“It seems there was a time when having a job was the key to not struggling,” Rice said. “Now, having a job, particularly if it’s part-time, does not necessarily mean all your economic problems are going to go away.”
It’s an endless debate that goes something like this.
Supporters: Federal programs like food stamps and unemployment benefits soften the blow of poverty and make it easier for poor people to make positive changes in their lives. Critics: Government subsidies lull poor people into a cycle of dependency by giving them just enough to get by, often without working.
Darrishae Potts, who has seen poverty up close, said both sides have it right.
It just depends on the person.
Potts, 24, grew up in a poor family in Oklahoma City. She’s the oldest of her mother’s five children. She has five other half-siblings on her father’s side.
When Potts was 17, she gave birth to daughter Azariah, who is 7 now. The father is no longer in the picture. When Potts was 18, her mother’s boyfriend killed her mother and then killed himself. Potts became the legal guardian of younger brother Alondo, now 11, and sister A’Nari, 9.
Like other people in her family, Potts relies on government anti-poverty programs to help make ends meet. She said she receives about $830 a month from Social Security for taking care of Alondo and A’Nari. She gets a monthly food stamp allotment of about $430. She pays just $95 a month to rent a house, with Section 8 housing subsidies picking up the rest. She’s not working and receives Pell Grants to help pay her tuition at Oklahoma State University’s branch campus in Oklahoma City.
Unlike other family members, though, Potts said she is determined to leave government aid behind. She just received an associate degree in police science and plans to begin work this fall on a bachelor’s in criminal justice. She wants to become a probation and parole officer for juvenile offenders.