Tuesday, January 24, 2017

One hundred euros in cash

I didn’t get any unemployment benefits any more it was difficult to cope with a three months waiting period to get RSA income support benefit. Actually, I had jumped into the water without knowing how much money I would get and when. Also things started to go wrong with the system and the Family Allowance Funds sent us a letter requesting the four previous months’ family housing allowance back. To top it all off, a big gas bill arrived.
   In the past I used to think that unprivileged people could just drop into social services and get easy money. Now it was time to find out by myself how it works. I made an appointment with a social worker and headed to her office. I was now a regular filed customer because of my previous claim for the RSA. The first employee I met let me know that there is an allowance, called Paris family energy aid, which could cover a part of the gas bill. She also advised me to write to the Family Allowance Fund to ask for a debt discharge.  After filtering my urgent needs, the lady conducted me to another person’s office. The second employee was in charge of the immediate cash claims. Once again I presented all personal data and proofs about our family’s financial situation, like invoices and bank statements. Taking into consideration the rent, the bills and food, our immediate lack of money was around one thousand euros. But instead of money the social worker gave free advice like “Madam, don’t pay your rent and gas bill if you can’t.”

Insert your coins and press the counsel button

I decided to get at least the maximum use of the free advice. I asked whether she could give any tips about how to deal with small coins, which are the only money left at the end of the month. I mean very small coins like one, two and five centimes or so, which are seldom accepted in the baker’s or even in the supermarket. The social worker’s face suddenly illuminated. She felt herself useful.
“Take all your small coins and go to a post office. To buy a stamp, you know, you can put up to twenty coins in the stamp machine. Insert nineteen coins and then press the counsel button. The machine gives your money back in bigger coins. You can do the same as many times as you wish until you don’t have one and two centime coins any more. I used to work in the north of Paris where many clients lived off of begging. That’s how they dealt with the coins”, the social worker said proudly. 

   I couldn’t help asking whether they tolerate this in the post office. “Well, not really. But you don’t need to go to the same post office every time”, the employee said smiling. In addition to the small coin advice, my best achievements were one hundred euros in cash to get by some more days. The claim should be validated by an “express committee” which is held once a week. Three days later I handed a receipt to an old severe looking male employee through a hole in a Plexiglas window. I pulled out one hundred euros in cash from the same hole.

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