Have You Been Affected by Government Benefits?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

These are numbers that many of us know by heart now: 9.5 percent of Americans are currently out of work. Unemployment benefits have been extended from 26 weeks to 99 weeks. And still, the jobs just don’t seem to be coming back in a hurry. But here are some numbers that may be less familiar: One in six Americans is currently receiving some form of government aid, according to a recent survey by USA Today. Ten million Americans are on unemployment benefits, about 40 million receive food stamps, and 4.4 million are on welfare. Every single one of those categories has increased during the recession.

To talk about the impact on individual people, and our future, is Dr. Bob Lerman, a professor of Economics at American University, and a fellow at the Urban Institute, who specializes in employment and social policy.

Also with us is Donovan Marsden, who just recently got a job – at a significantly lower salary – after a year and a half of being unemployed.

Has receiving government benefits (food stamps, unemployment benefits, medicare) changed the way you perceive your identity? And do you feel differently when you're on benefits than when you're not? Share your story.


Dr. Bob Lerman and Donovan Marsden

Comments [5]

Kanajune from Tacoma, WA

I think it is much worse to need help for your family and not get it. My bipolar daughter, with two middle-school age kids, gets foodstamps because she only gets $500 a month for child support. I help as much as I can. Wash state will not help otherwise so she will soon end up in a shelter, can't pay $800 month rent. It is beyond pride for many people......if the help was there, she would gratefully take it in order to keep her kids from the much worse stigma of losing their home, missing school and going to a shelter!

Aug. 31 2010 11:53 AM
MMcleary from Miami, Florida

Imagine what society and our communities would be like if there were no safety net for people when the economy tanks and jobless rates skyrocket? How many people have read the great American Novel "The Grapes of Wrath" about the depression era? How many people today could really survive and watch their kids starve in the extreme way they did back then? Not many, I imagine. Don't knock the system. False pride is a sin. Third World Countries do not have government assistance.

Aug. 31 2010 09:51 AM
Byron from Detroit

I was on foodstamps after I lost my job at a college. I felt no stigma, knowing that these programs are why we pay taxes. I am now working and was glad for the help that unemployment insurance and foodstamps gave me. I would have starved and been homeless without them. Plus, my current employer is getting a tax credit for hiring me because I was a previous food stamp recipient.

Aug. 31 2010 09:33 AM
Patricia from Forest Hills

I'm not on food stamps now but as a child my family did receive food stamps for about 8 months. My father was laid off and my mom, as a seamstress, was only doing piecework, which paid very little. My parents came from Colombia. My mom kept telling us that in this country, unlike Colombia, my dad's lay-off didn' t mean we'd have to go hungry.She said that's why it's important to pay taxes. My father was so ashamed. But gratefully, he was eventually able to find another job. But everytime I pay my taxes, I think of her and her wise words.

Aug. 31 2010 09:14 AM
Lee from From SC in Ecuador

After a very successful 28 year career, the situation in the US simply decimated my business. I designed homes. Try as I might, I could not maintain my station in life. From '07 until '09 I lost almost everything. I reluctantly accepted food stamps. But it was my secret. There is very definitely a stigma about an apparently able bodied man using food stamps. I no longer get them because I have left the US to volunteer my skills in Ecuador. See you in 2013.

Aug. 31 2010 08:18 AM

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