This is the third installment in a series spotlighting the work the CPS Children and Family Benefits Unit (CFBU) does in helping students and their families gain access to the assistance available to them. Following is a story of a real-life person that CFBU was able to help. For more information about the CFBU click here or call 3-KIDS (773-553-5437).Watch for additional stories like this one in the coming days and read previous stories in this series here.
Story written by Earlisha Blackmon (pictured above), CFBU Liaison at Burke Elementary School; with CFBU since December 2008. For a full list of CFBU Liaisons, please click here.
Mr. N has been an electrician for well over 20 years. An older gentleman, he has a wife and two teen daughters, and is a proud member of his local union. But when the recession hit, Mr. N lost his job, where, after so many years, he was making almost a six-figure income. His wife, a teacher, was laid off soon after, taking away their one remaining source of income.
For a while they were able to get by, thanks to their savings and unemployment compensation. But when their savings and unemployment benefits ran out, they found themselves in unfamiliar financial territory. To make matters worse, the home that he’d prided himself in owning for years was foreclosed on due a botched refinancing agreement. Realizing that he had to apply for public benefits to feed his family was the final insult. Mr. N never dreamed he would ever be in this position.
When I first spoke with Mr. N, I got more than an earful as he described his initial experience with applying for SNAP and medical benefits at the local IDHS office. He spoke in great detail about how the intake worker made outrageous demands in order for his family to complete the application process for these benefits. He stated that she requested bank statements, car titles, and affidavits from neighbors to verify that he truly lived in the upscale neighborhood that he resided in. She also demanded that he bring his children into the office to verify they were his.
He said that he felt totally humiliated when he had to ask his neighbors to sign the statements because it was like publicizing the fact that this once financially sound family was truly on the brink of poverty. Mr. N said that after he met all of these outrageous demands, he was, in fact, granted benefits.
But after six months when he realized he would have to go through the renewal application process and, no doubt, the same humiliation as the first time, his pride would not allow him to do it again.
Mr. N said that he saw our flyer and decided to call to see if there was an alternative way of getting benefits. After all, his family still needed the assistance, there wasn’t any income in the household and he still had two teenage daughters to feed. I assured him that his experience was unacceptable and promised him that he wouldn’t have to go through such a horrific ordeal again.
Together, we completed an application, with a brief description of Mr. N’s initial experience, and submitted it to the IDSH worker who deals with all of the CPS applications. The worker made a point of having the application approval process go smoothly and quickly. Mr. N received his benefits within a week of applying—this time without any humiliation or hassle! He didn’t believe that such an experience was possible! Now, feeding his family is one less thing that he has to worry about.
I wanted to share Mr. N’s story because it is a familiar one. For many families who had never applied for benefits before, they don’t know what to expect, and sadly some have the same experience as Mr. N. That’s why I’m glad to be a part of CFBU. Being able to help good people who have fallen on bad times get through to the other side with some hope is incredibly rewarding to me.