By Kathryn J. Edin, H. Luke Shaefer
Jessica Compton’s relatives of 4 may haven't any money source of revenue until she donated plasma two times per week at her neighborhood donation heart in Tennessee. Modonna Harris and her teenage daughter Brianna in Chicago usually don't have any nutrition yet spoiled milk on weekends.
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Extra resources for 2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America
Yet economic need is readily apparent in the city’s trailer parks, cheap apartments, and government housing developments. Even farther south, the Mississippi Delta has long been among America’s poorest places, dubbed “the most southern place on earth” by the historian James C. Cobb, due to the fact that its cultural and economic history is so characteristic of the region. Once dependent on generations of black laborers to plant and harvest its highly profitable cash crop, cotton, the Delta’s economy has been largely given over to production agriculture—more often corn and soybeans now—which does very little to support local employment.
The only safety net program available to her at present is SNAP, which went from about $160 to $367 a month when her earnings fell to zero. But that difference doesn’t make up for Modonna’s lost wages. Not to mention the fact that SNAP is meant to be used only to purchase food, not to pay the rent, keep the utility company happy, or purchase school supplies. Thus, as Modonna’s earnings fell from $17,500 to nothing, the annual cash and food stamps she could claim from the government also fell, from $5,700 to $4,400.
Why open herself up to certain failure by applying for welfare? Welfare’s virtual extinction has gone all but unnoticed by the American public and the press. But also unnoticed by many has been the expansion of other types of help for the poor. Thanks in part to changes made by the George W. Bush administration, more poor individuals claim SNAP than ever before. The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (now called CHIP, minus the “State”) was created in 1997 to expand the availability of public health insurance to millions of lower-income children.