Doswell, Virginia, once a town made up of small farm fields, is now home to Kings Dominion amusement park and a growing number of commuters from nearby Richmond. But like many places in the United States, the city’s economy is rough, and rough-est for the long-term unemployed. Many safety net programs that people rely on have employment conditions placed on them; time limits to find a job before they are cut off. In areas of the highest unemployment, these deadlines are extended, but they do remain.
Here’s Reverend David’s story, collected by Half in 10’s “Our American Story” project, about a 56 year-old man who’s worked for 37 years, but who’s been unemployed for over 1 year. His unemployment compensation is about to expire, and he shares his real and understandable feelings about his experience.
I have been laid off and diligently job-hunting for over 65 weeks and still counting. Sixty-five is the age that I will attain in another nine years. Thirty-seven is the number of years that I have paid into the Unemployment Insurance pool without drawing upon this vital safety net. Zero is the number of times that I would have preferred to rely on Unemployment Benefits to survive. One is the number of good full-time jobs that I seek. As I continue counting and counting, my hope in securing good full-time employment and returning to a pre-layoff way of life are waning.
I was laid off in December 2009 from a job as the successful Executive Director of a faith based nonprofit with a reasonably good income. I was leading efforts of a faith-based organization that provided resources for the disadvantaged, helped the poverty-stricken toward self-sufficiency, and advocated for equity in community-building and public policy making.
Now, for the first time in over thirty-seven years of my working life, I have to rely on Unemployment Compensation and my wife’s income to make ends meet. Our family endeavors to “get by” on safety net benefits, which could be further compromised if the Affordable Care Act is dismantled. There are so many areas of our family life that will change dramatically for the worse if I am unable to secure living wage employment and or if the social safety nets such as unemployment benefits that I have faithfully supported for 37 years are taken from my family.
With my Unemployment Compensation benefits soon to expire and with a Congress so deeply divided over this issue, I am not sure what to do other than to turn my attention to employment in some part-time service jobs; this is a fate that is very difficult to accept. Nevertheless, I will seek and secure whatever employment that I must in order to maintain the modest home, transportation, and necessities that my wife and I now enjoy. I want, I need, I yearn, I search for “one” good full-time job. I want to stop counting, and counting…