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  • St. Vincent de Paul

The Realities of poverty

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

I’m FINALLY getting to the bottom of my stack of rental/mortgage assistance applications, although maybe I shouldn’t speak too soon as my voicemail box filled

up twice this week which is over 60 voicemails and I haven’t checked emails yet, (over 200 applicants since July 1st as opposed to the previous normal of 10 or less each month), so if you’ve been wondering why it’s been difficult to connect with me, it has not been intentional by any means, I’m just drowning in manilla folders Now, before anyone hops on the Negative Nelly train, I would say that 80-85% of these applicants have NEVER reached out for help before and the amount of shame they already feel for doing so is hard enough to work through, so no Negative Nelly’s are needed. My question is … how can we, as a community, foster and cultivate resiliency with an economy and system that makes it almost impossible to become resilient?

Example: Single mother receives $15.50/hr. and is working full time. Hourly $15.50, Bi-weekly $1240, Monthly $2687 and Annually $32,240. She has two children, one in daycare and one in first grade, however; she does not receive child support because her ex-husband receives social security disability benefits. She does receive government assistance to help with childcare expenses, (say childcare cost is $200/week, assistance pays $100/week so she then pays the remaining $100/week, they have state health insurance which she does not have to pay for and they also receive $130 in FoodShare benefits each month.

To qualify for governmental assistance you must have an annual household income (before taxes) that is below the following amounts:

Household Size* Maximum Income Level (Per Year) 1 $19,392 2 $26,228 3 $33,064 4 $39,900 5 $46,737

Our single mother has been at her place of employment for 1 year and just had her annual review, she is an exceptional employee and received a 50-cent raise putting her new rate of pay at $16/hr.

Hourly $16, Bi-weekly $1280, Monthly $2773 and Annually $33,280. If you look at the Annual Household Income Guidelines, she no longer qualifies for benefits as her annual income is now $33,280 and the maximum to qualify is $33,064. This is just an example of what I see everyday, they do consider other expenses when adjusting income- I am not the expert in these programs…do not come for me .

So our single mother goes to work every day without fail, receives a raise of 50 cents per hour but in doing so she will lose her families health insurance (the insurance premium to cover her family through her employer will cost her $154/biweekly), she will lose her FoodShare benefits of $130/month, and also lose her childcare assistance (her daycare cost will now be $800/month as oppose to the $400/month prior to losing benefits).

New Annual Income $33,280 - Previous Annual Income $32,240 = $1040 which means her 50-cent raise will provide her family an extra $1040 throughout the course of the year. She will be losing $400 each month for childcare assistance ($400 X 12 months = $4800). She will be losing $130 each month in FoodShare ($130 X 12 months = $1560). She also loses her health insurance benefit, and the new plan will cost her $308/month ($308 X 12 months = $3696), please note that state health insurance often does not have a deductible to meet or out of pocket costs and copays for medications are USUALLY, not always, between $1 - $3. For those of us that do not have state health insurance, we know that there will be many more expenses for her and her children to receive healthcare moving forward.

So, what does this all mean? Her annual expenses will increase by $4800 (childcare) + $1560 (food) + $3696 (health insurance premium) = $10,056 but remember, her 50 cent raise only provided her family an additional $1040 annually.

Average rental cost in Marshfield = $800/month X 12 months = $9600/year Childcare = $800/month X 12 months = $9600/year Health Insurance Premium = $3696/year

Just these three basic expenses per year cost her $22,896 leaving her with $10,384 over the course of the year for any other expenses such as vehicle, vehicle insurance, groceries (the average family of 3 spends roughly $500 or more per month = $6000 per year), all those other medical expenses, phone, household bills, items like laundry detergent and cleaning supplies, and why don’t we just forget about the kids because she cannot afford them. Honestly, help me make sense of this.

Some would say, “she needs to find a better job” so if everyone went and found a “better job” what would happen to the small businesses that cannot afford to pay the higher starting wages - they would either have to close down or do more work with less staff which causes burn out and will also likely lead to less staff or they would have to raise their prices to accommodate for higher wages. Some would say, “she needs to get a second job”, now let's talk about finding an accommodating childcare facility that is open nights and weekends (I don’t know any other than in home), and the cost of that considering this mothers children are both too young to be left alone, and family time…who cares…we can add mental health counseling costs in a few years when her children feel neglected and abandoned because she’s always working.

Where am I getting at with all of this…I am not sure, maybe it is just my rant for the day after reviewing all these housing applications, but WE ARE NOT CULTIVATING RESILIENCY, the “American Dream” is not achievable for far too many and I fear that this is only going to get worse. We are creating a population of people who are depressed, stressed out, exhausted, and overworked. And we wonder why everyone’s mental health has gone to complete shit? (

(I apologize, I normally do not use profanity on social media but COME ON)!

I believe that Marshfield can do better, I have seen this community's amazing responses towards outreach efforts for so many different events and organizations. We have an amazing community with so many wonderful resources, but these resources have limited staff and limited volunteers and we CAN NOT do this work alone. What is your craft, passion, what are you good at? Take someone under your wing and teach them, start a work group, help us grow our community to be the best that it can be! Side note - I love the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, I think every single person could use a ‘Big Brother/Big Sister’ And if you have read this entire post, thank you, you are a freaking ROCKSTAR!

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