October 8, 2009

Potential Bright Spots for the Long-term Unemployed

The Center for America Progress released their findings for September 2009 on Tuesday. Part of a list of signs that America’s economy is still struggling was this highlight…

“The average length of unemployment in September 2009 was 26.2 weeks, the median length of unemployment was 17.3 weeks, and 35.6 % of the unemployed were out of a job for 27 weeks or more. All of these indicators are at their highest level since 1948.”

Media outlets are reporting with more and more frequency the difficulties the long-term laid off are having in securing employment. The Wall Street Journal’s online career section regularly featured an article back in June titled, “Only the Employed Need Apply”. It seems, not only are there fewer jobs available, but the unemployed are being passed over for theoretically more desirable candidates - those who are employed.

The question becomes … with so many obstacles before them … Is there any good news for the long-term unemployed? Yes, there is.

#1 Unemployment Benefits Extension Vote Pending

In late September, the House of Representatives passed a bill to extend unemployment benefits for 13 additional weeks. The bill is currently waiting for a vote in the Senate. The difficulty is that the House’s bill limits the extension to only the jobless in states with 8.5% or higher unemployment. Various Senators are reluctant to sign a bill that will not support jobless Americans in all 50 states. However, the bottom-line is that if the original version is signed, 75% of those Americans who would lose their benefits at the end of September will get a much needed reprieve.

#2 COBRA Benefits May be Extended

Earlier this week, the Obama administration announced that they are considering seeking an extension of the law which subsidizes COBRA health insurance premiums for involuntarily laid-off employees. Currently, the subsidy covers 65% of monthly health care premiums for up to 9 months following the employee’s involuntary separation with their employer. The possibility of this extension, coupled with the likelihood of some extension of unemployment benefits could be a welcome sign of support to those struggling without jobs.

# 3 Student Loans – Initiate your own Deferment or Forbearance Extension

Deferment and forbearance rules are maintained by each loan provider. And federally funded loans have different rules than private student loans. However, that does not mean you cannot negotiate with your loan provider to extend the terms of your deferment or forbearance if you have a financial hardship. The important point is to not default on your loans. Start early and work with your provider to discuss payment plan options. Be ready to wade through a lot of red tape – online and over the phone. Be prepared to provide documentation. But above all, be persistent.

#4 Add Your Own

There are more useful tips that I did not cover in this post, but you can add them to the comments! Share your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas in the comments and other job seekers will be grateful.

Links (learn more):

* Economic Snapshot for October 2009, Center for American Progress, 10/06/09
* Only the Employed Need Apply, WallStreetJournal.com, 06/30/09
* Jobless benefits extension hits snag in Senate, Associated Press, 10/01/09
* Several options can help if you're struggling to pay student loans, USAToday.com, 09/21/09
* Obama administration mulls extending COBRA subsidy, BusinessInsurance.com, 10/05/09

This post was written by Leslie Marie, a volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project. Leslie lives in New York City and has done outreach and research for the Ad Council. For the past year she directed the marketing and recruiting efforts for an alternative teaching certification program run by a national education consulting organization. Please leave your comments or send us an email with your questions.

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