(CBS Charlotte) — Too often, poor Americans are judged, criticized and labeled simply because they do not make a lot of money or because they are “welfare dependent.”
There are a plethora of stereotypes that surround Americans who are poverty stricken, and yet, society as a whole has limited knowledge about the realities of being poor in our country.
How do you picture the “average” poor family in America? Do you see a single, African-American mother chasing around her five children — while living in deplorable conditions? Or, do you picture a Caucasian family who lives in a trailer and “milks the system” because they are “too lazy” to work?
The truth is, every person experiencing poverty has a story to tell about how they became poor. Furthermore, being poor in American can no longer be treated as a strange or foreign concept — as over 100 million Americans rely on some type of government assistance to make ends meet. People fall into poverty for a variety of reasons — the unexpected loss of a job, or an unexpected death or illness in the family can quickly deplete a persons funds. Moreover, four in every 10 Americans lives paycheck to paycheck.
Here are the most popular forms of government assistance programs:
Today, around 47 million Americans receive food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) so that they can purchase food at the grocery story. To break it down, one in seven Americans rely on the government to prevent starvation. Additionally, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the biggest welfare program in America.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
This government program is designed for families who are generating little or no income. People who qualify for this program are generally expected to be actively seeking work. TANF is an emergency fund. Single mothers who cannot collect child support from outside sources also qualify for TANF assistance.
Health care in America is expensive. In fact, the average family spends more on health care than they do on groceries — an added expense that many people in our country simply cannot afford. Every state has their own form of medical programs designed for low income people, the disabled and the elderly. These programs are offered to medicaid recipients either for free or at a reduced cost. Medicaid covers doctors visits, routine health care, prescription medication, and dental care.
Counties and states throughout the country offer programs to help low-income people pay for their utility/energy costs.
Women, Infant, and Children (WIC)
WIC is a program that provides low-income women with education in nutrition, breastfeeding education for pregnant/nursing mothers, and food assistance for infants and children who are five-years-old and under.
Rent Assistance/Low-Income Housing
The United States Government provides rent assistance in the form of vouchers or provides low-income housing, such as Section 8 Housing to low-income people.
The government will assist with child care costs for low-income families so that the parent(s) can either work or go back to school to further their education.
The majority of people who rely on government assistance to get by are not “milking the system,” but rather they desperately need the welfare that they are granted to help them get through difficult times.
-Nichole Jaworski, CBS Charlotte