Bonner Day: When you have fallen and you can’t get up

Bonner Day

“He that is poor, all his kindred scorn him; he that is rich, all are kind to him.” Thomas Fuller

In a recent week a series of disasters fell on me. Air conditioners in the house broke, a pipe leak was sprung between the well and the house, and electric power to the well was shut off. Add electrical problems with my farm pickup and the week seemed a total wreck.

It pained my Scrooge-like soul and shocked my financial advisor when I tapped into my savings. Fortunately I had the resources to cover the expenses. But what if I didn’t have the resources?  What if I was between medical operations, I was unemployed, my unemployment insurance had run out, I had no savings and my credit cards were maxed out?

That is the case for more people than you might think. The sad part of hard luck stories is that they are often true.

We live in a part of the state with a relatively low income. Federal statistics show Virginia’s per capita personal income is $45,920 a year, but in the valley it averages about $20,000, less than half the state figure. Shenandoah County’s annual per capita personal income is $19,735, in Warren County, $19,841, and in Frederick County; $21,735. And that per capita phrase is an average and many have less than the average.

When you have fallen and you can’t get up, what do you do?

The first answer for many is to turn to your family and friends.

But in this modern world, we are on the move and the person in need may have moved several times, in search of work or for other reasons.  And the person’s friends and relatives are usually scattered around the country. They may not know your plight because your only contacts are Christmas cards and the occasional phone call.

Traditionally churches will come to your aid. Most churches have a fund for emergencies brought to their attention. They may pay for a month’s rent, take care of utility bills or provide some groceries. Most church officials are familiar with government agencies designed to provide long-term needs, and will make referrals.

Counties have social services departments and are required by law to offer benefits supported by taxes. One county office allows residents to apply for six separate programs (the following is government language): Auxiliary Grants (AG), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), General Relief – Unattached Child (GH), Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) and TANF Emergency Assistance (TANFEA).

Government assistance for rent is available if the government budget is not spent. Otherwise you would be put on a waiting list. The first step for these government benefits is to call the department of social services, fill out an application and be assigned a social worker. The process is probably faster than it sounds.

Besides the traditional aid provided by churches and the government, the internet and private enterprise offers a new rescue. There are internet websites designed to make your appeal for help from friends and relatives efficient. It is called crowd funding.

One crowd funding website, for an eight percent charge, prepares a website and arranges by credit card to accept funds from relatives and friends. The internet provides website addresses.

For a person who has fallen and needs major help to get up, the most prosperous family relation is the obvious person to contact. But no one in the family may stand out as the wealthy member. In that case a pooling of the resources of family members and friends may be the most practical solution. In this, the internet can help with crowd funding.

Personal pride, Scrooge-feelings and other emotions may make this course difficult or impossible to follow. If your pride interferes, or if your family and friends cannot help, then your last resort may be the county department of social services, with its 17 page application and attached social worker and tax money pot.

Bonner Day has raised cattle for the past 14 years. He lives in Shenandoah County with a cat and wife.