On Tuesday, a potential agreement to extend benefits for those who have been out of work for six months or more fell apart over squabbling about procedural disagreements in the Senate. That fight came two and a half weeks after those checks stopped going out to millions of Americans, and it doesn’t look like it will be resolved in the next two weeks. Congress let the program lapse at the end of the year, which offered support to the jobless after their state benefits ran out, drying up a lifeline for those who are struggling to find a new job.
The people who have been left without that support are incensed, and the anger reaches across party lines. In an email to ThinkProgress, Peter LeClair, an out of work investment manager from New York, said he has been a lifelong Republican. But he “will never vote for a Republican, as long as I live” after watching them say that relying on unemployment benefits makes people dependent. “I am incensed with this Rand Paul,” he said, who has said extending the benefits would “do a disservice” to those who were relying on them. “He says I am lazy… I am not lazy, how dare he. He doesn’t even know me.”
LeClair says he has sent out over 2,000 resumes and been “rejected on a daily basis.” The benefits, which he pointed out he paid into while he worked for more than 20 years, were the only thing keeping him “glued together financially.” He said he is “absolutely shocked and dismayed” with Republicans, reiterating, “I will never, so help me god, vote for a Republican again, period.”
Another person who is losing his benefits echoed LeClair’s outrage. “I read these politicians’ opinions of the unemployed and am furious at the implication as it correlates to my situation,” Dan Strollo wrote in an email. The 42-year-old father of two from Canton, Ohio will lose his benefits next week. But that’s not for a lack of trying to find a new job. He says he has applied for more than 200 jobs, some that are in his field and some that “are substantially lower in pay and responsibility.” He’s also traveled to try to find work, going as far as Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. “The cost of these trips is more than draining financially,” he pointed out.
Yet the work he’s put in to find a new job often backfires. He said he’s been told, “You live too far away and the commute would be an issue,” as well as being told he is too qualified, too old, and too expensive. “The hurdles to find work these days are significantly more difficult than 10-20 years ago,” he said. The long-term unemployed in particular face daunting odds in finding employment, as they are less likely to be viewed as qualified or to get called for interviews than those who have had shorter stints of joblessness.
But he’s willing to do anything. “In the end I will do WHATEVER I have to do to provide food and shelter for my children” who are both under the age of five, he said.
Keeping children fed and safe is on the mind of L. Moore, who said that she’s been searching for two years to find a job. She “was barely making ends meet with what little bit of benefits I was receiving,” she said. “Now that they have expired, my children and I are literally homeless.” More than 2 million children live with long-term unemployed parents.
Before the benefits ran out, ThinkProgress spoke with other people who warned that their lives would change significantly without the support of unemployment benefits. Lillian Humphrey, age 62, said she would likely have to tap into Social Security earlier than she would like and still find a part-time job to get by. “I would prefer to work,” she said, and she is not alone: those who receive benefits work harder to look for a job. In North Carolina, where the state’s long-term unemployment program abruptly came to an end before the federal program ran out, the state is seeing a historic number of people leave the labor force altogether.
Alan, who preferred not to use his last name, told ThinkProgress that without benefits, he would have to give up on trying to get training for a new career in teaching English and instead move to a different state to live with a friend. John DeMarchi forecasted that he would have to scrap the nine years he’s spent to enter the 3-D video game design business and take any low-paid job he can get.
The loss of the benefits also means a big reduction in money going into the economy, which has already cost states $400 million in the span of one week and will likely end up costing everyone nearly a quarter of a million jobs.