About 10 days ago I paid for my continuing education classes. I was walking through my neighorhood when my cell phone rang. It was Sharon who has been working with the real estate school ever since I started my relationship with them in the mid 1980's.
I took my very first class with them and stuck with them.
I had just activated my debit card. I never had one before I opened this checking account. They make things so easy. I gave her my number as I was walking down the street and it was finished. I did not have to right a check or mail it. Easy as one, two, three.
two days ago I had to pay for my phone bill. I have what 90% of the residents in Skid Row have, an account with Boost Mobile. 55 dollars and you have unlimited calls. If you are late by one day the phone is cut off. Every month I walk to Broadway where I purchased the phone and pay my bill. I have been doing this for 8 months now. Shortly after I purchased the phone, the 55 dollars climbed to 62 dollars as merchants began tacking on service surcharge fees. Boost Mobile reduced the fee to 51 dollars. Therefore I had to pay 59 dollars to the Broadway merchant.
I was in the computer lab of the STRIVE program when I stood up and exited to building. I cussed everything as I headed west towards Spring St to find an ATM machine to withdraw the money needed to make my payment. Dam, another 2 dam dollars.
Somewhere along the way I remembered seeing a Boost Mobile website. They allowed you to make payments online. I stopped in my tracks, made an about face and headed back to the computer lab.
I sat in front of my favorite computer screen, terminal 5, and put Boost Mobile on the screen. I accessed my account. 51 dollars. I went through the protocals of payment and finally I was finished. I printed out the confirmation of payment sheet and continued what I was doing before I exited the building to pay for my bill.
I was delighted. Had I paid the way I have been paying my bills for the last 8 months I would have had to pay another 10 dollars. All kinds of service fees.
I saved 10 dollars and 45 minutes of time plus was able to get work done because I had a debit card with a Visa Logo on it.
If you collect general relief, you are not allowed to have a bank account. If you do not have a bank account you can not have a debit card. If you do not have a
debit card you can not pay your phone bill on line. If you can not pay for it on line, you must pay up tao 10 dollars extrra in service fees just because merchants
know that you have no where else to go to pay your bills. You pay 20% more because you do not have a debit card.
You must have a telephone to have any credibility in Skid Row. I do not mean from drug dealers. I do not mean the prestige one receives from people in the street because you have the latest gadget with all of the latest bells and whistles.
I mean one earns credibility with those who can help them in life. The lawyers, the employers. the social workers. Those professionals are more inclined to spend energy on you if they feel they can get in touch with you. They must feel that you will not disappear.
Hundreds of people have these phones. Hundreds.
Lets say that 1,000 people have these phones and do not have bank accounts. That means that each month these people pay up to a total of 10,000 dollars more for phone service, 20% more than is necessary, because they are not allowed to have bank accounts.
I understand that EBT cards are used to cut down on fraud. but cant they make it possible for EBT cards to have within them a debit application so people on Skid Row and across the county can use their money more efficiently and effectively. Cant the authorities make it so that the people who need their money the most can keep more of it in their pockets than give it away because they do not possess the electronic means to pay for goods.
10,000 dollars more because they do not have a debit application on their card. It would not take much to put that application in the EBT cards. for those who are homeless or who have limited incomes, that 20% more for the same service that everyone else gets takes away from 10,000 dollars of groceries that could be purchased for themselves or for their children. Prices are higher in ghettos than anywhere else. Service costs are higher as well because those who use them can not pay for them like everyone else.
There are Skid Row service providers that give classes to people and teach them how to manage their money. They teach them how to balance a checking account and to shop for bargains. They teach them how to save money.
You cant expect people to operate in a society like everyone else unless you allow them to participate in society like everyone else. That includes having access to the same tools that allow them to pay the same price as everyone else and to save time like every one else.20% more for anything means they are 20% less than everyone else and probably need the 20% savings more than those that do not have to pay the service fees.
The government should not have policies that enable those in the private sectors to charge the extreme poor 20% more for services because they have no where else to go to pay for them.