A woman has recently come under scrutiny for accepting food stamps and welfare – all while also driving a Mercedes Benz sports car.
Darlena Cunha believes she was right to keep her fancy car through the tough times, when her family was struggling with high debt and unemployment.
In an article written for The Cap Times, Cunha explained the drastic lifestyle change her family experienced. She and her husband went from making a combined $120,000 and owning a house valued at $240,000, to making a mere $25,000.
What is more, the value of their house dropped down to $150,000.
Their financial situation was complicated even further by the fact that they were expecting twins. After the twins were born six weeks early, they faced medical problems and extended waits in the hospital.
To make ends meet, the family sought help from WIC, government welfare, food stamps and the unemployment extension – all while keeping her expensive 2003 Mercedes Benz Kompressor.
She recalls showing up to government offices in her car, and noting that “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.”
“I didn’t feel animosity coming from them, more wonderment, maybe a bit of resentment,” she continued.
The most embarrassing part, Cunha added, was that “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.”
Cunha and her family have since managed to find a better-paying job; they also sold their house.
However, she held on to her Mercedes Benz all along, explaining, “When you’re scrambling, you hang on to the things that work, that bring you some comfort. That Mercedes was the one reliable, trustworthy thing in our lives.”
Critics, however, found a variety of reasons to criticize her decision.
One noted that the car had originally retailed for $30,000, and suggested that in 2008, when money was tight, the Cunhas could have sold the vehicle, bought a reliable one for under $10,000, and still have had a lump sum of money left over.
Others accused pride of getting in the way of logic, accusing her of “trying to hide behind” the car and the “status symbol” it represented.