Being unemployed when you don’t wish to be unemployed is generally one of those things that ranks up there as being a life shattering event or at the very least pretty damn uncomfortable. I know because I speak from experience. It was on July 3, 2007 I was let go from my teaching gig and to say I didn’t see it coming was an understatement. I had been teaching business classes at a local for profit career school, the type that many non traditional students tend to go to when they are looking to change careers or upgrade their skills. The department that I was a part of, was deemed to be unprofitable so the powers to be decided to kill it and well that left a sista without a job.
The timing could not have been worse because just a few months before I was let go, the Spousal Unit lost several of his freelance clients and my salary had been plugging in the cracks. Thankfully I was eligible for unemployment insurance benefits but they were roughly about $850 a month which was substantially less than I had earned as an adjunct teacher but hey I was thankful for what I got. That said, after taking a few weeks to be depressed and lick my wounds I got on the grind and it took damn near 17 months to land a new job as the director of a small non profit that paid less than my teaching gig. I went back to work a few days after the United States elected Barack Obama, as I joke there was a spirit of change in the air because my Black ass being hired to run an agency that deals with rural poor whites was definitely a conversation starter. I can’t even tell you the number of times I was introduced as the new director and there was an uncomfortable or curious pause. Thankfully everyone got over it and almost 2 years later I am still at this job.
Point that I am trying to make though is that I lost my job before the official start of the recession and it took over a year to find a job. I actually exhausted my unemployment benefits and started hustling, doing grant writing for small agencies and even doing workshops. I often greatly discounted my prices just so that I could earn some money. But the fact is during that period of time if it had not been for the assistance of my father in law, this blog would be called Black Girl in Arizona because almost certainly we would have lost our house and ended up living either with him or in one of his rental houses out in that way too hot, too sunny state.
If you lost your job though in the midst of the great recession though, chances are you are facing down some real hard times, hell you might even be one of the 99’ers like this woman. In case you don’t feel like clicking that would be folks who have received extended unemployment benefit’s for 99 weeks and for some of these folks the bennies are over but guess what? They still have no job. Not surprising when the fact is for every one job opening there are 5 applicants, mathematically that means there are not enough jobs for every person who wants or needs a job.
However it was after reading this article that I felt inspired to write, since based off the comments and I must say if you have some time please read not only the article but the comments. There are many who feel that any college educated American who is still jobless after 2 years must be a bum. Wow! I don’t know about you but I rarely even see signs at the local fast food joints stating that they are looking for help. The few times I hit up the job sites I see few openings that if I were looking for a job, which would even be suitable for me. Some think if you are jobless maybe you should offer to babysit, or do lawn work…anything to earn some cash. Great idea but generally one needs the aptitude and or tools to hang up their shingle besides in the new era of frugality that is taking over the nation many of us are doing are own shit. Normally at least once a year I hire someone to do the heavy yard work, not this year, the Spousal Unit is doing the bushes. Yep, they are crooked but guess what it saves a few cents.
The sad reality is while some of us are still living in a bubble where jobs and money are plentiful for some of us that is not reality. There are many more folks like this woman and my Dad out there who are literally a moment away from homelessness. Thankfully my Dad’s short term dilemma is solved though right now we are looking at the long term solutions.
What we need aside from the government to really address the real economic crisis on the ground is compassion and understanding that most of us are only a few checks or 6 months away from homelessness. While the hubby and I are doing ok at the moment, fact is our savings is insufficient and since the man is a contract worker at the moment should his major gig end he would not qualify for unemployment insurance benefits and we would be screwed.
To those who say unemployment benefits discourage people from taking jobs, I say really? I remember in late 2007 being newly unemployed, sending out a good 25 resumes a week, scouting the jobs sites, emailing and calling and just being frustrated and bored. So I decided maybe a holiday job at Macy’s would be nice. Well I went to the group interview and was offered a position that paid minimum wage, something like $7.25 an hour at that time, no set schedule (kidlet was about 2.5 at the time and with her in childcare I needed a schedule that worked around that) required I wear certain clothes and at the interview they were trying to convince me and the others that we should open a Macy’s account so that we could use the discount they gave employees. Um…this is a minimum wage paying job, why the hell do I need a credit card? Sadly the younger women in the group interview were eager to fill out the form so they could get a card and charge the clothes they would need to work there. Well I mulled it over but when training day came and after I realized the job would impact my unemployment benefits so I would either make less or exactly the same thing as I was getting on unemployment I said thanks but no thanks.
I imagine to some this admission makes me a slacker but at that point I still had benefits and taking a job that was nowhere near my career field and could put me in a worse financial place seemed like a bad idea. I wanted to work but let’s be real! Besides what if I got calls for real jobs but was scheduled to work? In my mind I am sorry but it’s a no brainer.
Nope, what we need are some services and systems in place that help the long term unemployed just because a person loses their job does not mean they should lose their dignity. As a nation we have plenty o money to keep fighting wars, how about we bring those troops home and invest that money in the citizens in this country?