Tuesday, August 04, 2009

More on Unemployment Benefits

After writing last week's post about unemployment benefits by state, I checked in with Mortimer to get his take on the subject, as he is still collecting unemployment himself. Here's what he had to say:
Benefits don't change at all based on single/family. It varies by state, so if you work in NJ you get more $ than NY and Mass gives even more $ than NJ (close to $600 per week I believe). Then most states calculate based on your last salary -- I think it's some sort of time frame involved like how much you made over the last 3 quarters. Most folks will get the maximum unless you are making like 30K or less. Max now is $405 plus the feds are adding $25 (not sure how long the $25 lasts). So single person making 200K and a family of 7 making 50K will get the same $405.
Not sure if there is a fair way to do it re families -- they would have to look at household income because you could be a family of 7 with another income in the house. Too complicated. NYS needs to up what it is paying -- they haven't done that in a number of years. They aren't even making inflation adjustments.

And while we're on the topic, there was an article this past weekend about unemployment benefits running out for a lot of people:
Prolonged Aid to Unemployed is Running Out
Over the coming months, as many as 1.5 million jobless Americans will exhaust their unemployment insurance benefits, ending what for some has been a last bulwark against foreclosures and destitution.

That's pretty scary. There may be some signs of light at the end of the economic tunnel, but stats like that don't bode well. If your job is gone and your savings are gone and you lose your umemployment benefits, what's left? Here's a few examples cited by the article:
Ms. Lampley, 40, who is married with three children, lost her job as a human resources officer in January 2008 and had been receiving $351 a week, which covered the groceries and gas. Even so, she and her husband, who still has work as a machinist, were sinking into debt. Now, still poorer, she feels devastated because they cannot buy their son a laptop to take to college and she cannot give her 9-year-old son money for the movies.

In Ohio, where unemployment is 11.1 percent, Cathy Nixon, 39, a mother of four teenagers from Lorain, has been out of work for much of the time since June 2007, and her benefits — $313 a week — run out in September. Ms. Nixon is already fighting foreclosure and said she feared that when the benefits end, “we’ll be homeless.” She was unable to afford summer camp and baseball activities for her children, despite scrimping on basics.

Raymond Crouse of Columbus operated heavy construction machinery but has found no work since 2007. Mr. Crouse is 72 and receives Social Security but said that was not enough to live on. The $190 a month he has received in unemployment benefits enabled him and his wife to hang on to the house they bought 15 years ago, he said. But with the benefits ending next month, he fears that they will not keep up.

The comments on the article get into quite a debate over some of these quotes, such as whether or not it's trivial to worry about getting a laptop for your child to take to college, or giving a kid money to go to the movies. (A lot of colleges require students to have a laptop these days. But while it sucks to have to deny a child little things they want, saying no to a movie might be a good lesson in reality.)
What if this situation goes on for many years? What do we now take for granted that we'll have to give up? Will we see more extended families living together under one roof? At some point, will our whole definition of middle class life change?


Anonymous said...

Buying a laptop and movie money for the kids should be the last thing they worry about. If the kid is going to college he must be old enough to get a job. That would be a great lesson in saving and budgeting for a young person. In my experience, when parents don't make kids earn their own things they tend to underappreciate and even worse, end up in credit card debt with the mindset that they should be able to have what they want when they want it.

These sob stories don't affect me anymore. There isn't enough information, like are these people really doing everything in their power to stay ahead of things? They know the end of their benefits will come eventually. Were they trying every moment to save themselves?

Did they try to find work in different fields or even a minimum wage job? Did they sell their old junk in garage sales? Did they rent out a room or garage space? Did they cancel the cable? Try babysitting, cleaning up animal poo in people's yards, odd jobs?

When people can tell me all the things they cut out of their budget and truely say I couldn't do anymore, then I will feel sorry for you. But in most situations I believe people are still living in a fantasy world where "everything will just work itself out, i don't need to try that hard." Especially if they are still talking about summer camps and laptops for the kids!

Amy K. said...

The summer camps and laptops did get my goat - because I didn't have either. On the other hand, I've heard that summer jobs are especially hard for teens and college students to get this year because so many unemployed adults are taking these traditional "high school student" jobs.

I think the end of unemployment benefits does give people an extra kick, there's even more incentive to look farther afield. My friend uprooting his family and moving across country for the promise of a job. Not coincidentally, I think his unemployment extension ran out not too long ago. It's sad that they have to uproot, but I've very happy that he has finally found a job.

Anonymous said...

Having collected in the past from MA, CT & RI at different times, I can confirm that all three of these states allow additional payment for dependents. Probably about an extra $25. per dependent per week. There may be a maximum # of dependents who can be claimed.

Chad said...

I really hope this does change our whole definition of middle class life. Not because I want to see people become poorer, but because our current common lifestyle seems so unfulfilling. It shouldn't be a work-to-buy life.