What would you think if food stamps and welfare was being picked up by a lady driving a Mercedes Benz sports car? Darlena Cunha knows exactly how people think on this issue and she believes she was right to keep her fancy car during the hard times when her family was struggling with high debt and unemployment.
In a related report by The Inquisitr, it’s claimed that welfare and food stamps fraud is wasting millions of dollars each year. For example, an investigation into the matter showed that welfare recipients in Texas had spent $288,000 on vacations in Hawaii and about $9 million each in both San Francisco, California, and Florida. When the Health and Human Services Commission responded to this revelation they justified it by saying:
“Low-income family is just like any other family. They want to spend Christmas with their families. They want to travel in the summer. It doesn’t necessarily mean I think they’re having the same type of vacation that a higher income family would have. It also doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the ones paying the travel bill.”
There’s even reports of a couple using welfare while living on a $1.2 million yacht.
The reaction that Darlena Cunha has faced for her 2003 Mercedes Benz Kompressor has been similar. Writing for the The Cap Times, Cunha related how she and her husband went from having a combined $120,000 salary and a $240,000 house to making $25,000 while their house dropped in value down to $150,000. To make matters worse, baby twins were on the way. After they were born six weeks early, they faced medical problems and long waits in the hospital.
So the family turned to WIC, government welfare, food stamps, and the unemployment extension in order to bounce back. During this time, she recalls the “stares, the faux concern, the pity, the outrage,” especially when she would show up at the government offices in the fancy sports car:
“No one spoke to me, but they did stare. Mouths agape, the poverty-stricken mothers struggling with infant car seats, paperwork and their toddlers never took their eyes off me, the tall blond girl, walking with purpose on heels from her Mercedes to their grungy den. I didn’t feel animosity coming from them, more wonderment, maybe a bit of resentment. The most embarrassing part was how I felt about myself. How I had so internalized the message of what poor people should or should not have that I felt ashamed to be there, with that car, getting food. As if I were not allowed the food because of the car. As if I were a bad person.”
Cunha and her family have since sold the expensive house and found a better-paying job, but she hung onto the Mercedes Benz for this reason:
“When you’re scrambling, you hang onto the things that work, that bring you some comfort. That Mercedes was the one reliable, trustworthy thing in our lives.”
Critics were not so kind when they heard her story about picking up food stamps and welfare in a Mercedes Benz. One pointed out how the car originally retailed at $30,000 and that in 2008, when times were the hardest, the Cunhas could have sold the vehicle (the Kelly Blue Book value today is around $6,000 to $7,000) and bought a reliable vehicle for less than $10,000 while still having a lot more money left over.
But others accuse Cunha of not selling her Mercedes because of pride:
“For one, it is obvious that the Mercedes should have been sold and a cheaper more reliable car should have been bought. If this was done there would be more money to spend elsewhere (where its actually needed). Let’s be honest though, we all know why she didn’t sell the Benz, its because she was trying to hide behind it, it’s clear she has always tried to put up some sort of facade for her life. She clearly likens to the status symbols and not pure logic. God forbid she be seen in a 98′ Honda.”
What would you think if you saw someone picking up food stamps and welfare while driving a sports car that used to be worth half the price of a modest house in some states?