Letter: Middle Class Crisis

Recently TLS posted that as of March, EBT would go back to prepandemic levels. Those of us who are not on EBT and cannot afford food were hopeful that perhaps the food prices would come down a little if people did not have an overabundance of EBT money.

Today, TLS reported that the govt will be voting this week to raise the minimum EBT balance to almost double per person per month similar to the Covid supplement. This probably means the inflated food prices are here to stay since those on EBT can comfortably afford them. Those of us not on EBT are at a loss. What should we do? We simply cannot afford food. I am turning to the Lakewood community for help. I have 2 ideas.

1. Can the grocery stores please offer a discount to customers paying with credit card?
2. There are many wonderful organizations in this town. We need an organization that provides food cards to the middle class that are not on EBT, yet cannot afford food. We can use these cards like EBT so as to alleviate the stress when going food shopping.

Also I would like to ask if there is a support group for working families who cannot make ends meet? The summer camp prices have increased, daycare prices have increased, food prices have increased, health care prices have increased and rent has increased. While many have govt programs that have increased to cover these expenses, those of us working middle class people without govt programs are struggling.

Please share your ideas how to survive the middle class crisis.

Your neighbor

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61 COMMENTS

  1. Yes we totally agree but it is not only the working it is the klei kodesh that were not as fortunate and only have one two or even no kids whom are just missing the line to be eligible for the programs that are struggling with week to week grocery bills and the like.

  2. I feel for you, I’m in the same boat. As someone familiar with the food industry I can say it’s completely unfair. There are families who have 2 parents not working with thousands upon thousands of rolled over food stamps (some I’ve seen more than 25k) and they shop with ease. Just loading up carts without having to think. Good for them, really. But the middle class working family gets crushed at every angle. Some knock those who say “it’s sometimes not worth it to work in this country” but it’s true for a lot of people who can’t break out of the middle class. As far as groceries offering discounts, it will never happen. Operating costs have skyrocketed and as with any business basic payroll is thru the roof on top of administrative fees etc. using a credit cost the business even more. There really is no solution

  3. Grocery stores will not give a discount, because there is no advantage for them where the money comes from. The Democrats want to squeeze out the middle class, so the lower class will be dependent on the Government and keep on voting for the Democrats. In regards to the support group, I doubt there is any.

    • There IS a tremendous advantage to the groceries: They are selling much, much more to the people on food stamps. So they are most definitely coming out ahead of the game with a huge amount of sales, and if they would pass on some of their money from this huge growth in sales, it would help the middle class while still allowing them to make a nice living.

      • So if they are making more money from ebt why would they give a discount to regular credit cards? My point was they don’t make more of a profit by taking a credit card, then by taking an ebt. And if you just want them to give money out and cut their profits, why would they do that? What is in it for them?

        • You’re absolutely right that they all the money they make is rightfully theirs. BUT, I was just pointing out that because they are making tremendous amounts of sales from food stamps, (much more than in previous years) they have the ability to offer credit card discounts, while still making more money than pre-covid

  4. Food stamps don’t make the food we need to buy for our families “more affordable” when the parameters for being on food stamps mean that we aren’t able to pay for rent, utilities, tuition, or clothing because the prices of everything went up for us too. We are poorer since the inflated prices, and the amount of food we can get with our EBT cards doesn’t come close to providing for all of our food needs, let alone giving us an “overabundance” . We are all struggling. Don’t make pretend that those of us on government programs are rich because of them.

    • We are not saying you are rich. This is about food! Majority of people on EBT have said they have an overabundance of EBT funds for food. The middle class are just asking for a solution to afford basic food not all the extras that those on EBT can afford.

  5. Yes you are 100% correct!
    Just as a side bar, I was recently in a grocery store whose price on a carton of eggs was close to $2 more than its competitors. When I approached the owner and asked about it, he responded to me, “oh your not supposed to be shopping here, we inflate the price for the people who shop with wic and food stamps.” Basically saying that they intentionally increase the price because most of their shoppers are on government assistance and the government will pay the store whatever the price.
    Interesting to know that’s where our society is up to!

    • Can the gov please increase the income limits to qualify for EBT to match inflation? They raised the benefits for those on the programs due to inflation but they haven’t raised the income guidelines to qualify due to inflation.

    • Kind of had to believe that an owner would tell a customer he shouldn’t be shopping in the store. Its beyond bad business sense and tact in general. Its more likely that his words were misunderstood or misconstrued. As a business owner, I can tell you that you cannot make a living off selling only WIC food.

  6. It sounds all rosy. I’d rather be poor middle class than stuck like I am now. Penniless and unfortunately on gvt programs. When gvt programs raise the benefit amount it doesn’t make a difference we still are broke. Haven’t paid tuition all year yet, owe thousands of dollars to ppl and live with bare necessities. My husband and I work beyond to try to stay afloat but it’s impossible. Expenses don’t match up with what it’s possible to bring in. Daily living with a big family is not possible unless you’re wealthy! Please help us choking poor ppl who don’t sleep at night not knowing how they’re going to pay their bill tomorrow. ( And no we don’t ever go on vacation, get a new car, sheitel…) Forget about my kids who need new shoes or a coat…

  7. 1. Give more tzedaka.
    2. Thank Hashem for your financial predicament. (Sounds crazy but 1 and 2 are means to your yeshua)
    3. Ask your boss for a raise
    4. Get your own chicken coup. A chick costs a few bucks you will have fresh eggs daily.
    5. Have your own indoor garden you can grow your own veggies hydroponically. You can google how to do this. Lakewood homes and can accommodate 4 and 5 easily.
    5. Get rid of debt/credit cards. If you cant pay for something upfront, dont buy it.
    Hatzlacha!!

    • Would love to get rid of credit cards. Unfortunately that would mean not being able to afford food or school. That’s reality. We are not using it to buy anything other than necessities however these days a normal salary does not cover the necessities.

  8. two biggest crisis in the frum community:

    parnassa and the shiduch crisis.

    But more time and effort is spent on whether a certain pirush is on chumash which was written by yerushalmi yidden is ok or not.

    Nuts

    • cute,
      But as someone who has the utmost respect for HaRav Aharon Feldman ( and all the other gedolim involved, but R Aharon is whom saw), I would point out that if the pirush is successful in its (inadvertent?) realignment of basic Jewish paradigms than there will be eventually no “frum” community for there to be crisis.
      That’s not going to happen, because of “lo, yamushu…” but we must do our part!

      Furthermore, why does the concern for the ill-effects of this sefer take anything away from the effort to help with the crisis you speak of? It doesnt.

  9. When I was growing up we had to read “the tale of two cities” in school. Seeing this post and at the same time seeing the post that Kartwright water park is almost sold out for midwinter makes me think of that.

  10. I’m making approximately $250k annually and barely getting by. There is a real middle class crisis in this country confounded in our community. I don’t believe there is a solution.

  11. In order for food items to drop expenses have to go down from the chain up. Basic commodities are still inflated and therefore prices cannot drop. If Basic commodities drop 20% then prices can start dropping. Egg commodities have started dropping and will eventually get there. Payroll is not going down but new jobs are seeing a softening meaning prices are not going even higher now. Unfortunately shipping in UPS and FedEx went up again 7% which would cause prices to go up again. Fortunately some commodities have softened, shipping from china has gone down therefore the prices may not be affected to have to rise again.
    Solutions for middle class is very tough.
    Buy only the basics, cook and bake.
    Eg. Shabbos bake your own challah, make your own dips, and buy full fruits and cut it yourself..
    During the week avoid buying takeout etc..
    Eat leftovers if needed.
    If you really need call your local organizations. Bh there are plenty for every shvere matzav.
    May hashem bentch you with brocha and hatzlocha.

  12. If what you’re saying it’s true, then that’s ridiculous. Inflating prices just to make more on food stamps and wic but they don’t care about anyone else? What has this world come to?

    • Check the prices of canned chickpeas. The cans eligible for wic are much more money then other bands simply due to a few oz difference.
      Also applies to cheese, eggs, cereal, peanut butter, etc.

  13. Seems like you need a financial counselor.

    Do you know where every $ is going?

    Are you shopping at the right stores?
    I am on ebt and only go to bjs for my fruits and vegetables.

    Eggs I get at Costco. Most kosher stuff I get at bingo.

    I don’t go to evergreen that much.

  14. If we would stop buying certain kosher food products even for a few weeks ,the prices woukd drop like a rock. But there seems to be so much money in this town thst people just can’t stop buying anything ,even for just a few weeks.

  15. The government is so corrupt and then they have issues when people try to take advantage of the system by not going to work. Why would anybody with a brain go to work if all he could make is a middle class salary (or less) when being on government programs will get him a lot more? The only people for whom it is worthwhile to work are businesses owners or aspiring businesses owners. Most employees don’t earn enough – particularly if they have large families.

  16. Lets treat the middle class crisis like we treated the teacher crisis. We need to sympathize and try to come up with a solution. We can’t raise their salaries like teacher salaries were raised but perhaps a discount or rewards program in the grocery store for non EBT users. They are just asking for help to put bread on the table. They are our brothers and sisters even if they were not fortunate enough to stay in kollel.

  17. Being on government programs is like having a noose around your neck.

    Years ago when I had a well paying job with excellent benefits, I was so jealous of my friends who got ‘free’ food via food stamps; ‘free’ medical care with no copays etc. etc. Wow! No paying for food! Free Insurance!

    Well, one day I lost my job – and could not find another one despite trying very hard. (When I finally found one, it was low paying and no benefits – but I needed the money, so I took it.) And I found myself on those “amazing” programs that I was so jealous of.

    Let me tell you this: it looks very exciting when the person in front of you on line is swiping their EBT card. But having been in both situations, I would 1000% prefer a good job with good benefits and not need to be on programs!

    The process for applying for programs is extremely tedious and time consuming and they drive you crazy to send every little thing and to resend things you sent numerous times. They give you a very short time frame to put together tons of documentation – and if you miss the deadline – you are finished! You live with a noose around your neck because you can’t make more money – or you’ll lose the benefits – but the income you are currently making is way too low to survive on. Every single extra dollar you make, you have a massive pressure every single time to report to every program you are on within a very short time frame.

    Further, my daughter recently had a serious medical issue. I spent hours on the phone but could not find a decent specialist less than a 2 hour drive away who would accept my NJ familycare insurance. When I offered Dr offices who are closer to self pay (I have a relative who offered to pay for it for me), I was told that I am not allowed to because I am on NJ FamilyCare!

    Lets not even discuss trying to find a decent dentist, getting an appointment with an eye doctor within a reasonable time frame etc. etc. who will accept FamilyCare

    How I miss my excellent medical insurance that I had (yes, even with the copay etc.); how I miss the 401K; the top dental insurance which allowed my family to go to competent dentists; my decent salary that allowed me to pay for my bills (yes, including food) respectfully. No, I wasn’t rich – not close – but it was a different life! My finances were mine to control – for example, if an opportunity came to make some extra money on the side, I gladly took it without any reason to hesitate – I didn’t have the government breathing down my back every move I made! If we needed to go to a Doctor or Dentist – we had so many excellent ones to chose from right nearby!

    The grass is not always greener on the other side.

    • This is specifically about food and those on EBT and CHS have less stress when buying food or applying for day camp.
      Sound like you made a dream salary that covered all expenses but most of the middle class do not have that. We struggle to cover expenses the same way the poor do but with the added struggle of food which the poor do not have.

      • If being poor and on programs is so amazing, anyone is welcome to cut their hours and qualify and apply. I think once a person tries it and sees what life on these programs is like, they may quickly regret it.

        to “RT”, you said I could make more money but don’t want to – how can I? if you read my post you’ll see that I wrote that I lost my job – which was in a field which requires a high level of training – and was forced eventually to take a much lower paying job. At this point, my skills in that field are very outdated and would take a long time and a lot of schooling (for which I don’t currently have time or money) for me to be able to go back to that field – and even if I did, I’d be hired as entry level which is paid much less.

  18. Also a big issue is that stores are charging more in Lakewood vs let’s say monsey. An example, a store that is in both Monsey and Lakewood is charging 10.99 lb for rugelach in monsey and in Lakewood store it’s 14.99 lb this is just one example

  19. Just to clarify, it isn’t $95 per person but rather $95 total per household if otherwise would have been allocated less. Not sure why $95 a month for your family’s food bill is gonna cause inflation.

  20. Here’s an idea:
    Don’t go to CVS, where everything is more expensive to begin with, and buy 12 bottles of soda on a Friday and then pay with your EBT card.
    Not so sure that soda is a basic necessity.

  21. I’m reading some of these comments and just laughing. Start with bread and water and a little salt. If you have a little more money than buy a little more food. Whole thing about leftovers and cutting up your own fruit…. like that is a huge deal. Ha. Skip a meal. Fill your stomach with bread and pasta or rice. Whatever is cheapest. Most people in our communities are obese. Stop worrying about how the Goldbergs and Steins eat and order takeout and go to the bakery. Never ever go to bakeries or restaurants unless you can afford it and think that is what your money should be spent on. Buy whatever sustenance is rock bottom cheapest and learn to be yistapik bemuat and sameach bechalkel. You will be happier and have a better outlook on life and your kids will be more well adjusted and normal. You aren’t given money to indulge in luxuries but to give to other people and build up His world. Try to emulate how you spend money on yourself like R Shteinman and the Chazon Ish spent their money. You may never reach 1/1000th of their level but we should at least be striving for something along those lines.

    • Quite narish. You can’t impose on your family the lifestyle of these gedolim of yesteryear. Show some empathy for these fine Yidden struggling to feed their families. Part of the mitzva of tzedakah is to be mefayes the oni, not preach to him.

  22. I am a member of the middle class and I approve of this post.

    For all the people commenting there are thousands who are not but are nodding along as so many of us are in this predicament.

    The system is messed up. Food has become outrageously unaffordable for those that otherwise seem to have a decent income. (I think the food companies or the store are taking way too much advantage btw).

    By the time we pay our basics it’s all miracles we are living on because the numbers just don’t add up. And it’s not just about food.

    Forget about budgeting, the numbers don’t add up.

    And the housing costs have gone through the roof (Thank you NYers we appreciate it) so many can’t even move into loving quarters that they can fit properly into.

    Something needs to change or we’re going to start having to bail out the middle class from debilitating debt.

  23. Middle Classman here :
    I feel your pain !
    First and foremost, we have to strengthen our faith in HaShem.
    He is the only one that decides who has money and how much you get. Once you have that awareness that HE and only HE is in control , then it’s not as hard.

    If you feel the stores are ripping you off(like I do) then you have to be one step ahead of them.
    For example: Shop at ALDIs many many items are at least half price! Even if u are a Heimishe brand only person , if u can’t afford it do the Aldi/ ShopRite thing. It’s a bit more time consuming but you literally save half.

    Then there’s ALLI express .
    Find the clothing that you want
    The 800$ dress for 150$ and buy it there !

    As for tuition and camp ?
    HaShem Yaazor
    Not much u can do about that

    And as for gas
    I hate to say this
    But go for the electric cars

  24. There should be a central kitchen in Lakewood that Cooks Massive amounts of food
    Like Thousands of portions of meat balls and speghetti etc
    And let everyone buy supper for their family at $2 or $3 a person

  25. In many communities Tomchei Shabbas does not drop off packages. Families are given cards so they can purchase groceries with their Tomchei Shabbas cards wherever they choose to shop .

  26. Some tips to save money on groceries:

    1. Shop at Aldi’s. They are MUCH cheaper on many items
    2. Shop the grocery section in Walmart. Also much cheaper on most items
    3. When going to the frum stores, try to buy the items that you need when they are on sale and stock up on them then
    4. Try not to buy convenience items such as prepared raw vegetables, foods from the take out section etc.
    5. Check the prices of meat and chicken in a few frum grocery stores in your area. You might be shocked to see that one store is vastly cheaper than the other
    5. Try to bake your own Challah and cake – if possible
    6. If buying fish, many stores sell “ends” or the like which are much cheaper per pound. Shloimys usually has salmon on sale every Wednesday.
    7. Many stores sell cakes, take out, salads, deli etc which is still ok but not super fresh at a discount.

  27. It’s completely immature and irresponsible to complain about not having money after spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need. People are starving all over the world and people here are talking baking their own challa vs. purchasing it. People earning less than 20k in this country are considered poor and would be from the richest of the rich in the majority of countries in the world. You want to know what days salmon is on sale while people in most countries want know how to get a glass of water that isn’t riddled with toxins. So let’s put things in a little bit of perspective. Most people commenting here aren’t living on the street or starving to death. Don’t worry about yenem and how life is so grandiose and amazing with all the govt programs etc. Be sameach bechelko and grateful that on you very worst day you are leading an amazing existence not under the stress of famine or hundreds of unavoidable diseases or imminent threat of death or tyrannical governments that until very recently in history nearly all of mankind faced all the time. No one is imposing any of this on anyone as some tipesh “thought” earlier and misunderstood everything and then proceeded to spout a bunch of nonsense, rather it’s to put things in perspective.

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