I didn't place a price on the question, I responded to the question at the price you set.
I also answered the question you asked "What else can I do I really need the $500.00.", I didn't "act" like I had anything. The answer I gave is the only answer that is correct especially as you noted that you "really needed the money" and small claims court is the fastest way to resolve the issue since the complaint through the state agency will take a while, isn't known for getting damages, and will almost certainly still put you back in the same position you are at right now.
Also, attorneys are allowed in small claims court, they just have to ask special permission which is usually done when a corporation is involved. As to mediation, there is no state requirement that a case be mediated prior to a trial. Individual judges can require that but there are also ways to avoid it.
If you choose not to pay that is entirely your decision, I answered the questions you asked, including the follow up, explained the issues you were going to face, and that's all I can do, other than to answer any other follow up questions you have, which I will still be available for.