Sunday, August 06, 2006

Off the record

Survival is often a matter of gaming the system. Migrants have tough work seasons and give up a lot of family time to earn money. They travel over one thousand miles every year to make a better living than they can earn back home. So long as migrants keep their needs modest, they can often game the system to maximize their work season. They can often get additional money from public programs like unemployment insurance, food stamps, Medicaid, and other public entitlements.
 
In the case of two-income, or more, migrants, one of the couple will cash his or her checks for living expenses and the other will save their checks until just before leaving. Although many migrants, of the legal kind, have checking accounts, they are better off with their earnings in cash. This is because they will often be asked, when applying for services, how much money they have in their bank accounts. You can't very well qualify for food stamps or Medicaid with a few grand in your account. So, these liquid assets are often off the record and considered spent. By receiving these services, migrants can stretch their earnings quite a ways unless they tend to splurge. So, this covers food and healthcare.
 
Other costs can be covered by collecting unemployment checks. In Wisconsin, you need to work 4 months straight to qualify for unemployment. This is perfect for seasonal workers because they don't quit, they get laid off. This, then, forms the basis for receiving income to pay for monthly expenses. Thus, migrants are able to preserve their capital a little more.
 
Once back home in the RGV, migrants have another trick up their sleeve for making money without losing their benefits. They make all cash deals. They either sell off stuff that they took home or work for cash. This is ideal because there is no paper trail for their income. The migrants are able to eat their cake and have it too.
 
You may be thinking that this is fraud. Perhaps you're right, technically. Migrants, however, see it as survival. We are talking about people who don't earn very much when compared to a college graduate with an entry-level job. They have to make money somehow. Furthermore, it's up to the agencies to prove that these people have cash. Obviously, cash could just as easily not be there and the family could be in real need.

3 comments:

Ben McFerren said...

hi,

We started a free site called teachade for teachers and I was wondering if you'd take a look to see what you think. Basically we're looking to build a community of teachers to support each other through professional development and resource exchange. We're looking for your input and suggestions on how to improve the site. Hope to see you join us and participate.

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-Ben

bmcferren@teachade.com

Armando said...

Perhaps? Technically? Come on. "Gaming the system" is just part of the poverty mindset which plagues so many hispanics of the RGV. This immorality will never be rewarded. Your reporting is accurate, but your tacit approval implies that you are probably doing the same. By searching for justifications you are just beginning the slide down a slippery slope that will never satisfy. Take the moral highground and watch how your efforts will be rewarded.

Shaine Mata said...

Sorry to disappoint, but no. I don't do the same thing; nor do I approve of it.

In the first instance, I've NEVER collected unemployment insurance. For me, it's a waste of time. It's not difficult to find a minimum wage-ish job to replace another.

In the second case, I'm illustrating my understanding of the liberal mindset. Denise over at Blink and You'll Miss It thinks that I'm closed-minded, so I'm showing that I understand liberal thinking. Of course, I'm kidding.

Keep in mind, I have to write some entries from the perspective of migrants, who are the current subject of the blog. I have to get "in character" to be able to accurately describe their lives. You can't accurately assume that everything I write is from direct experience. If I do it, or did it, it would be stated as such.

I do take the moral highground, and generally get stomped, rather than rewarded for it. I also see others lie, cheat, and steal their way to success whilst I struggle. I suggest reading more of the blog for a better understanding of who you just criticized.

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