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Posts Tagged 'poor'

Mayor Ed Lee Has Died

I woke up yesterday morning and couldn’t believe the first thing I read. Mayor Ed Lee had died of a heart attack. As I read through the news I noticed people remarking how great a Mayor he was. There were also a few people that seemed a bit happy he had died. Here are some of my thoughts.

Mayor Lee wasn’t the type of person to make people angry out right. He had a very unassuming low key personality. Sure, you could say you didn’t agree with his choices, but to say you were angry would give him too much credit. I have looked back though to when he started in 2010 and seen change within the City.

Yes, everyone is talking about how Mayor Lee changed San Francisco, but was it for the better? We were in a recession when he took office and I read about how people were leaving San Francisco because of it. If they were it was only because they couldn’t find work. I actually had work during the recession. It wasn’t the greatest, but it was pretty good. Some of my friends were struggling because of the recession, but not because of anything San Francisco was doing. We were, like most people in a recession…getting by.

When then Mayor Gavin Newsom left to become Lieutenant Governor he needed a replacement and Lee was selected. It was only supposed to be temporary and then the City’s infamous Rose Pak got involved with her Run Ed Run campaign. Mayor Lee was officially elected even though there was talk of voter fraud that somehow got swept under the carpet. His first term as Mayor Rose Pak was always there like a puppet master pulling the strings. Even if she wasn’t she made it look like she was really in charge boasting frequently about how she got him there.

Rents started to increase again, housing prices started to increase again, the dot com bomb came back as a tech boom and the City put all it’s eggs in one basket turning it into the tech hub of the U.S. even though most of it was going on in Silicon Valley, Mayor Lee brought companies to San Francisco changing the culture and population not necessarily for the better. The residents became more like long term tourists. They would come and make money then leave, or spend all their [and usually their parents] money and leave. They weren’t adding to the City, but taking away from it. In the past seven years I’ve seen more well known places to go and do things in San Francisco suddenly disappear or become unaffordable to the average person. I gave a ride to a woman who works at City Hall who told me that she was finishing up a report where a family of four making less than $105,000 per year was considered low income for San Francisco.

Meanwhile I started to see a bit of an odd conservative tone coming to parts of San Francisco that was always a liberal city decried for it’s San Francisco Values as if we were the capital city of Hell. Suddenly we had people talking about how they were against cannabis dispensaries in their neighbors. Think of the children was a common answer to questions regarding their nimbyism. Most of these things would never affect their children even if they had children since most parents had to move their families out because it had become too expensive.

The City changed drastically and not in a good way. Friends were leaving because they couldn’t find work. A recently report I read mentioned that if you’re over 35 in San Francisco tech companies aren’t interested in you, yet the City was overflowing with tech companies and there weren’t many other places to work. Jobs that used to be for real company employees suddenly were becoming contractor positions which in a twist were paying less that contractor positions used to, [Note: Contractors used to be paid more than regular employees because they didn’t get benefits and could be terminated at a moments notice. It was cheaper for companies to pay a bit more for a contractor and be able to cut their off on a whim than to go through all the possible repercussions of firing an employee.]

Mayor Lee’s approval rating during his second term dropped to 30%. Less than our current President’s is at the moment. The homeless were setting up camps all over the City. You’d have to step over piles of feces and puddles of urine walking to work downtown. The once wonderful City was starting to look like a horrible dump [literally in some cases]. The homeless problem got so bad that coming up to the Super Bowl Mayor Lee rounded up all the homeless that some of this policies helped create and moved them out of the City. They managed to come back afterwards, but that was to be expected.

The crime rate in the past year has increased even in the safer neighborhoods. There are far more home and car break ins, robberies, shootings, stabbings that I’ve seen here in my entire life. In the past year I’ve seen three shootings and four stabbings in the Sunset District which is more than I can remember ever hearing about. 

I am sorry Mayor Lee died. We all have to go at some point, but I feel for his family. I also feel for San Francisco and hope that a new change will come that will bring it back to the place where artists and musicians and other creative types can have a place that made this City so weird and wonderful and not a City of rich people living poorly.

White Folk On Welfare

I was watching the Daily Show with John Stewart the other night and he had a guest who mentioned something that sounded kind of shocking: The majority of people receiving food stamps [EBT or CalFresh as they’re called now] are White. If you’re White and horrified by what you just read don’t be. We can be poor without having to be White trash.

Sure all of us have run into hard times before, but to run into hard times where you have to ask the government for a hand out is not something Caucasians ever really think about. Nowadays, it’s doesn’t matter what color you are, po’ folk is po’ folk. Sometimes you need a little help and you have to ask for it.

My family it currently on the San Francisco Health Plan because we can’t afford nor do I qualify for insurance because of pre-existing conditions [I could get us on the HIPAA plans, but that would cost us $2500/month]. I’m glad that it’s an available option for San Franciscans and if you don’t have insurance you should look into it.

Putting food on the table when you aren’t making any or enough money is another story. I’ve looked into this and a family of three can get up to $526/month to feed themselves. Sure you can include the food banks if you’re heavy eaters, but there are things you can buy that go a long way that are cheaper.

CalWorks is San Francisco’s version of welfare and while it helps out it doesn’t very much. I did a little research and again, for a family of three you can get $695/month, but that cuts into your CalFresh money and cuts it down to $377/month.  So if you are able to collect unemployment you can get a little over $1000/month to feed and house a family of three. I went to a meeting just to check it out and CalWorks has a program called Welfare to Work where at least one of the members of the family has to attend a 40 hour a week job training service for a month. If you haven’t found a job by then, then you have to do it again.

If you’re someone like me who has a college degree and a high level of skills this program won’t work for you. The jobs they are offering are low paying and short term. Even more so it doesn’t work because you have to spend time learning how to get a job which you already know when you could be spending time doing freelance work. Even when you get a job, if it’s a contract position they don’t count that as a job so they tell you that they’ll cut your benefits if you don’t show up for the job training which you don’t need. In short the system is broken. They don’t know how to deal with middle class people who have a college degree and more skills than the person who is your job counselor who doesn’t speak English very well.

As I heard one of the people working there say, you don’t want to be on welfare because it only leaves you pissed off and poor. I seriously think they need to work on adding additional resources for helping skilled people find work instead of offering temporary part time minimum wage jobs just so they can check you off the list. That doesn’t solve the unemployment problem it just regenerates it.

Things you need to know about unemployment.

I really like to devote this space to San Francisco, but there are a few things that come up that make me have to turn away for a moment. Today that’s unemployment. There’s a dirty little secret that the unemployment office doesn’t want you to know and today I’m going to tell you what that is.

As the regulars around here know I’ve been unemployed for quite some time. I was working for a company last year that hired me through the jobsnow program that repaid my employer for my salary because I was an unemployed Dad. The program ended on September 30th, 2010 and wasn’t set for renewal so I once again became unemployed along with a quarter of million other people. I reapplied for unemployment not sure what would happen and it turned out they reopened my previous claim.

I continued looking for work, but I was only able to find 3-4 jobs a week to send my resumes to. I received a letter from EDD shortly after January 1st 2011 telling me that a new claim had been opened for me because I had new wages to base the claim on. It turns out that I started to get about $40 more a week that I was getting before so we were in a bit of a better place.

I continue looking for work and suddenly find that the 3-4 jobs a week had turned in to 5-6 jobs a day. Now I’m starting to get calls back and even an interview or two. Then at the beginning of this month I received a letter from EDD telling me that my benefits have run out. Well that’s happened to lots of people. That’s what all the benefit extensions we’ve been hearing about mean right? WRONG. In my case because I did indeed work last year and became unemployed and the EDD automatically filed a new claim for me based on my new earnings that gave me more money I still didn’t have enough money banked to cover my first 26 weeks of unemployment therefore I have been cut off for the rest of the year from receiving unemployment insurance.

I have filed an appeal, but even in talking to someone at the EDD office they told me that if you run out of money before your initial 26 weeks has finished that you are cut from receiving any more unemployment benefits for that year. I am not someone who is trying to cheat the system. I have been looking for work and there is no where on the EDD website where it says you need to cover your first 26 weeks or you will be dropped for the rest of your benefit year from receiving benefits.

This is the dirty little lie that no one wants you to know. I see the 99ers screaming about how they’ve been collecting benefits for 99 weeks and are now being cut because they’ve run out of extensions. I was 12 weeks into my claim and now I’m cut off for the rest of the year. Luckily things for me are looking up in the economy, but if I get a job that lasts only a few weeks or months I still can’t get unemployment again because what I earn won’t go on record until next year.

Luckily I have a good chance coming up with a very stable company that should work in my favor if I can get it. Keep your fingers crossed for me.


Work is Coming Back to San Francisco!

I have to say that the past couple of years have been rough. Jobs have been disappearing left and right and it’s hard for me to name a time when I can remember working a 40 hour week. Most of the jobs I’ve had in the last 4 years have been 40 hours a week when I started, but quickly moved down to 20-30 sometimes 15 hours a week.

The bosses at those jobs used to use the trick of telling me I sucked at what I was doing in order to fire me so they wouldn’t have to pay into unemployment, but I won out every time and those companies have all gone out of business.

In the last couple of years I would search for jobs daily and if I was lucky I would find three, maybe four jobs a week. Over the last month though I am beginning to find 30-40 jobs a week and I’m actually getting calls for interviews. I’ve got three interviews scheduled this week plus freelance work that’s come out of nowhere to add more change in my pocket.

I even had an interview today and they actually said that if I was hired they would include health benefits. Now how weird is that for a company in San Francisco? This wasn’t a health insurance plan that was a company of five doctors that you got to choose from, but an actually real big overpriced health insurance company that my prospective employers actually pays part of the premium like they’re supposed to, not tell the government they are, but charge it all to the employee like many have done to me in the past.

Now that fact that I’ve sent out my resume to 120-160 jobs in the last month and I’m still not employed may seem like something wrong with me, but there are lots of people who don’t have jobs and as my wife said to me today, Well, if you don’t get it, that at least means there will be less people in the pool for other jobs you find. I hadn’t thought about that, but I think she’s right.

There are lots of people who have been down and out in San Francisco over the lack of jobs, but now that our new Mayor Ed Lee is extending local tax breaks to businesses [which there are hardly any cities that charge a payroll tax on businesses] it looks like things are turning up for us. San Francisco is a damn expensive place to live in not just with housing, but also with the fact that a trip to the store revealed Oscar Mayer bacon is selling for $8.99 a pound. I don’t want to sound like an old curmudgeon, but I remember 15 years ago when that was $1.99 a pound. Of course back then I was eating rib eye steaks and filet mignon for around $4.99 and I didn’t have to go to Costco to get it.

Good times are ahead for us and don’t let them get you down.

Kiva: Micro-financing isn’t micro-investing.

I’ve been wanting to write this article for awhile, but I couldn’t find a tie in to San Francisco. Well, I finally did and here goes. Kiva is a San Francisco company that has shown ads around the country that have former President Bill Clinton telling you how you can invest only $25 and get back at least a 95% return on your investment. This sounds all good and well until you start to think about it. What they’re saying is that if you give them $25 you’ll get back at least 95% of that, not 100% of that, but 95% of that. This is like saying give me $25 and I can guarantee a return on your money of at least $23.75. That’s not $23.75 over the $25, but basically give us $25 and we can guarantee you a pay back of $23.75.

Something wrong with the math here? You bet. It gets even better. Your $25 goes in with about 40 other people’s $25 that go to a foreign bank that will lend a needy individual the $1000 that helps them get out of poverty. Sounds great! Wait, there’s something they aren’t telling you…

The banks that give the money to the individuals [in my case Rosa in Peru] charge them between 17% and 25% interest on that loan. These banks give them money that they have guaranteed from people like you and me and then charge the people in third world countries anywhere from $170-$250 on top of the $1000 they received to get that money. After three months I got back my entire $25 from Rosa in Peru who needed help with her garment start up. The problem I see is that these foreign banks are getting a guarantee of the money they put up out front without any risk of losing any money, only the risk of losing interest on the money they’ve given.

To me this is predatory racketeering of needy people in third world countries. I would much rather give the $25 directly and get no return than to further the coffers of a foreign bank who is preying upon the people it is trying to serve. They can’t come up with a single argument that could justify what they are doing, but they’ve got a great green looking website with images of poor foreigners who are looking for money, but it is really the banks in these countries that are looking for the money even more.

People who come from poor nations need help, hell, even people in the US who don’t have money need help, but to charge them such a high interest rate that people who had more money and didn’t need to borrow in the first place would be charged a lesser rate doesn’t seem right. is pitching micro-financing as if it were micro-investing. You’ll never get back more than you put in, but you have a good chance of getting back everything you put in at least.

I can understand that banks can’t take a high risk on giving a loan to people who don’t have much chance of paying it back, but to make it sound all sweet and lovely by taking money from Americans and giving it to poor people who need it at not lose of ROI for the bank is just a swindle scheme by these foreign banks. In looking through the listing of people who are asking for money, I didn’t see a single bank that was on US soil, they were all banks in the foreign countries who were doing the lending. Were there any US people asking for money through Nope, not one, yet we have people here who could use money, but I believe we understand that banks offering a sweet deal here must have some catch to it.

If you want to support needy people in other countries, please do not do business with which is a non-profit that is for profit for foreign banks.

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