Witness Wednesdays: Voices of the Unemployed
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We must continue to call for action on emergency unemployment compensation. Click here to find addresses, phone numbers, and contact information for your elected officials. Thank House and Senate champions for standing up for the long-term unemployed, and urge House leadership to reach across the aisle and work with the Senate so that both chambers can pass extension legislation.
A petition is also available, and we encourage you to sign it if you haven't done so already. This petition is available through MoveOn.org.
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More than 3 million hardworking Americans have been cut off of emergency unemployment compensation since the program was allowed to expire on Dec. 28, 2013. Extended unemployment benefits help people pay their rent, utility bills, and transportation while they seek new work.
In the past, both Republicans and Democrats have helped the unemployed get back on their feet. It's time for us to come together again and support our friends and neighbors.
The Center for Effective Government, the National Employment Law Project, the Coalition on Human Needs, and the National Women's Law Center have collected more than 2,000 stories from Americans suffering from long-term unemployment. Throughout June and July, our organizations joined members of Congress and faith, labor, civil rights, and nonprofit leaders to share some of these stories in a series of seven Witness Wednesday events. Thank you to all who joined with us, listened to these readings, and amplified the call for an extension of long-term unemployment insurance. Footage from all events is located in our Witness Wednesday video library.
Please continue to visit this page throughout Congress' August recess for tips and tools for raising this issue with your elected representatives. They'll be visiting districts throughout the month, giving all of us an opportunity to pose tough questions and demand progress. Our friends, neighbors, and family members struggling with long-term unemployment need action, not excuses.
Number of Americans Denied Access to Extended Unemployment Compensation
Counter courtesy of the Office of Rep. Sander Levin
Stories from Hard-Hit Americans
From Louisville, Kentucky:
I am a 59-year-old veteran with three degrees and 35 years of experience in electronics and computer service. In September 2004, my wife and I were both laid off from different companies. My wife found employment after three months. At the end of six months, I found a job with a 60 percent pay reduction. It took me three years and three job changes to regain my salary. Fast forward to April 2013, and we were both laid off again from two different companies. In August 2013, we both received job offers the same day from different companies. From April to August I had only two interviews and was fortunate to get an offer from the second company. During the same period, my wife had only one interview and landed the job.
In December 2013, the small privately owned company that hired me laid off all 15 employees, including the CEO, due to poor financials. The owner of the company is trying to make it on his own. Since then, I have had only two interviews and no offers. I have sent resumés for positions for which I am extremely qualified and yet cannot land an interview. I firmly believe that age discrimination is alive and well in this US of A.
It is my stance that the EUC should be extended and that job creation should be job one.
From Andover, Minnesota:
I am a 56-year-old underemployed woman who has worked since the age of 15. I was laid off four years ago, have accepted any work I can find, all through "temporary agencies," have exhausted my life savings, and will lose my home. The writing is on the wall.
This situation is not my fault. I am educated, experienced, and have many skills to bring to a company that values work ethics, loyalty, and dedication. For every 50 applications I submit, I have received two invitations to interview, one in person and one as a phone screen. When I arrived for the in-person interview, it was almost comical how I was interviewed. Do people really think that we 50-somethings are incompetent? Age-discrimination is rampant. Emergency unemployment is a necessity for those of us left out of the job market. It doesn't matter how many degrees we have or exams we take to verify our skills. We are simply categorized as "too old."
Without EUC, my mere income of $1,600 a month barely pays for my mortgage and utilities. Health insurance? Food? Car? Insurance? Savings? You've got to be kidding me!
From Wewahitchka, Florida:
I am a married mother of four whose husband lost his job in 2012. I was also working at the time but only making eight dollars a hour. My husband drew unemployment for a couple months before he found a new job, but it was 700 miles away in Florida making three times what I was making a week, so we picked up our whole lives and moved to Florida and bought a home. We were told this was a permanent job. Well, after almost a year, he got laid off again, and his unemployment ran out in April. We have no income at all except for food stamps. We lost our vehicle and now rely on a 15-year-old car. We both look for work every day and it is just not happening. We have no phone for employers to even get back in contact with us and barely any gas to go to the grocery store. We are just stuck. You have to have some kind of income to even go out and look for work. We tried to apply for TANF, but we have to have a way to go to training and appointments before we can get it, and that is 45 minutes away. We do not have the option of public transportation. We need EUC and fast. If our lights or water get shut off, the state will take our kids. I am 34 and he is 46, and we have worked since we were 16!
From Las Vegas, Nevada:
I'm 37 years old, so I don't fit in the older category quite yet, but I was a stay-at-home mom for over 3.5 years. Because of the huge gap in my resumé, I'm have a huge problem. I do have a great resumé, have worked over 10 years in major financial firms such as Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns, and I have great skills, as tested through temp agencies, where I score over 100% on all Microsoft applications and type over 100 words per minute. I usually make it to second and third interviews, but when it comes down to two or three of us, I never get chosen. I apply for clerical and receptionist jobs, and I'm overqualified. I live in Vegas, which has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation, and I'm a single mom to 4-year-old little boy. We are currently on food stamps, but it's enough for him to eat three meals while I eat one. We are using a borrowed car as transportation, as I can't afford to fix my old one and re-register it (catalytic converter problems). We live in a rented house owned by a friend of a friend, who has been very lenient on our late payments, but without retro, we will not be able to catch up. Our electricity has been shut off twice, and I had to have friends and family help me get it turned back on, but every month is a scare (especially in Nevada in the summer months). I've applied for energy assistance and am hoping that goes through soon! I am at my wits end Please help us reestablish EUC with retro as we all need it so badly! Thank you for your help and for listening to our stories!
From Edgewater, Maryland:
I'm about to lose the roof over my head, and I can't pay for car insurance, electricity, or oil. I don't have gas to go anywhere except close by for job interviews. I'm soon to be 61 and have worked since I was 14 years of age. I'm devastated and look for jobs on a daily basis. The last interview I went on, the owner stated he had 300 applications. This is very depressing and stressful. Something has to change. I have borrowed money, which is tapped out now. I owe money back and see no future. This is the worst time of my life.
Find these stories and more in our growing story archive.
Share your story with us! Use our brief webform to tell us how the expiration of extended unemployment benefits has impacted you, your family, and your community.
You can also participate in the Center for Effective Government's Long-Term Unemployed Action Forum.
For Further Reading
Emergency Unemployment Benefits Are Not Forgotten, The Fine Print blog, Feb. 26, 2014
Emergency Unemployment Benefits: Ways to Take Action, The Fine Print blog, March 6, 2014
Emergency Unemployment Benefits: Time to Petition the Government, The Fine Print blog, March 12, 2014
Emergency Unemployment Benefits: Compromise in the Senate, The Fine Print blog, March 14, 2014
Emergency Unemployment Benefits: Boehner Signals Reluctance in the House, The Fine Print blog, March 21, 2014
Emergency Unemployment Benefits Extension Clears First Hurdle in the Senate, The Fine Print blog, March 28, 2014
Extending Emergency Unemployment: Senate Finally Expected to Vote to Extend Benefits and Rush through Corporate Tax Cuts, The Fine Print blog, April 2, 2014
Emergency Unemployment Benefits Bill Passes the Senate, Increasing Pressure on the House, The Fine Print blog, April 8, 2014
Stories of Americans Cut Off of Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Government Matters, April 22, 2014
Emergency Unemployment Extension Expected to Take Back Seat to Tax Extenders, The Fine Print blog, April 25, 2014
Technically Speaking: Making Sense of Discharge Petitions, Cloture and Filibusters, The Fine Print blog, May 5, 2014
Unemployed Americans Kicked Out of Capitol, Forced to Share Their Stories Outside, The Fine Print blog, May 10, 2014
Six Months after Emergency Unemployment Benefits Expired, 2.8 Million Americans Left Behind, The Fine Print blog, May 21, 2014
Witness Wednesdays: Stories of the Long-Term Unemployed to Be Read on Capitol Hill, The Fine Print blog, June 10, 2014
Not a Game: Women and Families Hit Hard by Long-Term Unemployment, National Women's Law Center blog, June 18, 2014
Long-Term Unemployment: Spotlight on Women and Families, National Women's Law Center, June 18, 2014
Witness Wednesday: Voices of the Unemployed, Voices for Human Needs blog, June 19, 2014
What is this Country about Anymore?, OtherWords op-ed, July 2, 2014
Bipartisan Unemployment Benefits Bills in Both Houses, The Fine Print blog, July 2, 2014
Highway Trust Fund Temporarily Saved, Unemployed Still Waiting on EUC, The Fine Print blog, July 18, 2014