As of December 29th I’d be glad to work at Walmart because that’s when my federal extended unemployment benefits expire. Don't judge. I support Walmart workers and the strikes wholeheartedly. They aren’t paid a living wage. Their miserly work schedules are shameful. Their working conditions are arguably, if not actually, dangerous in some cases. But I will need a job – any job – come December 30th.
As MeteorBlades explained earlier this week, over 2 million long term unemployed workers will abruptly lose federal unemployment benefits on December 29th unless those EUC benefits are renewed. Another 400,000 unemployed workers will lose state benefits in January, 2013 and be left without support if federal benefits aren’t extended. By the end of March 2012, state benefits for an additional 600,000 workers will expire. By the end of 2013, 2 million more unemployed workers will exhaust their state benefits. In all, by the end of 2013 about 5 million unemployed workers will be pushed over a very real and very steep “fiscal cliff” unless federal benefits are extended. And one of the ripple effects of failing to extend benefits is the expected loss of 400,000 additional jobs due to decreased consumer spending.
This particular financial crisis hasn’t received much attention here, in the news, or apparently in Congress. There’s not much time left to lobby before the end of the year, but a communication of your choice to the White House and/or your Congressperson would mean a lot to me and several million other people. If you are pressed for time, here's a convenient petition to multiple Congressional representatives that you can sign.
So here I am, willing to work at ... sigh ... Walmart. Except they haven’t responded to my application.
I’ve worked since I was 17. I worked to pay my way through undergraduate and graduate school. I worked through the worst recessions of the last 34 years. I was always able to find a job, no matter how bad the economy. But this time is different. This downturn is worse, and I’m 50+ years old.
According to the GAO, in 2011 almost 40% of unemployed older workers over 50 were unemployed for more than a year before finding a job. The average job hunt for older workers is 57 weeks.
Unemployment benefits vary by state. Generally, each worker’s benefit amount is based on their prior wages and each state sets how long benefits will be paid. I live in Texas. The maximum weekly benefit is $426. Benefits can be paid for a maximum of 26 weeks. I’ve been out of work almost a year and have been living on federal EUC benefits since early August.
Like so many other older workers who have posted their personal stories in blogs and comments online, (fair warning – their testimonies are angst inducing illustrations of the fragility of our lives), I have networked, Facebooked, LinkedIn, sent out resumes, filled out applications, breakfasted, lunched, coffeed, volunteered, attended seminars and classes, and worked outside the box to create my own job without results. As 2012 has slipped toward 2013, I've discarded my discriminating aspirations and pretensions of obtaining re-employment as a professional and applied with Walmart, and McDonalds, and scores of other companies for any job I could find. I’m still waiting for responses.
While I wait for Walmart’s call, any rabble-rousing any of you could do to get benefits extended would help me and other unemployed workers of all ages as we continue to look for work in a market where there are 7-10 qualified applicants for each job opening. Please, hurry. There’s not much time left. And I’m not getting any younger.