Next Steps and Red Tape

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. Usually, writing helps, but I haven’t taken the time to sit down with my prehistoric laptop and do my favorite variety of processing. But here I am at last. With the emotional support of a margarita, a bowl of popcorn, and my favorite Spotify playlist (yep, the one I made with The Match), I feel (sorta) ready to dive into the swirling mental maelstrom of the past week.

The other day, I had an illuminating talk with my blogger friend April (check out her blog!), who generously offered her two cents on how I could monetize/market/brand my blog content. Some of what we concluded is that I should consider shuttering this page to new followers, spend some time figuring out my public persona, and use multiple social media platforms to fine-tune and re-launch my blog content (primarily what I wrote for The Forty). She reminded me of what I already knew: much of blogging is putting in the hustle to build relationships and foster a sense of community. If you’re reading this, then know that you’re part of that community for me, and I’m so thankful for your continued engagement with my writing. I went into this blind, without an agenda beyond emptying my head of the aforementioned swirling maelstrom and attempting to actually learn something from my experiences in Dating Land. Little did I know that what I created would evolve to form its own shape.

Last Tuesday, I had a frustrating run-in with the red tape of my state’s social welfare system. About a year ago, I was unemployed and freshly divorced. My housing situation and bills were static, but until I found a job, my monthly income was about half of what it was. While I’m grateful for the child support I receive, I applied and was approved for state-subsidized health insurance for the children and I, as well as a monthly grocery stipend (in other words, an EBT card). These benefits were invaluable in keeping my household afloat while we were stabilizing post-divorce and in the transition months as I began my new job. Things are much more stable now, but when the renewal paperwork came in, I filled it out, as a matter of habit. The money never showed up, but my application wasn’t rejected based on my income. Rather, I was a victim of the overworked system. Initially, I got angry because it affected me. But my personal outrage gave way to a more generalized sense of righteous indignation. I’ve currently gone nearly seven weeks without benefits, and despite a half dozen messages left with ascending tiers of the social welfare hierarchy, I made no progress. My only recourse now would be to show up at a local DFCS office and camp out for an untold number of hours. How do people with fewer resources than I, with fewer social supports than I, with less familiarity with navigating bureaucratic systems….how are they to cope with this? Are they likely able to take time off work to go plead with a case worker for the benefits they are not only qualified to receive but without which they struggle to feed their children? It burns me up, and even though technically I could keep jumping through hoops to get money for groceries, I fear clogging an already overburdened system with my non-critical need.

The broken system has been weighing on me, though. The Match suggested I start an LLC and begin working to advocate for those families that are impacted by the state’s overburdened system and its woeful inability to protect and support the most vulnerable. I wouldn’t even know where to begin with that, but it’s not a bad idea…

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