Article 43


Austerity American Style Part 16 - Kicking Long-Term Unemployed To The Curb


“Austerity" is a bloodless term for gross economic mismanagement, animated by heartlessness. That robotic cut-cut-cut mentality that deprives us of jobs, of public services, of safety, of health, of infrastructure, of help for the needy, and - ultimately - of our economic equilibrium and the ability to survive. The mentality that ushers in, and welcomes, a vicious war of all against all. Austerity is destroying an entire country, right before our eyes.”
- Rep. Alan Grayson

“True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”

Although long-term unemployment is still at it’s HIGHEST LEVELS SINCE WORLD WAR II, our leaders are starting 2014 by screwing the long-term unemployed worse than in PRIOR years.

IN FLORIDA - unemployemet insurance will go down to 16 weeks.  That’s the LOWEST it’s ever been.  The 26 WEEK UI safety net that’s been around since the days of FDR is almost CUT IN HALF:

For all claims filed on or after January 1, 2014, the duration of benefits will be 16 weeks, which is adjusted from the current maximum of 19 weeks.  This is based upon the seasonally adjusted average total unemployment rate in Florida for the three months ending September 30 of the year prior to the filing date of the claim as required by section 443.111(5), Florida Statutes. 

Around the country - Emergency Unemploymet Compensation (EUC) is gone.

It’s looking to be another bad year ahead for America’s jobless.

The long-term unemployed are doomed.

FDR must be turning in his grave.


The Long-Term Unemployment Trap Could Get Worse

Bill Moyers
November 20, 2013

The emergency support program for the long-term unemployed which was first enacted in 2008 could face big cuts with the start of the New Year, even though the recovery remains tepid and unemployment figures remain higher than at this point in any previous recession. And many experts are saying that further austerity would bring more bad news for the economy.

CHAD STONE, chief economist at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities a think tank focused on policies to help low- and moderate-income Americans - writes,” the mainstream explanation for why unemployment is so high is that businesses still don’t have enough sales to justify hiring enough workers to restore normal levels of employment.” Failing to renew the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, which has been extended a number of times since 2008 to help those struggling during the Great Recession, will have the opposite effect of what is needed - Americans out-of-work for long periods will have even less to spend, which will further blunt the already-pretty-blunt recovery.

“With an unemployment rate of 7.3 percent, we need to raise the emergency unemployment insurance (UI) and push for extensions to 2014,” Gene Sperling, director of the White Houses National Economic Council, said at a public forum last week. Sperling claimed he “sees a good chance to get a new reform through Congress,” the MNI financial news service REPORTED.

But right now, House Republicans have not shown much interest in coming to an agreement to extend the program."The current EUC program already has served up about 10 times as many weeks of federal extended benefits as the most recent program that operated in the wake of the 2001 recession and terror attacks, and nearly six times as many weeks as the program that ran from 1991 through 1994,” said the House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) in a PRESS RELEASE. “And despite Democrat claims that such spending on UI benefits is the best stimulus, all this record-setting benefit spending has bought is the slowest recovery on record.”

Stone says that is an unfair characterization based on an analysis that puts the cart in front of the horse. “To be sure, EUC has lasted a lot longer, helped a lot more unemployed workers and paid out substantially more in benefits than the programs enacted in past recessions. But that’s because the blow to the economy and especially the labor market from the Great Recession was so much worse. In fact, without the consumer spending UI generated, the recession would have been even deeper and the recovery even slower, according to conventional economic analysis.”

Annie Lowry WROTE in The New York Times this weekend that long-term unemployment is a trap that becomes more and more difficult to escape with each passing month. Since the Great Recession started, long-term joblessness is up 213 percent, and economists are unclear about whether faster growth will improve the situation. Many of the long-term unemployed have rusty job skills that will make re-entering the workforce tough, even if more jobs become available. Others have ruined credit ratings, which employers increasingly rely on to screen new hires. And unemployment carries a heavy stigma that keeps people out of work. We don’t hire the unemployed, a potential employer told Jenner Barrington-Ward, a 53-year-old college graduate who had worked steadily for 30 years before being unemployed for the past five.

Lowry writes:

[T]he slack economy remains the primary culprit behind all the pain in the labor market, economists say. “We’ve got to be doing everything we can,” said Professor Rothstein at Berkeley. “That means direct hiring with the government providing jobs - employment tax credits, just about anything you could think of.”

But the government is now doing the opposite. The mandatory federal budget cuts known as sequestration took as much as 60 percent out of unemployment checks this summer and fall. And, as of this winter, the federal emergency program that extends the maximum number of weeks of jobless payments will end, though the White House is pushing to extend it again.

Some fear that it may already be too late to prevent long-term joblessness from permanently scarring the American work force and broader economy. International Monetary Fund researchers estimate that the level of structural unemployment has increased significantly since the recession. And striking new Federal Reserve research shows that the scars from the recession have knocked the economy off its long-term growth trend.

I’tll fall to Congress - specifically, to the House of Representatives - to determine whether unemployed Americans, and by extension all Americans, have a depressing New Year.



Congress Chooses Austerity Over Job Creation and Economic Growth

By John Nichols
The Nation
December 13, 2013

Most members of Congress were pleased with themselves Thursday.

They agreed to agree - crossing lines of partisanship and ideology - on an austerity budget that, as Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio has noted, “won’t create jobs, get the economy back on track, or meaningfully cut the deficit.”

That’s not the worst of it.

At the end of the day, “the bill abandons 1.3 million Americans who desperately need unemployment insurance, and does nothing to promote economic growth or job creation,” Congressman Mark Pocan, D-Wisconsin, explained Thursday. “Furthermore, the legislation is paid for on the backs of the middle class and military families, while not touching the wealthiest amongst us and allowing corporations to continue to benefit from tax loopholes.”

Pocan and DeFazio could not bring themselves to back the deal.

But they were outliers, two of the 32 Democrats who voted no, along with 62 Republicans.

The vast majority of House members—from both parties—backed the deal, which prevailed on a 332-94 vote.

So where does that leave America?

Let’s turn to National Nurses United, a union that parts company with both major parties on questions of public welfare, for a diagnosis.

There is no reason to cheer an agreement that requires unwarranted pension cuts for federal workers, including VA nurses who earned that pension, underfunds nutrition programs and fails to extend assistance for the long-term unemployed,” says union co-president Jean Ross, RN.

NNU refused to get on board for the bipartisan deal that takes the worst ideas of Wall Street-aligned Republicans and puts a Democratic stamp of approval on them.

Why? Because they understand the agreement—which was developed by a conference committee on which House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, played a defining role - as an expression of the austerity agenda that has stalled economic recovery and job growth in the United States and abroad.

“Austerity budgeting, reflected in this latest deal, continues the disturbing focus by politicians in both parties in Washington, who should be fighting for jobs at living wages, restoration of the disgraceful cuts in food stamps, healthcare for all, housing assistance, and other human needs, not simply how to please Wall Street and the banks,” says NNU’s Ross. “For our patients and our communities, it is past time to replace cuts for workers with revenues from Wall Street to revive Main Street.”

There was a time when austerity budgeting was accepted as valid - or, at least, necessary - to addressing the circumstance of countries where deindustrialization and economic setbacks have caused revenue shortfalls. But, in recent years, The Economist magazine, the Financial Times newspaper and the International Monetary Fund have recognized that austerity agendas based on in budget cuts and a failure to invest in infrastructure and development tend to lock in patterns of high unemployment and slow growth.

Countries fall into dysfunctional patterns making cuts that lead to more cuts and this stalls job creation, reduces labor-force participation and makes recovery more difficult. It is, as economist Paul Krugman suggests, an “awesomely destructive” pattern.

Congress should get this by now. Unfortunately, as an analysis from the budget analysts at the Campaign for America’s Future notes, “Somehow Washington has failed to get the message. This deal doesn’t end the cutting; it only reduces its severity. It doesn’t generate jobs; it only cuts fewer of them. It doesn’t help the economy; it only reduces the harm to it. Surely we can do better than that.”

The nurses have an idea for how to do better. The union wants a Robin Hood Tax on high-stakes Wall Street trading - particularly speculation in stocks, bonds, derivatives and currencies. This tax is outlined in legislation developed by Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, who proposes “a small tax on Wall Street transactions to meet the needs of our nation.”

Ellison voted against the budget deal Thursday, saying: ”The budget deal passed today is a compromise - it compromises the financial security of federal employees, the long-term unemployed and working families. ... This is a case where compromise in Washington means asking Americans to sacrifice more.”

The nurses agree.

“The sham of the present debate in Washington, DC, is that real fiscal solutions to slow growth and high unemployment, hunger, disease and poverty exist, but have been taken off the table by lobbyists for Wall Street,” says Ross. I"t’s time Congress proves to the American people that Wall Street doesnt run our government.”



Resolution for Congress: Help the unemployed

By Frank Clemente
Americans for Tax Fairness
January 1, 2014

When holiday shoppers make a bad choice, the worst result may be an ugly sweater. But Congress recently made a bad choice that will ruin the holidays for more than a million families and will spoil the coming new year for millions more.

That was the decision not to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, while maintaining huge tax loopholes for wealthy Wall Streeters and multinational corporations. Congress can reverse its choice in early January, but the clock is ticking.

We are emerging from the worst employment crisis in three-quarters of a century. Job losses in the Great Recession were very deep. The unemployment rate hit 10 percent for only the second time since the 1930s. Moreover, the ranks of the long-term unemployed ח those out of work for more than 6 months hit a post-World War II record. Even now, over a third of those out of work have been so long term.

And little wonder: in November, there were almost three unemployed people for every job opening. The problem isnגt that people dont want to work; itҒs that there arent enough jobs.

Faced with this cruel reality, in the recent budget deal members of Congress had the chance to extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans җ including 20,000 recent veterans whose benefits ran out three days after Christmas. Instead, they turned their backs on those in need and headed home for the holidays. Whatגs more, without Congressional action, another 3.6 million long-term unemployed will lose their benefits in 2014.

Extending unemployment benefits is not only a lifeline for the jobless; it also boosts our economy, as hard-pressed families immediately use the money to buy essentials.

While playing Scrooge to constituents Congress played Santa Claus to campaign contributors by refusing in the budget deal to close any tax loopholes that benefit corporations and the wealthy. Closing just three tax loopholes would raise four times more revenue than the $25 billion it costs to extend expiring unemployment benefits for millions of Americans. A recent poll by Hart Research Associates shows that the American public strongly supports such measures.

Congress could raise $60 billion if it closed one loophole that subsidizes the offshoring of American jobs. CORPORATIONS ARE ALLOWED TO DEDUCT FROM THEIR FEDERAL INCOME TAX ALL THE COSTS OF SENDING A US PLANT OR OFFICE OFFSHORE. Yet, COMPANIES DON’T HAVE TO PAY U.S. taxes on the foreign operations’ profits until those earnings are brought home, which many companies never do. The American public supports closing this corporate tax loophole by a whopping 62 percent to 36 percent margin.

If Wall Street billionaires were required to simply treat their salaries as salaries - rather than more lightly taxed capital gains - we could bring in $17.4 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Right now, hedge fund chiefs and other money managers can cut their tax bill almost in half by claiming their huge earnings are eligible for a 23.8 percent rate, when they should be paying 39.6 percent. The American people strongly disapprove of this “carried interest” loophole, 68 percent to 28 percent.

So Congress has to reverse course. Its already spoiled the Christmas holiday for more than a million out-of-work Americans. Now it needs to make New YearҒs resolution that the first order of business when it returns in January will be to renew benefits for the long-term unemployed. And if it wants to pay for it, close a tax loophole or two to make sure big corporations and wealthy money managers pay a fairer share of taxes.


1.3 Million People Lost Unemployment Benefits. It Could Get Ugly

By Joshua Green
Business Week
January 2, 2014

When Congress reconvenes on Jan. 6, one of the first issues it will take up is whether to renew an emergency federal unemployment program that expired on Dec. 28, cutting off 1.3 million jobless workers. Enacted in 2008 at the start of the recession, it provided up to 47 weeks of benefits for those still looking for work when their state unemployment benefits ran out. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says hell try to pass a temporary extension, but most Republicans have balked at the $25 billion-a-year cost. If the program isnҒt revived, the impact could be significantnot just for the 1.3 million people losing a vital lifeline but on the broader economy.

How will these workers fare? One place to look for answers is North Carolina. Last February, at the behest of the business community, Republican Governor Pat McCrory signed a bill cutting the amount and duration of state jobless benefits, even though North Carolinaגs unemployment rate ranked among the highest in the country. The state had exhausted its unemployment trust fund, paid for by business taxes, and had borrowed $2.5 billion from the federal government to pay jobless claims. We’re going to pay down that debt, make the system solvent, and provide an economic climate that allows businesses, large and small, to put people back to work, McCrory said at the time. When the new law took effect on July 1, the maximum weekly benefit fell from $535 to $350 and its duration fell to between 12 and 20 weeks (depending on the state’s unemployment rate) from 26 weeks - the standard in most other states.

That was only half the blow. Reducing state benefits violated the terms of the federal programחwhich is intended to supplement, not replace, state aidso workers in North Carolina were also disqualified from receiving federal benefits. In essence, the state’s experience over the last six months is a harbinger of what may be in store for the rest of the country. “This doesn’t have to be a thought experiment, because you can just look at what’s happened in North Carolina,” says Aaron Chatterji, an economist at Duke Universitys Fuqua School of Business."The 1.3 million people losing their benefits are going to be in the same position as the 170,000 people here who have lost theirs.”

At first glance, the effect appears to be positive. North Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped dramatically, from 8.8 percent to 7.4 percent between July and November. By comparison, the national unemployment rate fell by 0.6 percent over the same period. A CLOSER LOOK, however, suggests that North Carolina’s unemployment numbers have fallen not because the long-term jobless have found work but because they’ve quit looking altogether. As a result, the state no longer counts them as unemployed.

“The decline in the unemployment rate gives you a very limited view of what’s going on in our labor market,” says John Quinterno, founder of South by North Strategies, an economic research firm in Chapel Hill, N.C. “Year over year, the number of employed people in North Carolina ticked up by 6,082, while the unemployed fell by 101,901. That means the labor force contracted by 95,009. So the improvement has not necessarily been driven by more people going to work and is actually being driven to a large degree by people leaving the labor force.” In October the state’s labor force participation rate hit a 37-year low. One benefit of unemployment insurance is that it has an “anchoring effect,” says Quinterno, because you have to be looking for work to qualify for benefits.

Though the job market hasn’t fully recovered from the recession, many Republicans believe extending jobless benefits saps workers’ motivation to seek employment or accept positions they deem less than ideal. I do support unemployment benefits for the 26 weeks that they’re paid for, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said on Fox News on Dec. 8. “Beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers. When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, youre causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group.”

Economic research has shown that some job seekers do become less selective about the jobs they’re willing to take once their unemployment insurance expires - the so-called “employment effect.” There’s evidence this may be occurring in North Carolina. A Dec. 20 note from JPMorgan Chase’s chief U.S. economist, Michael Feroli, pointed out that the state’s employment growth has outpaced national growth since July. Yet he also noted that labor force participation has fallen much faster than it has nationally. “In this case,” he concluded, “it would appear both channels are operative but the participation effect may be more important.”

It’s hard to draw firm conclusions from limited data. But if the expiration of jobless benefits is prompting large numbers of North Carolinians to give up looking for work, it would augur poorly for the state’s economy and the country’s, too. Working-age Americans who cant find gainful employment REPRESENT LOST ECONOMIC VALUE and unmet U.S. growth potential. While some may settle for part-time work, others will try to qualify for disability. Long stretches of unemployment reduce the likelihood of finding a job, as skills and connections atrophy.

As people cycle in and out of the unemployment system this year, an additional 3.6 million workers will lose access to benefits if federal insurance isn’t restored, according to a December report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers. “That’s a lot of misery and squandered economic potential. It’s also why the ‘Tar Heel test tube,’ as Feroli has dubbed it, is worth paying attention to. Says Chatterji, The statistics are so dramatic.”


Austerity American Style
[PART 1] - Ending The Safety Net
[PART 2] - Enough Is Enough
[PART 3] - Big, Bad Businessmen
[PART 4] - Big, Bad Banks
[PART 5] - Selling Out The Public
[PART 6] - No Jobs Plan
[PART 7] - Big, Bad Cronies
[PART 8] - Red-State Model
[PART 9] - Inflicting Pain
[PART 10] - The Grand Betrayal
[PART 11] - The Sequester ACT III
[PART 12] - The Sequester ACT IV
[PART 13] - Austerity Kills
[PART 14] - Bail-In Comes To America
[PART 15] - Corporate Welfare Redux
[PART 16] - Long-Term Unemployed Are Doomed

Posted by Elvis on 01/03/14 •
Link to this articleLink to this article and comments
  1. Long time gone
    Can American labour policies face the challenge of long-term joblessness?

    The Economist
    January 4, 2014

    The budget deal that Republicans and Democrats cobbled together in December left several pieces of business unfinished. Among them was the fate of extended unemployment-insurance (UI) benefits. First passed in 2008 and extended several times since, these provide workers with up to 47 weeks of federally funded benefits after they have drawn the maximum their states allow (usually 26 weeks). Americas government has enacted such measures in every recession since 1957. The most recent extension expired on December 28th, leaving roughly 1.3 million Americans suddenly cut off and setting the stage for a huge political battle early in 2014.

    Republicans principally object to the extension’s cost - around $25 billion over the next two years. Some point out that supplemental UI benefits have been in place longer and paid out more than in past recessions. Of course, one reason for this is that a far larger share of Americans remain out of work now than when the recession began. In November 2013 America’s unemployment rate was 7.0%, still a full two points higher than its 5% level when the recession began in December 2007. There remain roughly three applicants for every open job. Even so, Rand Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky and probable presidential candidate, says that extending UI benefits causes workers to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy and actually does a disservice to the people you’re trying to help.

    Not extending benefits will probably cause the unemployment rate to drop. North Carolina stopped offering them in July; since then its unemployment rate has fallen by 1.5%, compared with a national average of 0.4%. But its labour force also shrank more than twice as much as the national average, suggesting that the fall in the jobless rate came not from people getting hired but because they left the labour force entirely.

    Besides, unemployment benefits do not only help the jobless; they also boost aggregate demand. Unlike some other economic stimuli, these benefits tend to get spent quickly on consumer goods. The Congressional Budget Office found that extending UI benefits to the end of 2014 would boost GDP by 0.2% and increase full-time employment by 200,000. So cutting benefits, many say, would cost jobs.

    Behind this debate lurks the darker shadow of America’s long-term unemployed. In November 2013 they comprised 37.3% of the total unemployed. Their number is much higher than it was when extended UI programmes ended in the previous three recessions (see chart). According to the Council of Economic Advisers, since 2008 23.9m Americans were out of work for long enough to receive extended UI benefits; without an extension, next year 4.9m Americans will not receive benefits they otherwise would have done.

    Some blame high long-term unemployment on globalisation for shifting low-skill jobs overseas, or technology for replacing them. Michael Strain, an economist with the American Enterprise Institute, notes that during this recession firms have used temporary lay-offsin which workers are laid off for a set period of time and then recalled×—far less than in previous recessions.

    But the biggest obstacle faced by the long-term unemployed may well be unemployment itself - a pattern known as “scarring,” where persistent unemployment itself stops them being rehired. A paper from the Boston Fed in 2012 found that, for people who had been unemployed for less than six months, as the number of available jobs rose, the jobless rate declined. For those out of work longer than six months, however, vacancies and the unemployment rate both rose. When one of the paper’s authors sent out 4,800 fictitious job applications, they found that inexperienced but newly jobless workers were far likelier to be called back than the experienced but long-unemployed.

    Mr Obama has proposed several policies aimed at helping the long-term unemployed. One would set up a National Infrastructure Bank and spend $40 billion on deferred-maintenance repairs. Another, the Community College to Career Fund Act, would award grants to educational institutions and state and local governments for better job-training programmes. Congress has not approved them. In 2010 it passed a payroll-tax exemption for employers who hire the unemployed; this has since expired.

    America is hardly the first country to face this problem. Across the European Union in 2012, the long-term unemployed comprised 62% of the total unemployed - a far greater share than in America, but around the same level it was in 2000. Few European countries share America’s odd aversion to active labour-market policies. Denmark, for instance, keeps unemployment low with flexible labour laws, relatively high unemployment benefits and education and job training. Germany takes much the same approach. In 2011 Denmark spent 2.3% of its GDP on active labour-market policies, compared with 0.1% for the United States. Among OECD countries, only Chile spent as small a share of GDP as that.

    Yet there is not much hope for improvement in America’s polarised and poisonous political atmosphere. Instead, Congress will begin the new year by once again debating UI benefits. House Democrats have introduced legislation to extend benefits for three months, paid for by trimming farm subsidies. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, will try to pass a retroactive extension, without offsets, soon after the Senate reconvenes on January 6th, a move Mr Obama says he supports. That is essentially an election-year dare: Republicans will either have to violate a core principle and vote for a measure that will raise the deficit, or they will have to hand Democrats a cudgel with which to thump them all the way to November.


    Posted by Elvis  on  01/03/14
  2. It looks to me like less jobs at home, and letting the unemployed die is official US policy.

    STATES have been chopping at the customary 26 week UI safety net for years.

    Even as the nation’s unemployment rate remains stubbornly high, other states have cut unemployment benefits to levels not seen since the 1935 Social Security Act created the program.

    FLORIDA is down to 16 weeks. That’s three months and three weeks - down from six months. At a time when long-term unemployment rivals the Great Depression.

    For all claims filed on or after January 1, 2014, the duration of benefits will be 16 weeks, which is adjusted from the current maximum of 19 weeks.  This is based upon the seasonally adjusted average total unemployment rate in Florida for the three months ending September 30 of the year prior to the filing date of the claim as required by section 443.111(5), Florida Statutes.

    CONGRESS has kicked long-term unemployed Americans to the curb.

    An estimated 1.3 million people nationwide lost extended unemployment benefits Dec. 28 when Congress allowed aid for the unemployed to lapse after six months. That emergency aid, which originated in the early days of the Great Recession, looks increasingly as if it will be gone for good. This week, the Senate failed to pass two bills that would have extended unemployment aid again. Such measures have had even less support in the House of Representatives.

    Something they NEVER DID before:

    Congress has offered emergency unemployment benefits in every major recession since the 1950s, and it has never failed to extend benefits when the unemployment rate was higher than 7.2 percent. Nor has Congress ever let benefits expire when facing a major long-term unemployment problem as severe as the current one. Today the unemployment rate; the percent of unemployed who have been out of work long term; the average duration of unemployment; and the percent of unemployed who have exhausted their benefits are all higher than they were when Congress has let emergency unemployment benefits expire in the past.

    Finally, our CHIEF EXECUTIVE is diligently working on making more Americans jobless.

    NAFTA and its sequels has been a major contributor to the rising inequality of incomes and wealth that Barack Obama bemoans in his speeches. Yet today—channeling Reagan, the Bushes and Clinton—the president proposes two more such trade deals: the Trans-Pacific Partnership with eleven Pacific Rim countries and a free trade agreement with Europe.

    That trade system has not delivered the promised benefits because it was designed not to. The agreements traded away the interests of American workers in favor of the interests of American corporations eager to produce for the U.S. market in countries where labor is cheap, environment and public health regulations weak, and governments easily bribable. NAFTA’s fundamental purpose was not to free trade, it was to free multinational corporations from public regulation in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and eventually all over the world.

    But after NAFTA, companies were encouraged to re-invest—and create the new jobs overseas. As a result, the more trade expands, the more jobs are outsourced.

    Posted by Elvis  on  01/17/14
  3. Local Long-Term Unemployed Meet with U.S. Labor Secretary
    Extended unemployment benefits described as lifeline by founder of local job hunter group.

    January 21, 2014

    I was honored to be part of a group of 19 LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYED workers from career ministries and job-seeking organizations who met with Labor Secretary Tom Perez at the Department of Labor’s Frances Perkins Building in Washington, DC.

    With people from all across New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia in attendance, offering a wide range of viewpoints, the conference was an incredible opportunity to share some very personal stories concerning the struggles we have all gone through while trying to find a job in the current economic climate.

    Focus on solutions

    Ultimately, our goal was to come up with new and creative solutions to help fix the UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS that is still plaguing our country.

    Through Ben Seigel, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of the Assistant Secretary, Employment and Training Administration the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Perez had requested to meet with people who were LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYED, which is defined as anyone out of work for six months or more. Many who attended have been out of work much longer – myself included.

    Each of us took turns speaking about our own experiences with being unemployed, the many challenges we have faced, and our thoughts about what is holding back our job search campaign. There were many similar stories to those I hear from members of NEIGHBORS-HELPING-NEIGHBORS USA, with whom I interact on a daily basis.

    Common themes

    Many had the common themes of applying to numerous positions without any success, experiencing mounting financial pressures that forced the draining of savings and retirement funds, and having a NEGATIVE IMPACTon their immediate and extended families. While everyone was obviously on the same path, each person was at a different point along it.

    One major issue that surfaced several times in people’s stories was the fact that many of us were forced to WITHDRAW MONEY EARLY FROM RETIREMENT PLANS and 401k programs; this in itself is an enormous strain on someone when they are unemployed, but an additional weight is added to that burden as the government has been levying extra taxes and penalties on the accounts, despite the fact that it is only through the withdrawal of these funds that many are able to continue to feed their families and pay necessary bills (i.e. heat, gas, and electric).

    For those who have never been in such a dire position, it was an eye opener as to the realities of what it is like being unemployed for an extended period of time. It was noted that, despite the protests of certain members of Congress, cutting off unemployment benefits to those in these situations does not help them, as they have already been doing everything they can to get any job with a reasonable enough salary to care for their families. So losing that extra lifeline does nothing to aid in that regard, and simply heaps on even more difficulties.

    The Department of Labor published a blog post about our meeting. Read it here.

    Secretary Perez promised to look into some of the matters brought up during the conference, such as seeing if there could be some relief to the problems with the IRS’s taxes and penalties on the savings and retirement funds.

    Humbling and motivating experience

    The idea that our humble group of unemployed American citizens could have assisted in addressing this issue was quite powerful, and makes you realize that the government does not always have all the answers themselves. Individuals can make a difference, even if it is simply by suggesting solutions to a problem facing this country, rather than merely bringing up the problems and waiting for someone else to think of a way to solve them.

    A meeting like this one was not only educational, but was also both motivational and comforting, to see that you are not alone in your struggles. Even smart, well-educated, and highly-accomplished people find themselves unemployed and having difficulties finding a new job, through no fault of their own.

    This is why coming together to find solutions is so imperative for the continued success of our country and its citizens, and I believe that the spirit of all those people who volunteer their time to help others, despite needing help themselves, really had a major impact on Secretary Perez and his staff.

    At the end of the meeting, we were able to talk with the members of the department staff that had sat in on the meeting. These government staff do their job every day, helping many people they never know, so allowing them to interact with us face-to-face was genuinely a gratifying experience. I have a sense that this meeting will go a long way towards helping find solutions to the unemployment crisis.

    For More Information:

    The White House Faith-based Neighborhood partnership program:

    Neighbors-helping-Neighbors USA:

    Unemployment Crisis:

    Wake Up Call for Congress:


    Posted by Elvis  on  01/23/14
  4. Three million long-term unemployed cut off from the disappearing safety-net

    Posted by Elvis  on  06/13/14






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