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.