In an op-ed published in the Washington Post, former Hartford producer Darlena Cunha describes a career that took her quickly to jobs in San Diego and Boston and a comfortable life with her husband, complete with a $240,000 home and a Mercedes. And then, it all started slipping away. Her husband lost his job, and the market crashed.
“In just two months, we’d gone from making a combined $120,000 a year to making just $25,000 and leeching out funds to a mortgage we couldn’t afford. Our savings dwindled, then disappeared.
So I did what I had to do. I signed up for Medicaid and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.”
Cunha’s essay, “Picking Up Food Stamps in My Mercedes,” has brought her back to television, appearing Tuesday night on CNN’s CNN Tonight in an interview with Don Lemon. In the interview, Cunha pointed out that the Post headline to her story was incorrect, in that she was not actually receiving “food stamps,” but vouchers through the WIC program, which is a program far easier to qualify for, and which allowed her family to keep that Mercedes:
That’s the funny thing about being poor. Everyone has an opinion on it, and everyone feels entitled to share. That was especially true about my husband’s Mercedes. Over and over again, people asked why we kept that car, offering to sell it in their yards or on the Internet for us.
“You can’t be that bad off,” a distant relative said, after inviting himself over for lunch. “You still got that baby in all its glory.”
Sometimes, it was more direct. All from a place of love, of course. “Sell the Mercedes,” a friend said to me. “He doesn’t get to keep his toys now.”
But it wasn’t a toy — it was paid off. My husband bought that car in full long before we met. Were we supposed to trade it in for a crappier car we’d have to make payments on? Only to have that less reliable car break down on us?