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Opinion by Amy K. Matsui
Updated 3:26 PM ET, Tue October 5, 2021
Amy K. Matsui is director of Income Security and senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center. She works on a broad range of economic issues affecting low- and moderate-income women and families, with special emphasis on federal and state tax policy. The views expressed here are her own. Read more opinion on CNN.
The new Netflix series "Maid" -- largely based on the bestselling memoir of the same name by Stephanie Land -- tells a story familiar to many mothers fighting to keep their heads above water. Fleeing a violent partner while trying to do right by her child, Alex (portrayed by Margaret Qualley) finds navigating the requirements of emergency shelters and public programs a Kafkaesque maze that adds to the trauma of her own poverty. "I need a job to prove that I need day care in order to get a job?" laments Alex while filing for child care subsidies. "What kind of f**kery is that?"Amy K. Matsui Single mothers like the character of Alex have often been demonized for relying on public benefits like child care subsidies and nutritional assistance, especially if they are Black or brown. And many policymakers seem to go to great lengths to make relying on public programs the most difficult and humiliating of propositions. Whether it's providing benefit levels so low that people are virtually guaranteed to run out of food by the end of the month, or requiring in-person visits to benefits offices that aren't accessible by public transportation, or mandating online reporting on websites that don't work on mobile phones -- the goal is clearly to discourage the use of public benefits, rather than to provide a fallback plan when families hit hard times.ReplayMore Videos ...