In my last article, 99ers letter gets delivered to the White House Part 1: The Cover Outline, I revealed the text of the cover outline summary which accompanied the following letter. The letter was written by several of the 99ers and was edited into this final form by the main author, Cindy Paoletti.
And the letter reads:
Request for Executive Action to provide Financial Assistance to the Long Term Unemployed Exhaustees
The American citizens realize that you inherited a financial crisis, which has improved somewhat but will still take years to mend, especially with regard to job creation.
We are a group of long term unemployed citizens who have exhausted all available weeks of unemployment benefits. We have been without any income since March, (some January and February) and are still unable to find employment. We spend every day sending out resumes and applying for jobs, 90% of the time we don’t even receive an acknowledgement that our resumes and applications were received. We call ourselves the 99’ers. There are well over two million of us, and that number continues to grow each week as more people join our plight. The statistics reported by the Department of Labor, are not accurate. They do not include exhaustees, underemployed and people who have given up looking for jobs.
- The LTU comprise approximately 48% of this nation’s unemployed workers, and the 99ers are approximately 11% of that 48%, according to the U. S. Dept. of Labor Statistics. The 99ers are comprised of workers from both genders, and encompass all levels of occupations (blue and white collar), age, race, socio-economic class, ethnicity, and educational levels (from high school graduates to PhD level graduate degrees), according to a study performed by an EPI analysis of U.S Board of Labor Statistics data.
I’d also like to add that unemployment includes both Republicans and Democrats. Americans of both political parties are not exempt from unemployment. The Congressional infighting that takes place, is not only ridiculous, it is degrading to all Americans. Poverty does not discriminate; it affects constituents from both sides of the Congressional aisle.
The last two extensions of dates have not included us, HR 4213 being the second extension. We have no health insurance, no jobs, and no income. Many of us have gone through all of our savings, and have had to pay penalties to withdraw our retirement IRA’s in order to try and survive. As a last resort, there are people who are selling their blood to blood banks so they can feed their families. This has made our American dream become an American nightmare.
Age discrimination has played a significant role in not being able to land a job. Most of us are in our late 40s, 50s and 60s. That, coupled with being over qualified for any low paying job we apply for, is destroying the baby boomer middle class. Lately, there have been temporary agencies that have told us their clients do not want to hire anyone that has been unemployed for a long period of time. What are we supposed to do? We have been pleading with Congress, the Senate and you, President Obama, to help us by adding a Tier 5 or more weeks of benefits to Tier 4 so we do not end up homeless and starving. For some, it is already too late.
The Department of Labor advised us to go on Welfare. Many of us do not qualify for Welfare or Food Stamps. We have no parents we can move in with, and no one who can help us. All of our efforts have fallen on deaf ears. We are humiliated by American citizens who are employed, calling us lazy freeloaders who prefer to live on handouts.
- According to Lawrence Mishel, PhD, President of the Economic Policy Institute, “The rest of the safety net has come to look more like a cement floor.” TANF, for example, has been almost completely unresponsive to the recession. Note that case loads in Michigan – our hardest hit state – were lower in January 2010 than in January 2007, even though almost 100,000 workers have exhausted their entire entitlement to UI. Food stamps, thanks to the Recovery Act, have been made available without the normal three-month limit for able bodied adults, without dependents, and caseloads increased about 20% between January 2009 and January 2010. But the average benefit is less than $150 per month, too little to be more than a supplement to another source of income. Moreover, the waiver of the three-month limit expires in September 2010. General assistance programs, through which many states formerly provided cash payments to the unfortunate, have disappeared. And the federal mortgage foreclosure assistance program has helped only a fraction of the millions of homeowners facing foreclosure. When jobless workers exhaust their unemployment compensation, how will they pay their rent or pay off their mortgages?
- According to a recent survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal, suicide rates have risen approximately 75% (directly relational to the states with high unemployment rates) due to the physiological and psychological effects caused by a loss of income and, additionally, the reduced governmental funding which provides for social service and mental health programs.
This statistic hits very close to home for one of our representatives of the 99ers, Robert C. Robert’s father Steven C. committed suicide with a gunshot to his head in 2009. Steven C. was only 61 years old, living in Long Beach, California, and on the verge of losing everything he worked hard to obtain. Robert’s family still suffers from the devastation of this unnecessary act. Had Steven Curtis found the help he needed to survive, his life would have been saved. Still unable to find employment and having exhausted unemployment benefits, left him without means for living.
Our government does not care about us. We have been left empty handed with no safety net for over 4 months now. We have nothing left except the necessities we need to continue to search for jobs. Once our internet connections are gone, our phones are disconnected, and we are out on the streets, we will never see a normal life again. Many are already in this situation, and it is inhuman that our government could let American citizens fall to this level. We were all hard working Americans who have worked for over 40 years. We lost our jobs through no fault of our own. You’ve bailed out banks and Wall Street, you’ve sent money to Haiti, you’ve spent billions on two wars and no one worried about the deficit and the money that was being spent. Now, to help people who elected you into office, Congress argues over where the money will come from and forces us into poverty. We want to be recognized as the hard working Americans we once were. You have taken away our dignity, our love for our country and the faith we once had for the lawmakers we voted into office.
- Many of those against extending unemployment benefits and allowing for benefits past 99 weeks claim it harms the economy. Actually, that is far from the truth. In his recent testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, Mark Zandi, Chief Economist of Moody’s Analytics, stated: “No form of the fiscal stimulus proved more effective during the past two years than emergency unemployment insurance benefits, providing a bang for the buck of $1.90 – that is, for every $1 in UI benefits, GDP one year later is increased by an estimated $1.90.” As an example, in one state alone, New York Governor David Paterson estimated 20 weeks of prior emergency benefits infused more than $900 million directly into the state’s economy for one year.
- David Walker, President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation: “I think it’s very important to separate the short term from the structural. It’s understandable to run deficits when you have a recession, a depression, or unprecedented financial services and housing-type of challenges and crises that we’ve had. That’s not what I’m concerned about.”
- Gene Steuerle, Senior Fellow, The Urban Institute, and co-director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center: “Contrary to much debate, getting the long-term budget in order does not require avoiding stimulus in bad times; it only means reasonable reductions in those levels in good times.”
- Greg Mankiw, Harvard Professor and Former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under George W. Bush: “It is a textbook principle of prudent fiscal policy that deficits are an appropriate response in times of war and recession.”
- Isabell Sawhill, Senior Fellow, Brookings: “It is important to stimulate the economy now and not worry about spending cuts and revenue increases over the next decade.”
- Concord Coalition: “It may be appropriate for government to spend more than it taxes during downturns in the business cycle. The Concord Coalition has always recognized the importance of fiscal stimulus, so long as the stimulus is timely, targeted, and temporary.”
LONG AND SHORT TERM SUGGESTIONS FOR SOLUTIONS
Across the board, all experts who were called to testify at the recent Ways and Means Committee hearing conducted on June 10, 2010, which was designed to respond to the nationwide dilemma of long-term unemployment, generally suggested the same short and long term solutions.
The experts are as follows: Lawrence Mishel, Ph.D., President-Economic Policy Institute, Heather Boushey, Ph.D., Senior Economist-Center for American Progress, Michael Reich, Ph.D., Professor of Economics-University of California at Berkeley, and Till Marco von Wachter, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Economics-Columbia University.
Short Term Solutions:
Despite concerns regarding the growing deficit, the entire panel of experts readily agree that further deficit spending allotting continued unemployment benefits, which provide an essential safety net for the long-term unemployed, is an absolute necessity in order to spur economic growth during a recession such as this. Not only will providing this continued financial support help American workers and their families maintain essential and life-sustaining basics such as housing and food, it also allows them to afford other necessities such as telephones and transportation in order to continue their search for employment. Unfortunately, further job creation cannot be listed under short term solutions, because it simply cannot be implemented fast enough to save millions of people from losing their homes, and all other necessities vital for survival.
Long Term Solutions:
As expeditiously as possible, implement efficient job creation/training programs that will provide secure employment for the current exhaustees, for we are at the highest risk of being denied re-entry into the economy due to the mere length of unemployment. A plethora of suggestions were offered by the board, and they include, but are not limited to:
- A revitalization project similar to the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC) enacted under the Emergency Conservation
- Work Act (ECW) in 1932 when America faced a similar economic downturn, job-sharing, investments into training for green jobs, and many more.
As important as it is to each and every exhaustee to quickly experience gainful employment, time is of the essence as many are in immediate fear and risk of losing the fundamental necessities needed to be a viable employee.
In closing, Mr. President, our prognosis is not encouraging. By the end of 2011, the Labor Department estimates that 13 million Americans will exhaust all entitlement to unemployment compensation. If even half of us find jobs, that still leaves more than 6 million workers with no source of income. We are asking you to enact a special means-tested program of emergency cash assistance for the unemployed exhaustees to help us keep our homes, maintain our health, and keep our dignity. Until sufficient jobs are created, whether private or public sector, the number of long-term jobless Americans who have exhausted their unemployment compensation will soar.
We urge you to not turn your back on us in our time of need. We cannot accept the unacceptable. Our collective government must generate millions more jobs and get unemployment moving sharply downward, and help those not able to locate work because of circumstances which we cannot control.
The long term unemployed who have exhausted all benefits need a bailout, and we need it immediately. We are no longer in a position where we can wait. We are scared, and at the end of our ropes. Please, do something to help us. Waiting around for job creation to take place is not an option for us anymore. We have run out of time. We’ve paid dearly into this country for years; we should not be treated like we no longer exist. Please show us some compassion.
On behalf of the over 4 million exhaustees who are the 99’ers, thank you for your time and immediate attention to this matter.