I was a single parent of two kids with a very good job at Washington Mutual Bank. In 2008, when the market crashed, Washington Mutual closed and I lost my job with no notice, severance, insurance, etc. There were also no other jobs to be had because the entire industry closed. I spent many years trying to reestablish myself and had many jobs along the way. I would do whatever it took to feed my kids, including freelance writing, teaching yoga to kids and even handing out plastic menus to businesses. I would have done anything. Because my work wasnt consistent and/or for the same employer all the time, it would have been an arduous task to report a running 29-hour a week schedule to DHS. Not to mention, from my experience, my case worker would not have been happy to have to manage this either.


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While my kids and I were on Medicaid, something I signed up for reluctantly due to stupid pride, my son had open heart surgery and I had breast cancer. Medicaid paid every dime for both of us. As a mother, I was able to concentrate on caring for my sick son, and when I was undergoing treatment, I was not financially burdened with the medical bills and was able to focus on getting well and caring for my kids. Do not underestimate the significance of having good health care. If we didnt have this insurance our story would have been significantly altered.

Being on Medicaid and food stamps is not something I wanted to be on, but it made all the difference in the world when I needed it. We are no longer on either program. I went back to my original career as a paralegal, but it took many years to get reestablished, and frankly I am still not completely back on my feet financially.

A 29-hour a week job making a decent wage, let alone minimum wage, is not going to encourage or enable anybody to get off of Medicaid and food stamps, especially if they have to pay for child care. It is a very scary and difficult transition and there is a huge gap in the system. There needs to be steps in getting off of these programs.

In fact, in 2016 when we got off of the programs I made a whopping $40,000 and at that rate I no longer benefited from many tax advantages such as earned income credits (roughly $4,000) and this was a huge loss for me. There needs to be processes that help people get to their goals of independence.

Most parents do not want to be struggling and constantly saying no to their kids. Finally, if you ask me, the system needs to be coming from a holistic place, helping our community to come out of difficult situations. Currently, the system is one of punishment, not of helping. There are so many things we could do differently.

Karen Schultz Tarnopol lives in Bloomfield Hills.

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Guest Column: Medicaid work mandate is flawed