Skip to comments.As benefits expire, long-term unemployed make do with less
Posted on 02/22/2014 11:18:24 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
On Dec. 28, 1.3 million Americans lost their unemployment insurance when an emergency federal unemployment insurance program expired. Critics of extended unemployment benefits say the benefits raise jobless numbers by allowing people to stay unemployed longer instead of taking an available job. But people like Trista Selmar-Steed, a 38-year-old former medical biller who lost her job in 2012, say the benefits have kept her family above water while she looks for work. Special correspondent John Carlos Frey reports from Georgia.
TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: I open it up and just rip it down the middle. Separate it.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Trista Selmar-Steed cuts a lot of coupons these days In fact shes becomes a bit of a fanatic about it.
TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: This is my coupon box, container, I carry it with me to the grocery store. Coffee, cake, butter, milk, pasta, sugar this one here is for household goods and personal items.
TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: You never know that coupons will save you as much money as you it actually has.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: The 38-year-old who lives in a suburb just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, has been saving all these coupons because as of December 28th, she has no income. She was one of 1.3 million Americans who lost their unemployment insurance when an emergency federal unemployment insurance program expired.
TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: That same week that I expected to get that next check was the same week that I had a bill that was due but I wasnt able to pay it. I had to ask my husband to start paying my part of the bills and thats the sad part, not being able to help my husband pay pay the bills.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Trista, who used to make $30,000 a year working for a medical billing service, was laid off from her job in November of 2012, and hasnt been able to find a job since.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: I sensed a year out there in this job market has kind of beat you up a little bit, yeah?
TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: Its very sad that to have the qualifications and not be able to actually work, you know, get a job in your field. And Ive been doing this 2007.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Why do you think its so hard for you to get a job?
TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: Im not sure. A lot of companies are still laying off.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Trista has now been without her benefits for 8 weeks. To make matters worse, her husband who is a truck driver was hurt on the job and is now on whats known as light duty, working fewer hours and only taking home about 60% of what he used to which now equals about $2000 a month.
TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: So thats another whammy, you know, something else that started started the down spiral, excuse me.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: They say they now have to dip into their savings just too pay their bills. She says things have gotten so bad, that when shes not at her computer for several hours each day looking for work, shes and her husband spend their free time watching TV just to lift their spirits.
TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: Cartoons and comedy, it have us laughing. It takes your mind off of the things that you might be going through.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Theres some people who would say that people who are on unemployment dont want to look for a job. They just want to live off the unemployment. Its its a free easy paycheck.
TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: Its not a free easy paycheck. Thats what for me, its not. I know what I like in life. I know what I strive to have in the future. And I can say some people might try to use that, but me personally, I thats not me.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: While Trista believes that extending her benefits would give her the cushion she needs to get another job, Economics Professor Jeff Dorfman, who teaches at the University of Georgia, says that the extended unemployment benefits ARE the problem.
JEFF DORFMAN: The studies show it raises unemployment more by allowing people to stay unemployed longer, still searching for a really great job instead of taking a job thats available.
Dorfman points to North Carolina. Last July the state legislature cut unemployment benefits from 73 weeks to 19 weeks. In the months since the state unemployment rate dropped from 8.9 percent to 6.9 percent.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: And you attribute that to cutting 50 weeks of unemployment insurance.
JEFF DORFMAN: When you suddenly get cut off, you realize, You know, I need to take a job. And people in North Carolina apparently found jobs.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Others attribute the decline in unemployment there to unemployed workers giving up their search for work. And they note the drop in unemployment has been coupled with a big increase in the number of people there on food stamps.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: As for Trista, she says shed be happy to take a job outside her medical billing field. She says shes applied for all kinds of jobs during the past year, everything from driving a school bus or a truck to clerical jobs at CVS and Wal-Mart. Even as a flight attendant with Delta. All of them met with rejection.
TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: We regret to inform you that you have not been selected for this position at this time. Thank you for applying and best wishes for success in your future endeavors. Delta talent acquisition team. And Ive gotten that three times from Delta, so
TRACY MOSLEY: You hear the the theory that some people are just a couple paychecks away from homelessness. Well, we actually see that.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Tracy Mosley is the Transition Program Coordinator for the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, an organization that helps African Americans find and train for jobs. He warns of dire consequences unless unemployment benefits are extended.
TRACY MOSLEY: We actually see people that had a sustainable income, that had a good job, good employment. But all of a sudden they find themself homeless.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: The problem is particularly acute in the African American community where the unemployment rate is nearly double the national average. Mosley says the interview and job prep classes his organization offers have been filled to capacity with people like Trista Selmar-Steed, who he says are desperate for work. She recently met with a job counselor here.
COUNSELOR: so you are being recommended for a position with MARTA, which is the transit authority for Atlanta, that our bus railway system that we use here. Thats one of the opportunities youll be considered for. So I wanna make sure that you are going to be available on March the 3rd so I can have you lined up for an interview.
TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: Ok, well thank you so much, I really appreciate this, this is a big help.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Trista is crossing her fingers that this lead might just pan out but for the time being just getting to the Urban Leagues office in Atlanta, a 45 minute drive from her home in the suburbs is a financial burden now that she doesnt have an unemployment check every week.
TRACY MOSLEY: And so if their source of income, of temporary income, is cut off A lot of them cannot even afford to come down here for their training.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: But Professor Jeff Dorfman says that government benefits cant go on forever.
JEFF DORFMAN: Our compassion has never been unlimited in this sense. We always eventually cut people off. We already had some mechanism for deciding at some point weve gotta stop paying for you.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: And some would argue that were not there yet. Were not at that point in the recovery where we should start cutting back. We still need to fund for an extended period of time.
JEFF DORFMAN: The longest weve ever kept benefits before is 35 months after the end of a recession. And were at 55 months now. So were 20 months, thats over a year and a half longer than weve ever provided these extended benefits for.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: Dorfman believes that if the government is going to intervene, that money could be better used retraining the unemployed for new jobs. For now, with Congress at an impasse, it looks like Trista, and nearly two million others, will have to survive without the federal life line theyve come to count on in these hard times..
TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: I mean, it dampens your spirit a little bit, but the only way you can prosper, Ive learned, is to keep a high spirit // And so I just look at it as where one door closes, someone will eventually hire me.
JOHN CARLOS FREY: After a year, you still feel that way?
TRISTA SELMAR-STEED: I still feel that way. Yes.
I can relate to that woman. However the difference is she has a family I don’t. I was cut off on December 28 but they still owe me 900.00. Now since I got laid off since October 2012 I have submitted resumes daily and I even applied at fast food places, including Sams, Walmart, etc. and nothing. There are few here that says “get off the couch and get a job”. That is easy for you to say. I remember having that attitude but not no more. Now I’m on the other side. I am not denying there are some who abuse the system but there is no need to punish the rest of us who are trying to get a job. As of now my brother is helping me with rent but he is struggling too. As for the bills now I am pawning my mother’s jewelry which is not much.
I know exactly how you feel! At my age they don’t want to hire me because either I have too much experience or laughingly not enough, the truth is they think older experienced people won’t stay, are only idling while looking for something better. I was really depressed recently when a school district called me back after initially rejecting me to offer a job, then they yanked the rug out from under me because of a five year old traffic ticket, zero tolerance don’t you know! I have trouble relating to this woman because I am losing hope that another door will open.
“Trista, who used to make $30,000 a year working for a medical billing service, was laid off from her job in November of 2012, and hasnt been able to find a job since.”
I feel for this woman, and everyone else like her. I still have memories of the recession of the early 1980s, when my dad was out of work for almost a year.
The difference this time is that there’s no Reagan Recovery waiting around the corner. My dad got back to work and was soon making a much better salary than he had before he’d lost his last job. Today, I’m not so sure he’d have found a job at all, much less a better one. We are staring at what I fear may well be a “lost decade”, with the idiotic policies of this administration making things worse.
The “new normal” really, really sucks, folks.
Tell the people suffering to ask their state legislatures to decide between public pensions, public schools, public welfare, public safety and extended unemployment benefits.
“Its very sad that to have the qualifications and not be able to actually work, you know, get a job in your field. And Ive been doing this 2007.”
I feel ya Trista.
I actually had a conversation with an employment agency guy in which he told me that I was basically OVER qualified AND UNDER qualified for any job he might ever encounter.
That just blew my mind.
“...they yanked the rug out from under me because of a five year old traffic ticket...”
Oh man, that just s*cks.
Hang in there. I’ll say a prayer to St. Joseph for both of you.
And please call McConnell, because he rolled right over over the debt ceiling.
This is how the R party gets it’s “nothing for the little guy” rep.
Sorry, but it’s true.
The Uniparty government cuts military pensions, raises taxes and cuts the extended unemployment all at the same time.
The new farm bill has food stamp cuts in it.
Now they raise the credit card limit of the nation by raising the debt ceiling.
Policies that anger conservatives for sure and should anger the left that wants those bennies and handouts.
THE REAL SOLUTION OF BALANCING THE BUDGET AND REFUSING TO INCREASE THE NATIONAL DEBT ISN’T EVEN ON THE RADAR WITH THE DEMS AND THEIR GOP-E ALLIES IN THE UNIPARTY GOVERNMENT.
They did decide - and the decision wasn't in favor of extended unemployment benefits.
In a deep, long recession like this one, all the old rules go flying out the window. There are only two things a jobseeker should be concentrating on: Can I beat out my competition and get this job and will it pay me just enough to support myself at a minimal level. That’s it.
So unless I agree to support extendngi YOUR unemployment benefits indefinitely, I am punishing you?
No one is punishing you by cutting off your unemployment benefits after the time they run out. Unemployment benefits are an insurance policy. There is a policy limit. You have reached it.
I quit reading here. I work but can't afford cable. Internet is on my 3 g phone. I don't feel deprived.
Where do you live?
“There are only two things a jobseeker should be concentrating on: Can I beat out my competition and get this job and will it pay me just enough to support myself at a minimal level. Thats it.”
You are exactly right.
And that has been my philosophy since I joined the unemployed masses back in September. Unemployment insurance is about to run out for me, and still I have found nothing.
Try finding employment once you pass 50. It’s a bitch. Age discrimination is rampant and in your face. But all I can do is keep looking. Sooner or later something has to work out.
Meanwhile I will pick up freelance work when I can. Underground economy if necessary. Savings have been pretty well wiped out...after I pay taxes I won’t have much left.
Damn near had my house payed off, too.
Oh well. I had a good run. Worked full time since I was 17 and had never before been out of work for more than a few days - this is not normal.
Payed? Jeesh... I meant paid.
Hitting the cyber-pavement?
There are no jobs inside your computer. I looked. There's just a lot of electronic stuff.
East Bay (Northern California)
No there are no jobs in your computer, but you know what? nobody wants a written resume or walk in job seeker these days either! Oh you can look in your newspaper for a job if you want, good luck with that!
Well I pretty much feel that. Isn’t it funny no problem extending it while under Bush now Obama is in the Pubbies want to cut. Since when? Now don’t get me wrong, I want to work not sit around collecting a check. I have applied everywhere even temp agency and nothing.
Hey, you are trying. An my thoughts a prayers are with you.
I know that it is not much but good luck.