The history of welfare programs in the U.S. includes the fact that originally the program was designed for war widows. Most of these women were white and the program was meant to tide the woman, usually a mother, over until she could marry a new husband and be supported by him.
Today the image of a welfare mother is far different and usually is of a woman of color instead of a white woman. Women today are also more likely to have children outside of marriage and welfare is less likely to be for war widows.
How do you think these changes in recipients have affected the public opinions about welfare and about the recipients?
I think that very few recipients of welfare understand the history of the system. They don’t know how the system was created and what its purpose was. Realizing that the program was designed for war widows makes me view the system completely differently and it also angers me because of how the welfare is today.
I leaned on the welfare system when I was pregnant 5 years ago. I was ashamed and embarrassed to fill out the application and to meet with a worker and to get my EBT card. I was embarrassed when I went into the supermarket to purchase groceries and did my best to shield my card from the cashier and others in line. Why? Personally, I felt it was a failure that I couldn’t provide for myself. But what I also did know is that as soon as I was able to go back to work, I would and I would get off of welfare. I never looked at the program as a long term. It was there to help those in need and I was not going to take advantage.
The problem I see now in my community is that welfare is some type of game that people need to beat. They receive assistance, but have a job on the side they don’t report. They claim they don’t have money to pay rent or buy toothpaste and toilet paper but they have an Iphone, new Nikes, and their nails painted. Every.single.week. Welfare recipients tend to have a variety of resources available to help recipients get back on their feet. From job training programs to parenting classes to apartment help. The idea is that ok, people need help and we need to help them. Though some recipients take advantage. Welfare is not a career. So now the public opinion is that welfare is a crutch for people. It’s viewed as a means to help people become more dependent. And the fact that most recipients now are of woman of color only reiterates stereotypes within our society. Those women of color need help, that they are needy, and poor. It’s a sad sad reality based on why the program was designed. Of course not all recipients are devious, and like myself I appreciated the help, but also worked extremely hard to get off the system and did so in a year.
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