Benefits expire while unemployed struggle

Published 8:58 am Thursday, December 2, 2010

Staff Writer

As extended unemployment benefits began running out for almost 2 million Americans on Wednesday, Donald Godley sat down to sort through nine documents related to his jobless benefits — including one indicating those benefits had run out.
Godley, a Washington resident, said one letter showed his benefits ended Nov. 28.
Another letter suggested he could take advantage of a different tier of unemployment payments.
Godley planned to seek clarification of that point at the N.C. Employment Security Commission’s offices in Washington.
“I’ve been unemployed for close to almost two years,” said Godley.
He added he was laid off from his job, which involved making fuel filters for automobiles at Stanadyne Automotive.
Godley said he was making approximately $16 an hour at his post, but implied he has little hope of climbing back to a paycheck like that in the near term.
Like millions of fellow job-seekers, he’s had difficulty securing any work, let alone a full-time position offering anything close to his former wages.
“A lot of these companies, they’re cutting back as much as possible,” he said. “You can get a temporary person now and save the company a lot of money and use them and bring them into the workplace.”
Godley said his wife is working part-time while training online for a career in medical coding.
As he struggled to find work, the couple had to cancel their health insurance and find alternative health coverage for their two children, a son in college and a 15-year-old who is autistic.
Godley, now 50, had worked constantly from the age of 14, until the economy began its steep decline and he fell victim to the Great Recession and its aftermath.
He doesn’t understand why Congress wouldn’t want to extend long-term unemployment benefits.
“It seems to me some of these lawmakers seem to think some of these people on unemployment are riding this out. They’re not,” he said. “We’re the richest country in the world, but yet we can’t take care of our own here. … There’s a lot of people going through this.”
Godley’s observations were echoed by the Rev. David Moore, who knows Godley and works with multiple charities in town.
“It’s going to have a drastic impact for Beaufort County,” Moore said of the federal benefits’ expiration.
“Number one, you’re in the winter season and light bills are already exorbitant,” he continued. “You’re at the holiday season, and a lot of those people that are now on unemployment, this is really the only type of survival that they have when it comes to being able to pay rent, provide food and clothing for their families. This couldn’t come at a worst time.”
Moore knows plenty of people on unemployment, including some who have been out of jobs in excess of 18 months.
“Unemployment was never meant to be a long-term strategy,” he said. “It was meant to be a bridge. Well, when that job doesn’t call you back in a timely manner the only thing that you have to look forward to is either find another job — and good luck with that — or hope that the unemployment benefit is extended.”
Not everyone agrees with Moore on this point.
Hood Richardson, a Beaufort County commissioner and local business owner, said he wouldn’t extend benefits beyond 99 weeks.
“It’s sad that they’re running out, but what you need to understand is these people have been on it for two years,” Richardson commented.
Joyce Farries doesn’t see things that way.
Farries left a long-term banking job and changed careers. Her leap of faith was rewarded with a layoff notice.
She’s been out of work for two months, and she was seated at the ESC’s Washington offices Wednesday, looking up jobs on a state computer.
“There are more people needing jobs than there are jobs available,” she said. “There’s a lot of hurting people right now.”
With jobless levels still high, one Beaufort County aid agency’s staff expects an influx of clients through Christmas.
“Overall, we’re seeing a little bit of an increase,” said Lt. Chris Lyles, commander of The Salvation Army Corps in Washington.
Many of The Salvation Army’s clients haven’t been able to secure long-term, permanent posts, he added.
“We’re seeing a lot of people that are on unemployment,” he continued, “and, of course, some of these benefits have run out or are running out.”