Are You a 99er? Unemployment Benefits Are Over, What to Do?

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99erOn Wednesday, June 30, the United States Senate rejected a bill that would extend the expired unemployment benefits that have been keeping approximately 1.2 million unemployed Americans afloat. Known as "99ers" (which refers to those who have received 99 weeks of unemployment checks), many are desperate to work, but cannot find a job. Here are two real-life stories, direct from to Americans in that dire situation.




My Job Search Continues

The Senate Republicans have decided that the best way to help the unemployed is to stop unemployment benefits. In fact, I understand that one of the reasons the Republicans (and some Democrats, actually) do not want the unemployed to receive any benefits is because receiving benefits makes unemployed people too lazy to look for work.

I have been unemployed since June 2008. My former employer, I learned from a former colleague, allegedly thinks that my sexual orientation was not a good match for the organization. I have been seeking full-time employment since.

I can honestly say that I have applied for between 1,000 and 2,000 jobs. I have had a handful of interviews and, for one job, made it to the top five out of 300 candidates but the organization decided to go with an outside consulting firm.

To keep my unemployment benefits going, I have accepted 1099 freelance contract jobs that have paid as little as $50 per day. By accepting a day-contract position, I become ineligible for one day of unemployment benefits (unless that job pays more than $405). As a result, I am technically still eligible for approximately five more weeks of unemployment until I am an "official" 99er. But technically, I've been unemployed for more than 99 weeks.

I am appalled that the Republicans will only start wars, bail out their rich friends and say "no" to citizens of this country who need assistance. I'll keep looking for work and keep hoping that I won't become homeless. Although, I hear that human resource people will only consider hiring employed applicants these days; which takes me out of the running.

- By Bob Johnson


Motivated by the End of Unemployment

I lost my unemployment two months ago. I took it last year, telling myself that I really was going to work really hard to find a full-time job I really like. In the meantime, I'd have some money to live on.

Well, I got the money and I did look for work - when I felt like it, which wasn't often, honestly. I kept leaning on my benefits, and leaning and leaning. Oh, I would take a stab at job seeking. I signed up on job-search websites and I applied for writing jobs. Writing was what I really wanted to do for a living, along with cartooning. This was my big chance to do what I love and the money would follow. The only thing was, I was in no hurry to really pursue this dream. After all, I had unemployment coming in.

This went on until one day I got the message from the Department of Workforce Development: the benefits were over. The "security blanket" of monthly payments had been yanked off me. Now there was one more thing I could not count on. I was lost.

After about a month of no more unemployment pay, I slowly realized (very slowly) that I had to get to work, and on the double. Now I had to start writing more, every day if I could, to get more articles sold on the websites I now write on. I got what I wanted - now, as they said during my basic training in the military, "Ain't nothin' to it but to do it!" In other words, work really hard.

Well, I am working hard. I can stand to work harder. I have my good days of working at home and my not-so-good days. There are times when I feel like a freakin' genius (like when my mom says I'm such an excellent writer), and times when I feel like a total hack (when I find a typo in my story after I publish it). But I write on, pushing myself (gently now) to do more.

Now that I think of it, my unemployment money was more of a hindrance than a help. Yes, I could still pay my bills, but I felt no motivation to work hard and really follow my dream - after all, there was money coming in. I didn't even panic during the times when my bank account was really, really low in the middle of the week - after all, more was coming next week. Now I've got to hustle and work at my dream jobs of writer and cartoonist with renewed effort, as if my life depended on it - because it does.

Changing my mindset will help. I've got to treat freelancing like a "regular" job, as if I were earning a paycheck that I get every two weeks. And the more I write and draw, the bigger the paycheck. In the immortal words of Laverne & Shirley's Laverne DeFazio, "You work, you get paid. You don't work, you don't get paid. That's the American way." Also, to paraphrase the Bible, "She that does not work, let her not eat." And I love to eat.

- By Donna K. Upshaw


What To Do If Your Unemployment Benefits Have Run Out

If your unemployment insurance has ended, there may be other resources you can take advantage of. Each state has a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF). Food stamps may be an option and Medicaid can offer assistance to people with no health insurance. In addition, each state unemployment office offers updates on unemployment insurance and links to valuable resources for families.

You may also be able to trim some of your costs by taking advantage of various programs including:

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