka last identity theft victim] I realized that I, a white girl recently from the suburbs of Boston, with a college education was not only unemployed [according to the IRS] but also an exemplary candidate for the federally subsidized benefits program in New York. Thanks to my cash only income and cash only rent payment, very little money flowed through my bank; I had virtually no profit. However, as benefits are determined per household [I guess they assume you and your roommates pool money for food?] I claimed virtually nothing over rent, stating that my roommate [you have to bring a lease, 2 forms of photo ID, pay-subs / letter from “employer” and a 12pg application] paid all of rent, and that I got paid $10/hr for 4hrs per week distributing flyers for a party. For this, I made up a receipt from my supposed boss [me], using a co-promoters name and signature below my promotional business card which I had stapled to the top of a receipt. I was so nervous about this forgery that I had actually forgotten to include my own name on the “pay stub”. For this, I had to return to the offices [in a building only slightly less confusing than the labyrinth of where you go to have parking violation hearings] a few days after my initial application, wait an hour to submit it as proof, and another 2hrs for a receipt stating that I had submitted proof of employment [which of course got lost, causing them to call me in for the first of a number of pointless hearings].

The catch is, when you say you don’t work, you have no excuse to rescheduling a hearing. Within a brief month or two of receiving my card [which I had to pick up in the city, rather than the one in brooklyn I had been walking to], my balance was no longer being replenished on the 6th of every month. I soon received a letter in the mail, stating that I had not submitted the required proof and employment [which I had the long awaited receipt for – useless] and was going to be called in for a hearing shortly. A week or two after the first letter, I received the second letter stating that I had a hearing in downtown brooklyn, at a 3rd location [a labyrinth worse than the first].

I had done a good job dressing in anonymous ready-to-wear and no make-up for the afternoon trips to the claims office, but the morning hearing was a different story. Luckily I remembered to not put on make up or heels, but did mistakenly wear a particularly prominent set of knee high puma boots. Hiding them uncomfortably under the pine table of the inquisition booth, the judge took one look at my paperwork, and after a few preliminary questions to verify my identity, she promptly dismissed the case. My obligatory $4.50 metro card was issued to me at the end of another line and I was on my way home. I was giddy to know the three months of back pay were going to come through just in time for thanksgiving [which would have meant I was starving for months now, had I actually only $40/week to live on]. I spent it all in one foul swoop of mash and pies, as well as some bottles of wine my local organics food mart allowed me to buy with food stamps [totally illegal].

I received my next letter 6months in to my  benefits program, only 2 months after the first hearing; it was a form to send back, confirming the unfortunate state of my unemployment, and to let me know in these cold months about HEAP [which I promptly applied to and received benefits of something like $450 over the course of the winter – a droplet in the pool of $4k we paid for occasional winter warmth].

In the spring, I received another summons, this time they didn’t believe that I was residing in Brooklyn due to my Massachusetts mailing address and license. Rather, I received a temporary cease of benefits notice, which was then followed by a summons to the tall downtown Brooklyn maze of a building. There I was scolded gently by my case defendant / spanish translator for not having a NY license, after which the case was once again promptly dismissed. It was clear to me on this day that I had to make a decision: MA health insurance – or – NY food stamps.

A couple months later, in the summer, a year since I had printed out the outdated, 2008 revision of an application form from the state website [which I filled out, brought to the office, only to find out it was last years form and that I had to fill it out again], I received the annual resubmission letter, which I ceremoniously placed in the left side pocket of my benefits folder [which had grown to the size of the folded Sunday Times], and closed it like another chapter in my curious life.

Curious Wednesday is a weekly column written and driven by the personality of Ms. Marquise discussing the insides of her head in relation to things around her. New topics can be found on the Bushwick Daily every Wednesday, while you can find her productions listed on False Aristocracy.

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