Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Why don't We Count?: The Stimulus and the US Census are Just the Tip of the Iceberg.

At the present time, people like me who receive Social Security, SSI, or Medicaid are waiting for stimulus funds that were promised a long time ago.  Since they were announced, I prepared a book for publication, worked with an editor and graphic designer, and started discussing the audio version with the narrators.  The “self-published” book is out.  I have people to pay, but the stimulus funds are not here.  I was warned not to trust the Federal Government again even though the Congress and President pretended to be Mr. and Mrs. Santa claus and the Easter Bunny all rolled into one.  Now as I wait for the deposit of funds that might not arrive for a very long time, if ever, I feel like Charlie Brown kicking that football one more time and trusting that Lucy will not pull it away at the last minute. 

I should have known when I filled out the US Census form online that people like me don’t count.  This form is short.  It has questions about gender, age, ethnicity, and more.  It does not have any questions about disabilities.  If American Girl is able to create and sell dolls with a variety of disabilities, it seems that we should also count where the federal government is concerned.  Once again, and for another decade, we will not get important figures that can be used to make policy decisions that regard Social Security Disability Benefits and Supplemental Security Insurance.  Counting with the federal government also counts at the state level where departments of human services distribute food, housing, and health insurance benefits based upon a person’s eligibility.  Without an accurate count, we don’t know how many people are eligible and how many people are falling through the cracks in the system.

If there is a long census form,  I have not seen one.  I couldn’t read it if there were one unless it were available online and screen-reader accessible to people who are blind or sight impaired.  I have to give the federal government credit for getting this far, but they have a long way to go.

Currently, some people who are blind or sight impaired and experiencing discrimination after completing their education and entering the world of the unemployed have opened their own small businesses with the encouragement of programs offered by the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  People with other disabilities have also been successful as self-employed workers and business owners who employ others.  Without census figures, we do not know how many people are in this category.  We also do not know how many blind and sight impaired people or people who are living with other disabilities are unemployed, underemployed, and seeking employment.  That includes senior citizens who do not have an income high enough to care for themselves and pay for the caregivers they need.

Numbers need to be counted at the federal level.  It would be worthwhile to also have each state have its own census because the poverty line is different in each state.  People who are living in Michigan, for example, and receive no benefits other than Social security because their income reached the poverty line, would be eligible for Medicaid in California where the poverty line is much higher.    It is my opinion that the poverty line in all states should be the same and all should be raised to match the California poverty line level.  A city in Michigan such as Ann Arbor is as expensive to live in as many cities in southern and Northern California.  Rents are so high that many professionals are living outside of ann Arbor, as far away as the Detroit area, and driving to work a long distance every day.  While rent costs might be higher in one place than another, the costs of everything else from food to utilities, clothing to health care are the same.

It is important to ask not just why don’t we count but when did we stop being counted.  I recently heard a local Lutheran minister who gives a few minutes of “inspiration” each day on a conservative radio station.  He meant well, but during his rant about something I forgot as soon as I heard it, he referred to people who want to count, “African-Americans, Latino-Americans, LGBT-Americans.  Then he added “et cetera.”  Et cetera?  When did people with disabilities get moved to the back of the bus?  Actually, when it comes to the US Census, our inclusive community that has members from just about every gender, race, religion, and nation wasn’t even invited to get on the bus.

The Secretaries of the US Departments of Education and Labor should be as furious as I am.  With a reported 70-80% unemployment rate among the blind and visually impaired seeming to be more legend than fact since we cannot get accurate statistics, such an apparent failure rate by these departments on behalf of their clients should at the very least call for a study to see if the roles of these departments should be combined under a new Department of special Education and Labor.

Meander, the Princess who had Ants in her Pants is for sale on Amazon along with The Misadventures of Mistletoe Mouse.  My writing hobby is taking time away from my job search  because it is time to start marketing again.  I have many books downloaded including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Marketing since self-promotion is my major weakness.  I like Mother Angelica’s honest and humorous approach to marketing, so I will borrow her strategy:  “Please buy my books.  I need the money.”  For more information, you may go to the following link or ask your local bookseller:

I hope you are loving what is left during these stimulating times.

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