Persistence and Perseverence

Persistence and Perseverence

I wanted to add an update to my situation from my previous post. As you recall, I was what is considered “long-term unemployed.” I have been seeking a position for a year and 2 weeks. 54 weeks of my life have been purely devoted to finding a job and trying to pay my bills. I ended up on public assistance (SNAP aka food stamps, Medicaid, welfare) after my unemployment insurance ran out and it has been the most humiliating time of my life.

I have finally secured a job.

What have I done over the past 4 months since my last post? The main thing is that I had to feel useful. I accomplished this by volunteering to tutor at my local campus. I tutored there about 15 years ago, while I was attending as a student. I originally started out doing mathematics (one of my degrees) but then I picked up some economics and statistics students also (my other degree is in econ). I was putting in about 8 hours a week, helping students along in their classes, and those were logged with the welfare office as “performing activities.” See, here in Wisconsin, you don’t get welfare for just sitting on your butt. You have to complete job search logs and activity logs every week and submit them. Screen shots of completed online applications (or email verification), business cards, job searches on the multitude of sites like careerbuilder, monster, indeed, etc served as proof of my diligent search for employment. I attended job fairs (which is how I ultimately landed a position), and every minute was logged, day in and day out, all for my $653 per month welfare check. I “earned” $3.77/hr in relentless job searching and tutoring.

It paid off. My unpaid volunteering turned into a short contract as a paid tutor, for 10 hours a week. Unless you have been as low as I have been in this situation, I don’t think you can understand how utterly exciting it is to get paid for your labor! It was a small check, but it was earned through my own efforts and contributions. For a long-term unemployed person like myself, the overwhelming feeling of being hired (even if it was for 6 weeks) was soooooo exciting.

I could feel a thaw in my opportunities about 3 weeks ago. I went on 2 interviews with one company (they chose another candidate), and then I had back to back interviews with 2 other companies. One called me back for a second interview. Three hours after I left the company, they called to offer me the position.

I cried in relief.

I was on food stamps for approximately 120 days. I was on welfare for about 80 days. My total time in our social safety net is about 4 months. And I am so grateful for that place to land until I could find a job.

I’m still not out of the woods. Financially, I’m a disaster. I drained every penny from every account I own, including my IRA, to pay every single bill in my name on time. I have been working with my mortgage company to get a forbearance for over 2 months. That is a story in itself and if you’re interested in it, let me know, I’ll share it on here. Suffice it to say, it reminds me of the VA in the sense that they bury you in requests for paperwork and paperwork and more paperwork (even the same stuff repeatedly) in the hopes you give up.

I want to thank you all for your kind words, support, suggestions in email, and most importantly, I thank you for your involuntary financial payments, aka taxes, into our social welfare system, which helped me through a rough patch. I did not abuse your money, I have been frugal and I’ve worked very hard to limit my personal impact on your wallet. I am grateful to you all, whether you wanted to support me over the past 4 months or not. Even if you begrudged me a single penny, all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you; you helped me during a time when I most needed the help.

For those who would judge me for taking a handout, the only thing I can say is that I tried very, very hard to not get to that point and I tried even harder (if that is possible) to get off assistance. The day I got the job offer is the day I called my welfare caseworker and asked her to remove me from the program. She explained that they have other services, what they call “non-paid” services. If I keep my job for 30 days, I get a $50 bonus. If I keep it for 91 days, they’ll give me $100. They would also continue to support me for a short while with $35/month gas vouchers (I will be working about 33 miles from home). I declined all of these services because I hated being supported by the state, and technically, by all of you. I have used up enough of your monies to get through this time and I don’t want to take a single cent more. I’m hoping with my taxes I’ll pay out of my paycheck for the rest of the year, it will add up to as much, or more than what I’ve taken out of the system. That is all I can do.

So this has been the story of a professional single mom, well-educated, hard-working, diligent, and how, unexpectedly, she can go from employed, to unemployed, to long-term unemployed, to a welfare and food stamp recipient. But contrary to popular belief, not all welfare moms are scrubs, slackers, and couch layabouts with bonbons in their hands. I hope I’ve shown that the social safety net does work as designed for some of us. It worked as a temporary assistance in the lowest of times, to help feed a couple of kids and provide enough money for me to pay the heat and electricity, until I could get a job and get back on my feet.

As I said, THANK YOU.

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20 Comments
  • Xavier says:

    I’m impressed you had the wherewithal to volunteer at a time when income was so important. Being unemployed can be a soul-crushing burden and I’m sure that was beneficial to your sense of self worth. Don’t be too hard on yourself about using the net – that’s what it’s there for. Plus, you paid into it too!

    I’m pleased you’re doing well. Best wishes.

    • LL says:

      Xavier, I love tutoring. If I could make a living at it, that is what I would do full time, so volunteering was basically engaging myself in my beloved hobby, but it gave me the opportunity to help others. Also, as part of my welfare requirements, I was required to do activities. The ones assigned to me were a resumé writing class, an interviewing class, and having someone at the job center review my resumé. I could not possibly fill 10 hrs a week with those activities repeated every week! I would have gone nuts. At least this way, I was making a difference and still fulfilling my requirements as I continued to search for paid employment. I almost felt guilty for doing something I love so much, but in the end, it helped me get back onto my feet also, because I got the short paid gig to continue doing it.

      Thank you and I intend to pay into the system again, paying it forward in a sense. You are correct that I paid into the system for 28 years, but honestly, no one wants to be in the position to have to use it.

  • Kate says:

    Happy for you, LL! <3

    • LL says:

      Thanks, Kate! I’m happy too. Just emailed them to ask about dress code because it is a manufacturing facility. Gotta cover all the bases. I’m all over it at this point. 😀

  • ibid says:

    My deepest heartfelt congratulations to you, LL. I admire your strength.

    I am a 25 year- licensed professional in the Construction Industry. There are something like 80,000, and maybe much more of us that really got hit by this recent engineered crisis. Most of us don’t even know what happened, and the funny thing about my situation is that I volunteered for the layoff so that younger associates with families might be spared the burden of displacement.

    2008 began a long and difficult episode in my life in which I endured much the same as you describe. It was every bit as difficult for me, and in some ways you were more fortunate than I.

    Over five years have now passed. I’m now over sixty, moved seven times across the country, lost my home of fifteen years long ago, and am now earning less than half what I made then. I try not to spend time thinking about it. I got over the anger, disappointment and resentment… for the most part.

    I know who did it, I can do nothing to make them accountable. The “system” has been in place for a hundred years or more, and a little voice like mine is insignificant. But I got through it and it is good for me to know that you and others have done so as well.

    One thing I do keep in mind: that small voice I have… it’s like the disturbed pebble on a mountainside or a snowflake-one too many- that starts the avalanche. Thanks to this and other websites, I know that the day is coming that the greed, lies and avarice on the part of those who have abused their trust and their station in life will be judged.

    I do not need to bear witness, but I do need to work on forgiveness.

    ps. I do love the old photos and Elvgren-style (but more modest) artwork!

    • LL says:

      ibid, I am so sorry. I might still lose my house, which terrifies me. I know how you feel, the anger, fear, all of it. I am not a victim, but I am definitely part of the fallout of the terrible economic conditions our country is suffering, mostly created by horrible national policies. You and I can only drive on, do our best, try to pick up the pieces and fight to share the truth of what piss poor governing will do to a country and to normal people like you and me.

      • Jodi says:

        Ibid, I am so sorry for your situation. it has become all too common these days.

        LL, YAHOO! I am so happy you’ve found employment. And THANK YOU for being a good steward of our tax dollars. I could say something snarky about those who aren’t, but I’ll leave that for another day. 🙂

        Congrats!

        • LL says:

          Thanks, Jodi! I am so excited!! I mean, most people hate Mondays and going to work, but man, when you’ve been in my situation, you learn very quickly that it is a BLESSING to be able to earn your keep in society and to contribute your skills in any way possible. It’s been a long year but I feel optimistic about life again. Like ibid above, I too am going to make less than half of my previous salary and it’s scary, but it’s work, it’s paid work, and most importantly, I’m off public assistance. I set an internal personal goal to be off in 6 months or less. It worked out for me and I’m so glad.

  • Merle says:

    Sadly it seems as if those with the most education have the hardest time finding a new job. Especially true if you are fifty, or so.

    Merle

  • Eric says:

    This is PRECISELY what the system was designed for … short term relief, not a way of life. And you obviously did as well as you could. I hit a period of 9 months (6 in one go) between 2009 and 2010 where I, too, had to avail myself of unemployment services.

    Bravo & congrats!

  • Nicole says:

    I am so happy to hear your story. You are the kind of person the safety net is truly designed for. I was unemployed/underemployed for about 9 months last year. I had some money from unemployment and some in savings, but my goodness it was such a scary and difficult time. I wish you the best of luck with your house, all your other bills, and everything else you’re working on. Please don’t feel guilty! Sometimes we just need a little help and I don’t mind pitching in for people like you. 🙂

  • VALman says:

    Outstanding! Best wishes for your future. Remember, I know it can be difficult at times, your worth comes from the Lord God who created you. You don’t derive worth from work. Instead, you give it worth being the person you are. God bless.

  • LL says:

    Thanks for the kind words, all.

    I hope no one has to go through this, but if you do, please know that I, myself, am less grumpy about a portion of my taxes going to those who need it in desperate times.

    Yes, we all dislike the perpetual moochers, and it is maddening how there is no accountability in some of the programs (WI has some serious accountability for every penny you receive and it makes me happy even if I have reams and reams of paperwork here in my records), but I am unsure if shutting the programs down completely is the best solution with our current political and taxation system. So many people send their money to DC in taxes that there is little left to share with the local churches, charities, and community groups.

    If we completely shut those federal programs down, the feds would just look at all of that extra money and find another program to toss it at, perhaps overseas or to fund a study in the mating habits of sea slugs.

    It’s a real Catch-22, and in the end, I hope there are more people like me than like those who abuse the system. For us, it is and was a lifesaver.

  • Holly says:

    I don’t begrudge you a single one of those pennies. That is exactly what welfare is for. A safety net when bad things happen. I don’t think ANYONE would be upset with you for needing help and utilizing the system as you did. The only time people get upset is when someone decides it’s a permanent, generational way of life. I’m happy for and glad to help. I wish more people would realize that’s all it’s for, a stopgap.

  • Michael says:

    Congratulations and ditto on Holly’s comments. This is what it was meant to provide. Your path through difficulties is Anti-Welfare State and exemplifies the correct term – Public Assistance. GBY

  • Cricket says:

    You earned it, deserved it because you paid into the system too before you were unemployed. You are the reason and the poster child for why and how the system works.

  • HomefrontSix says:

    I’ve never been big on bashing welfare recipients. Yes, there are some that abuse the system but, for the most part, the people that receive welfare do so only because it’s their only option at that time. How do you begrudge someone support when they’ve fallen on hard times?

    I really have admired your tenacity, even in the face of some pretty crappy circumstances. You are one helluva strong woman and I am not only happy that you landed a job (and I’m praying you get to keep the house) but proud of the way you handled the interim.

  • Kodos says:

    Glad to hear it.

    Maybe some of that good joss can come my way as well!!

  • LL says:

    Thanks!

    Kodos, don’t give up! It is so discouraging and if you are following the unemployment and labor force numbers, so many have given up that we are at the same level of labor force participation as 1978. Literally 36 years of progress and labor force participation has been wiped out by the Great Recession. All of those millions of people who have just given up hope, but as shown by my circumstances, there are opportunities. You have to shoot for everything out there. I know very little about inventory control. But I know a LOT about computer systems, software, analysis, and I learn quickly. Pushing those attributes got me in the door in a field in which I am unfamiliar.

    I pray for you that you’ll start to see some calls on your applications. I think it is more depressing to never hear back than to have someone call you after an interview and say they went with another candidate. At least getting interviews means you are someone they think is qualified for the job.

    Keep pounding the pavement and know we are all pulling for you and ibid up there and so many others who are in our straits. We normal Americans need to support and encourage each other to be strong and to fight through these tough times. xoxo

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