Good afternoon and thank you for having me here to share my story. My name is Sandy Waters and I live here in Washington, DC. I know that imposing work requirements for SNAP beneficiaries would crush hardworking individuals and families – because that’s what would have happened to me.
Watch Sandy tell her story-- and hear Representative Nancy Pelosi's response:
Eight years ago, my parents suffered back-to-back devastating health problems. My mother was in remission from metastatic lung cancer, but while she was on the mend, my father got into a horrible car accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury and an amputated leg. For a time, we were taking him back and forth to the hospital for treatments and surgeries and visiting him in the nursing home every day. That’s when my mother’s cancer returned, and she eventually ended up in home hospice care. I stayed home with her for two months until she passed away.
After that, my dad came home, and I cared for him for a year and a half – bathing him, dressing him, preparing his meals and getting him to his various doctor’s appointments. The daily routine of taking care of him was a full-time job, even with the help of a part-time home health care aide. I was only able to make it work because we qualified for SNAP.
My brother worked full-time to help pay my dad’s bills while he was sick, as well as helping me with some of my bills, but he didn’t earn enough money to cover everything, and while he worked, I stayed home as the primary caregiver. There’s no way we could have managed if I had to work 20-plus hours a week on top of my caretaking duties. We couldn’t afford to hire a full-time aide. Who would have gotten my dad into his wheelchair every morning? Who would have taken him to the hospital when he needed a checkup? I had no choice but to be with him full-time, and if I hadn’t had SNAP, I wouldn’t have been able to feed him or myself.
Taking a year and a half off work has had serious consequences for my career. I had to abandon my Master’s Degree program when my parents got sick, and while thankfully I was able to go back and earn my degree last year, I’m now struggling to get back into the workforce. I’ve found that as a woman in my 50s, even with an advanced degree it’s hard to find a job in DC. I still make use of SNAP now as I hunt for a full-time position -- but if the work requirements proposed in the Farm Bill pass, I could lose my benefits.
Politicians try to justify imposing work requirements on struggling people by implying that we abuse the system, that we just take and take without working for it. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re trying to feed our kids, to care for our parents, to set ourselves up to be financially stable down the line. We’re just trying to get by, and sometimes, we need a little help.
I am so glad I had access to SNAP when I needed it. It meant that I had one less thing to worry about when I was worried about so much, and it meant that I got to spend quality time with my parents before I had to tell them goodbye. It was an honor to care for my parents in their time of need and allow them to leave this world with dignity and grace. I don’t believe people like me should be punished for fulfilling our caretaking roles when our families need us most. I hope that members of Congress hear my story and realize that there are thousands of people out there just like me – hardworking people who just want to give our families the best lives we can – and that they vote no on the Farm Bill and instead concentrate their efforts on supporting and strengthening SNAP.