Working with work requirements

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This is a continuing blog series by Lisa Williams, Feeding Wisconsin’s blogger in residence. Lisa will be sharing stories from her lived experiences, her fight against hunger, how she faced it down, and how she won.

She is now a Lead Recovery Specialist at a local non-profit helping others turn their lives around. Lisa is a current Fellow in the Ex Fabula Fellows Program. You can find the rest of her series here

I read last week that the Governor released his budget proposal that would change the FoodShare program and require parents with children to work 20 hours a week to be eligible.

As someone who was formerly on the FoodShare program, let me tell you that all I did was work and when I was out of a job, all I wanted to do was work to build a better life. What I didn’t want was to have a deal with a bureaucratic requirement that did not help me work or address the challenges that I had in finding work.

When I was a Certified Nursing Assistant in 1995, I was living in Chicago but working in one of the suburbs. I got up at 3:30 am to make sure I left the house at 4:30 am to get to work by 7:00 am. I had to take two buses and two trains just for the morning commute.

When I got off at 3:30 pm, I would turn it around and do the reverse in the evening, which got me home at about 6:00 pm.

The only reason I could do this was because my sister or my mother would babysit my young son. Well, that was only if my sister or mom and I were getting along at the moment. If we weren’t getting along, I couldn’t go to work. I was only making $5.25 an hour and I couldn’t afford childcare. And even if I could, what childcare is open at 4 am?

So I would be gone from my son all day and when I got home, I would play with him, make sure he ate, read to him, and then go to bed by 8:30 pm so that I could it all again the next day.

It was exhausting.

I am lucky to have made it through. Unfortunately, my story isn’t that special. There are many, many people in this same situation – traveling far distances to do tough work for low wages.

I wonder if the people making these laws knew how hard people like me were working and the challenges that we had or still have to overcome every day. If they did, I have to believe that they would be doing more to address those issues, instead of making it harder for people on assistance programs. This doesn’t even take into consideration some of the other challenges that single parents may have whether it’s mental, physical, or emotional.

These work requirements don’t even begin to address the basics of why people have difficulty getting to jobs: they need a living wage, access to dependable transportation and programs to help with the costs of transportation, childcare, and housing.

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