Mom on Food Stamps Shouldn't Be Criticized for Driving a Mercedes

steering wheel

When you think of a mom who is on government assistance, a certain image usually comes to mind. It's true whether you are willing to admit it or not. So it's not a surprise that Darlena Cunha's recent confession has caused quite a stir. The mom of twins admits to being on food stamps and driving a Mercedes. The thought seems to incense people. In their minds, she can't possibly deserve the help. She must be cheating the system.

However, Cunha's story is becoming an all too familiar one these days. Once a part of the middle class, she and her husband hit some seriously hard times. She was a TV producer and her husband a copy editor for a newspaper, living in a lovely home. Though shortly after they made the purchase, the market crashed and their $240,000 piece of property was suddenly worth $150,000. That is certainly a tragic turn we have all heard of or personally experienced.

They were stunned but were still able to make their lofty mortgage payments until her husband lost his job two weeks before their twins were born. Now the family that once bought in $120,000 made just $25,000. Needless to say, they ran through their savings. With so many mouths to feed and medical needs of her six-week premature babies, she had no choice but to seek public assistance. And it was not an easy process by any means. They had to prove they were poor enough to warrant the help. They were.

Yes, they had a Mercedes. A 2003 Mercedes. And though they were criticized for keeping such a "fancy car" while using food stamps, Cunha makes an excellent argument for why they did. It had been paid off a decade ago -- so no car note. What are they to do -- sell it and then buy a less flashy car so that it looks better? To placate everyone around them? Let's get real here: a car that old isn't worth that much at this point anyway.

It wasn't as though they were living a lavish lifestyle, taking extravagant vacations, or buying expensive clothes all while getting free food. Their circumstance isn't easy. She describes the disdainful looks and comments she received after whipping out her food stamps at the grocery checkout. No one deserves that. Like many others, this college-educated woman never envisioned her life taking this turn. But it has.

And why shouldn't they keep one nice vestige of their former life? Who are we to judge? And that's the problem, isn't it? We are so quick to pass judgment when we don't fully understand the situation and that just isn't fair.

Do you think it's wrong for Cunha's family to keep the Mercedes?


Image © Arman Zhenikeyev/Corbis



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Organ... Organizedchaos8

I think they did the right thing keeping the car, it's paid off and obviously reliable. What are they supposed to do? Go trade it in on an old crappy car that will break down repeatedly within the first year causing them to spend more money that they don't have?

nonmember avatar ymaeiram

Just because your circumstances in life change doesn't mean you give up a reliable vehicle. It would be completely different thing if they had a car note. I completely agree with Organizedchaos8.

nonmember avatar MrsClark

If it's a paid off car then what is the probelm? If they still had a high note on it I would say sell for something less expensive to save money. However, it is a terrible idea to sell a paid off car and buy a less fancy car with a car payment.

D.j. Lord

a lot of people are milking the system and we can find better examples than these people..hell if its paid off keep if it starts falling apart and they get it fixed then maybe we have a problem

nonmember avatar Michael

As long as people use the system to fall back on so they can bounce back up into working again then no one should have any issue with anyone on assistance. Living for years and years of others is another thing entirely, but that is not what this couple is doing.

IKnow... IKnow0101

I read the original article and she was definitely right in keeping the car. I doubt she would receive a lot of money at the time and plus she really needed reliable transportation for two newborns. Depending on where you live there is not always bus services so the car was a must.

Kayla Jolene Hoosier

I tend not to judge people like that.  Everyone can get down on their luck.  Not everyone tries to cheat the system.

nonmember avatar Emma

If the car is paid off good keep it but one thing I can't stand is people who can drive brand new spanking cars but yet they are on food stamps and can't afford a grocery bill. I work my ass off every day and still have a hard time making ends meet.

Miche... Michelephant

Foodstamps doesn't take into account assets that aren't being used as income.  You can have a $100,000 car and still collect benefits.  If you rent out your fancy car and pocket the money then that money is taken into account. 

nonmember avatar Carol

WIC is different from food stamps. I wondered why she was picking up her food stamps at a church until I got to the part where she discusses WIC. It sounds like she wasn't actually on food stamps, unless I am missing something.

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