3 Types of Government Support That Helped Me in Between Jobs – Business Insider

I was barely making ends meet early in the pandemic.
While I was pursuing my dream of becoming a full-time writer living in Los Angeles, my only consistent income was from a part-time job baking cookies, which constantly put me at risk of being exposed to COVID-19. After a few months, I was let go from that job, and I did everything I could to put food on the table.
Growing up, I always thought that people who used government benefits, like food stamps or unemployment insurance, simply needed to work harder to support themselves. After watching everyone around me collect COVID-19 unemployment checks that were bigger than my own paychecks at the cookie shop, though, I started to feel differently about receiving government aid. I realized I needed the help — and decided to ask for it.
Here are three forms of government aid I applied for and how much I received.
The first thing I applied for was California state health insurance, also called Medi-Cal. After speaking to other transgender and nonbinary friends who have used Medi-Cal before and hearing that they’d had positive experiences, I filled out the online paperwork. I also had to upload copies of my last two paystubs from the cookie shop.
Because of my low income, I was approved and I didn’t have to pay a monthly premium. I switched my primary care provider to the LGBT Center, and I felt really lucky that they take Medi-Cal. Through the LGBT Center, I was able to receive comprehensive healthcare, start hormone replacement therapy, and receive a gender-affirming surgery for free. 
California is one of the 12 states in the US that cover both gender-affirming surgeries and hormone replacement therapy in their state health insurance coverage.
Once I was approved for health insurance, I called the LA County Department of Social Services to see if I qualified for food stamps. I waited on hold for about 45 minutes. After that, they pulled up my information and asked me to verify my income and household size one more time.
I was approved for $204 a month, which broke down to $51 a week. There were a few months during the pandemic where there were extra benefits and I received an additional $100. I received a card in the mail with a PIN, and I could use the card like a regular debit card at grocery stores.
When food stamps and the money I was making from my side gigs, like driving for Instacart, wasn’t enough to pay my bills, I called DPSS again to see if I qualified for any additional aid. Because I had previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder , I qualified for SSI benefits, which are additional unemployment benefits given to low-income adults with disabilities. 
I hadn’t identified as a person with disabilities before, so honestly, I felt really dissociated when I was answering questions on the phone to qualify to receive extra money each month. But again, I didn’t feel like I had a choice because my financial situation was so dire.
I received $198 a month on the same card that I used for my food stamps. The only difference was that I could go to any Bank of America ATM and withdraw $198 in cash to use for other things, like tampons, toilet paper , and household cleaning supplies.
For nine months, I received up to $502 in government aid and free healthcare. At first, I felt guilty for receiving help, but now I realize that I’m not alone. In April 2022 alone, 41.2 million Americans — roughly 12% of the national population — received SNAP benefits, according to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
I wish I had asked for help sooner, and that more government benefits were available, so that none of us have to scrape pennies together to get by month to month.

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