My day at the church can get all sorts of interruptions, including people coming to me for some kind of financial assistance. This happened the other day. The request was not new to me. Over these months, I’ve worked out a procedure/arrangement to fulfill this type of request.
I was surprised, though, when the person who I’ve worked with to fulfill the request asked me how to get help with heating oil. The person told me that s/he already used up her allocation for emergency fuel from the federal government. I provided the contact information for the Council of Congregations’ emergency fuel fund.
Honestly, I’m a little shaken up because this person has a full-time job, but it does not pay enough to live on. One might be tempted to say that s/he needs to budget better – and that may or may not be the case. Without knowing the particulars of this person’s finances, I’m inclined to believe it is not due to bad budgeting.
While I don’t have any proof that that person’s financial situation is due to low wages, consider some data I got the next day. In Massachusetts as of September 2012 there are 1 in 8 people who receive benefits from SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps). The percentage of SNAP recipients who are working families are 33% (just note that nationally, 41% of the SNAP recipients are working families.)
How is it that people who work full-time jobs have to seek emergency heating oil or have to receive SNAP? We don’t immediately think of people with full-time jobs as poor, but that’s reality. Too many of these families are on the edge. Too many are a serious illness away from bankruptcy. This is really wrong in a country with so much wealth.