This is the fourth installment of a six-part 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 the final stories in the series in the next few days and read previous stories in the series here.
Story written by Sergio Obregon (pictured above), CFBU Liaison at the Calmeca Academy; with CFBU since August 2008. For a full list of CFBU Liaisons, please click here.
Claudia and Jose are proud parents of three beautiful children who attend Calmeca Academy located in Brighton Park on the city’s southwest side. Claudia and Jose are hardworking individuals who want nothing but the best for their children. However, the recent recession has it this family, like so many others, very hard. Now their main concern is providing their children with the proper nourishment for them to learn.
Since her husband was laid off last year, Claudia has been picking up a lot of the financial responsibility. Things have been very rough for this family. As Claudia shared with me, if you’re short on your rent, you ask your landlord to give you an extension. Or when you can’t pay the full balance on your gas bill you can ask the gas company if you can make payments. But when your child asks you for something to eat, you can’t tell them that you’ll feed them tomorrow or ask them to settle for a portion of their dinner. She said, “This is what would hurt any parent the most.”
Claudia is one of the millions of people in this country who never could have imagined that, one day, her family would apply for food stamps (now referred to as SNAP or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). She didn’t know even where to begin. But, by having a Children and Family Benefits Unit Liaison at the school her kids attend, it was convenient for Claudia to learn about the application process, and, after a couple of visits, she and her husband finally applied.
We first applied in September. The process is arduous at best, but, with staff cuts and so many families needing help, paperwork can be lost or processed inaccurately.
The first time we applied, Claudia and Jose’s application was denied for failure to submit income verifications required by the state to determine eligibility. After Claudia received the denial letter, she was very disappointed and didn’t want to continue with the process. I told her that her family was eligible for SNAP and that I would help her throughout the whole process to make sure her family got what they deserve. She finally agreed and we re-applied.
I contacted the Illinois Department of Human Services and requested that they review the application again as I thought a mistake had been made. They concluded that a mistake was made and the family was actually eligible for food stamps and should receive them. I called Claudia into my office one afternoon after she picked up her children and told her that I was able to resolve her case and that her SNAP benefits were going to be retroactive all the way back to September when she had initially applied. This meant that this family was going to receive more than $1,000 in SNAP benefits.
To that, Claudia said, “Sergio, I know I don’t show it, but I was beginning to stress. I didn’t know what I was going to do or what I was going to feed my kids this weekend. It’s when you least expect it and when you need it most that things just fall into place.”
With this assistance, Claudia and Jose are able to provide their children with the sustenance they need to be at their best in the classroom. And, of course, they are a lot less stressed.