Saturday, March 5, 2011

Houston, we have benefits

After yet two more sojourns to the public assistance center at Coney Island, we have an EBT card with food stamp money on it, and we supposedly have Medicaid and rent assistance.  We will get a second card for Medicaid and the option to choose an HMO, which will come in the mail.  The rent assistance goes directly to the landlord and will we get a notice.

The good news is that it's all retroactive to the month we applied, so we have over $600 in food stamps and our first rent benefit will be around $500, which is about half our rent.  Couldn't have come at a better time.  I was hoping especially to get the food stamps soon so as to conserve our cash.  Actually, our wonderful sister-in-law treated us to a big load of groceries from a big supermarket this past week, so we're fairly well stocked on essentials, but we can use it for smaller things in the neighborhood, and then do a big shop at Shop Rite when we need to.  Barry's going to go down to a favorite Chinese market tomorrow to buy loads of fish (we have a kosher fish market right nearby, but the prices are about twice as high).

I even got my free cell phone, which is very cute.  I actually read all of the instructions so I know how to use pretty much all the features (we somehow never bothered to do that on the prepaid phone).  And I got my free glucose meter on Thursday, so when I run out of strips for the one I have, I can start using the ones Harriet sent.

Barry and I have been assigned to WEP, which is what they used to call "workfare."  You work three days a week and go to the job center two days -- like going to the job center, the WEP job entitles you to your benefits, but doesn't pay any kind of salary.  Luckily, we were able to be assigned to office work rather than janitorial; we both have to report to orientation at the city Office of Housing Preservation and Development (I think that's the name of the agency...I keep getting it confused with the Landmark Preservation one).  No telling yet if we'll be assigned to the same office or even what borough.  Doesn't start until the 21st.

I guess WEP is good in the sense that it gets us out of the job center for three days, which breaks things up a bit.  It's bad, though, because it's time away from real job-hunting -- you can get excused from WEP if you have an interview, but you can't actually spend the time looking for work.  At the job center, you can job-hunt in the computer room if there's a free station, or you can get excused for "independent job search" (this is supposed to be other than e-mail job searching -- you have to fill out a form saying where you went to drop off your resume or whatever).

It's all a good safety net.  The system seems to work, no matter how bureaucratic it seems at times.  On Thursday, I had to go to Coney Island to give in some papers that Barry put in our caseworker's hands two weeks ago.  Luckily, I was already excused for independent job search, which was actually a Word class at Connect-to-Care Thursday afternoon, so I could bring the papers to Coney Island in the morning.  Otherwise, it's kind of dicey, since Back-to-Work wants a letter from the public assistance office (HRA) if you have to miss BTW to go there, and HRA insists you don't need it and won't give you one.  (So far, we've had appointment letters when we've had to go to HRA, have a home visit, or go to BEV to verify our identities.)  So it's a pile of hassles, but if you're very patient, it seems to work.

Better news:  I have an interview Monday.  I got a call from a guy who said he'd seen my resume (I'm not exactly sure where, probably one of the job sites where I had it posted), and wanted to see me about a job very similar to the one I had at Dweck...and it's at Zabar's!  Zabar's is one of the great great great New York gourmet stores, although it started as (and continues to be) an appetizing store.  (Another lesson in all things Jewish:  "appetizing" is basically all of the things Jews put on bagels, particularly the smoked fish like lox and whitefish, plus the various plain and flavored cream cheeses.  It is very desirable to find an appetizing store where they actually slice the lox to order, rather than sell it prepackaged.  I only know of three remaining in Manhattan, including Zabar's, though there may be a few still in Brooklyn.  There used to be a lot more, but now there are very few.)  Apart from appetizing, Zabar's has all kinds of wonderful baked goods and gourmet foods, plus they have an excellent selection of housewares.

The guy who called me from there was very nice, and I felt we had a good rapport.  I really like the idea of doing production at Zabar's...I could make sure the smoked sable gets in on time!  I could take my pay home in whitefish salad!  He asked what I had earned at Dweck, and didn't make uh-oh noises.  I'm really looking forward to the interview.  Sounds like it could be a mighty good job.

Luna Park didn't call -- they were supposed to decide by the end of the week -- and I admit I did relax myself a bit last night.  I do so enjoy that bit of relaxation.

OK -- I'm fascinated by all of this insane Charlie Sheen stuff.  Yeah, I do feel bad because he's a terrible addict and probably also mentally ill...but I can't help but be entertained by the trainwreck.  And the jokes are just too funny.  This one is one of my faves.

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