Sunday, June 1, 2014

Unemployment in words and pictures

One of the humiliating parts of being unemployed is certifying your unemployment with the state every Sunday.  Every Sunday at 12, I type in the same information:

Have you looked for work this week?                                             Yes
Have you refused work this week?                                                  No
Have you kept track of the work you applied for this week?          Yes
Have you received any pay from anywhere this week?                  No

It’s not the questions. The questions would be fine, it's the fact that they haven’t sent me a dime in 10 weeks.  10 weeks.  In North Carolina if you’re fired, it’s more than likely that you won’t get unemployment benefits. North Carolina sides with the employer not the children who have to eat or the electric company that needs to be paid.  So every week, Sundays at 12, I click yes, no, yes, no and then certify that I haven’t lied to them.  Every week.

When I click over I get the same message:
Your claim has been accepted, but we cannot provide a payment at this time, because there is an issue on your claim pending an eligibility ruling. A determination will be made and mailed to you and your claim will be processed accordingly.

According to various Internet sites this message means you’ll never be paid. Which is interesting because the government never delayed in taking the unemployment taxes out of my paycheck.  But North Carolina loves businesses, it can’t get new businesses here if they don’t sell out workers by promising big companies they won’t have to pay unemployment insurance for it’s employees. I suspect that’s why there are so many Walmarts here.

So I wait. And I hope for money that likely won’t ever show up.

I’m luckier than most. We had a little savings. But we’ll be done with that by August.  So if nothing happens for Milt and I, we’ll have to go back to NYC.  Proud of our experience in NC, but we'll be in an immediate scramble to find schools, pediatricians, dentists, a place to live, and the three to four months rent we’ll need. Not to mention jobs.

It sounds like I’m complaining. 

I am.

We live in a great place, but it’s quickly slipping away from us.  Millions of folks are in this same predicament. The blame of our situation is clearly with me, but for others who are the result of lay offs, and reorganizations or corporate greed there is no fault. There is no blame. But in North Carolina the state blames you if you’re unemployed. Period. And there will be no funds to feed your kids, fill your gas tank to get the kids to school, or get a pair of second hand shoes from the thrift store.

But who pays attention? Is it true that I didn’t pay attention until I was laid off? Nope. My husband was already laid off. I knew all too well how the state and its corporations were giving folks the back of their hand.  In today’s New York Times, the most emailed article was “Why You Hate Work".An opinion piece on what everyone already knows.  You hate your job because creativity is sapped out of it and if you don’t know someone, you’re pretty much regulated to a job of nothingness.   What it doesn’t talk about is how those elements contribute to folks losing their jobs. What no one talks about is the estimated 4 million people who no longer qualify for unemployment or whose states like North Carolina refuse to extend unemployment.  Many governors believe that there are jobs to be had, and if you don’t find one it’s your own fault. (I was also disheartened by the comments sections where the employed thought that the unemployed were lazy and dysfunctional. Jesus, these are the people who I'll be sharing a cubicle with.)

No one blames the companies. No one blames the human resource people that put you in an electronic blender and when all your skills don’t match on your Linkdin profile you are automatically rejected. I had a company reject me 10 minutes after I had uploaded my resume to their site. I had another company tell me that my qualifications were too awesome for them. Another company wrote me a personal note to tell me I would be better qualified as a publishing assistant (a position I had held over 15 years ago). The company I just had an interview with has delayed the choosing of candidates for a second interview three times. No reason given, and to ask them why seems like job suicide. I need this job, so I remain quiet.

So I wait. I look for jobs. I wait for the rejection. And I apply again. Today’s job application is at one of the state universities. According to the Internet, they are notorious for burying your resume for months while you wait for a response. I have kids to feed and electricity to burn and I need work now. But I must take a risk. Even if it means I might be in New York City when they finally get to my resume. Even if it means another rejection.

I have no choice, but to remain hopeful.

So I will.

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