I’m a mother of three children and a straight A student at Laney College. These are the things I’m most proud of. I’ve been on CalWORKs since I started school about six months ago, and I need to finish before it runs out.
My family also gets help from CalFresh and Medi-Cal. We’re living in my mother-in-law’s house, paying her much lower rent than we would anywhere else. And even with all that assistance I feel like we really can’t make it economically. Our family of four gets $866 a month, plus CalFresh food stamps for food. We pay my mother-in-law $400 a month, so that leaves $466 for everything else. When a tank of gas is $50, our money doesn’t go very far.
I’ve been looking for work for two years. Every time I go to an interview I find myself competing with younger and younger people who have better skills than me. I realized I needed to go to school to have a chance. I’m trying to get my AS degree and then get a nursing degree.
I’ve never received any public assistance before. People in my family don’t ask for assistance, and I never imagined I would either. I always had fulltime work. I lost my job at the Oakland Airport as a secretary at a car rental place in 2011. People were renting fewer cars so I got laid off. Now the job market is saturated—jobs that used to be easy to get are very competitive.
My plan is to finish school real quick so I can get back on my feet. My husband is taking care of the kids. We don’t want him to go to work because someone needs to take care of the children while I’m in school. Nowadays you need proper training to get any kind of job. Even people with a degree have trouble getting a job. Without a degree, how can I get out of this big hole?
Next year, my youngest will be eligible for child care and then my husband will have more freedom. He wants to work in construction. If that doesn’t work out, he’ll go back to school. For us, though, our children’s safety is first, and that means one of us being there for them. When you have a two-parent household, we should do everything possible to support that to keep that family together. You want the parents to have time to take care of their children, to be with them. Education starts at home. If the kids are not healthy and not feeling loved, you have a never-ending cycle.
This has been very stressful for me, applying for public help. I always thought people who do that don’t have anything better to do with their lives, that they’re drug addicts, or did something wrong. But that’s not true, because that’s not me. Nowadays, being a good person isn’t enough to stand out.
So much of the policies for public assistance don’t make sense to me. Wouldn’t you want me to concentrate on getting my degree so I can get a real job and support my family? That’s what I want. But, with CalWORKs, I must do work activities and go to school at the same time, so it’s going to take longer, and I only have so much time. It just seems like it would make more sense to say - if you want to go to school to get a real job, tell us your plan and prove you’re making progress. If you’re making progress, you get to stay on the program until you succeed. If someone gave me that opportunity, I know I would do it.
Edixa Sanchez Pancheco