By all accounts, you could say Rickie Lawrence Gardner, 49, of Moulton, Alabama was desperate.
Gardner was about to lose his job because a leg injury was preventing him from working and he was facing possible homelessness. So in order to avoid homelessness and missed not being able to survive without a job, Gardner took matters into his own hands.
Earlier this week, Gardner walked into Bank Independent and handed a teller a note saying, “I have a weapon. Give me your money.” After the employee complied, Gardner took the bag of cash, which totaled $4,000, walked outside, and locked it in his car. He then sat on a bench in front of the bank and waited for police officers to arrive.
Police arrested 49-year-old Gardner on charges of first-degree robbery and first-degree theft. The police chief said Gardner mentioned the weapon in the note — even though he didn’t have one — because he thought it would get him a longer sentence.
As heartbreaking as it is that a poor American might think that giving up his own freedom is his best hope for survival, there are many reasons why someone might hold that view. Indeed, Alabama has one of the worst social safety nets of any state in the country. It has one of the stingiest maximum TANF benefits, formerly known as welfare, at just $190 per month for a family of two. In other words, even if Gardner had a child and were receiving $190 per month, that would still leave him 85 percent lower than the federal poverty line of $14,710.
Alabama lawmakers have also made it increasingly difficult for poor residents like Gardner to receive health care. Though some Republican governors in states like Arizona and Ohio have embraced Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid to cover poor citizens, Alabama has steadfastly opposed doing so, despite the fact that it’s fully funded by the federal government for the first three years. As a result, hundreds of thousands of low-income individuals won’t receive health care. Even without the Medicaid expansion, it’s already incredibly difficult to be eligible in Alabama. A single adult, like Gardner, who makes more than $1,332 per year is considered too wealthy to qualify for Medicaid in Alabama.
$1,332- too wealthy for Medicaid. But too poor to live. When jail is the final option, you’d have to wonder about the stress and pressure a person is under in tough economic times.