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8 Unemployed for Every Job Opening: What Are They Supposed to Do Once Their Benefits Run Out?

Is there any hope of help arriving for the "99ers"?

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Carbone's organization is launching a project, in tandem with the private sector, to ease 99ers back into the grind of the workplace and overcome the discrimination they face among employers. “We're developing an instrument whereby for $6,000 per person, these 99ers would be given an opportunity to work for a business for eight weeks while they were officially employed by Workplace, Inc.,” he said. “There would be no liability, no risk on the part of business – it would be an eight-week trial period to see if we could establish a good comfort level between that person and whatever company we assign them to.”

Carbone says he “doesn't expect a federal response to this,” and is going to foundations and various family trusts in order to launch a pilot program for the first 100 workers this summer.

Radio host Sandler says she was inspired to start Helpthe99ers.com after getting an email from a listener whose benefits had just expired begging her to report on their plight. “It was right around the time that Obama negotiated with the GOP to extend the Bush tax cuts, and yet so little was being done for the 99ers,” she says. “And here was this group, growing in numbers and being ignored.”

Sandler describes Helpthe99ers.com as a “message board to put people who have needs – who are out of work, have exhausted their benefits and have nowhere else to turn – to put out their stories, and a place where people who have the means and compassion to help can get in touch with them directly. There's no middle-man involved, no foundation that people have to go through.” She says the project has been slow to take off, but some connections have been made, including a man who sent a space heater to a woman in upstate New York who was unable to pay her heating bill. “I know that some people have gotten help with rent – a couple of people got their rent paid for a month or more – at least a handful of people have gotten help.”

Like Workplace, Inc., the Philadelphia Unemployment Project (PUP) has been around for a while – since 1975 – but has seen a surge in its clientele. “We do have a lot more people around,” says John Dodd. “We have a computer lab for job searches that is always packed. We have about a dozen computers that are always taken by people looking for work.”

Dodd says his organization offers “housing counselors, a job developer, a jobs club, a health-care navigator – helps people access health care – and we help people with unemployment appeals.” PUP has also organized to help people threatened with foreclosure stay in their homes.

“The fact that people are organized and working together is something that makes people feel better,” Dodd told AlterNet. “We have regular committees that meet on the unemployment issue, on the foreclosure issue, so in a way we provide some support so people don't feel all alone.”

According to Mitchell Hirsch of NELP, 40 percent of eligible workers don't file for benefits. NELP, in addition to its political advocacy on behalf of working America, runs UnemployedWorkers.org, which Hirsch describes as a place “to get information about benefits availability, a resource that allows you to speak out and tell your story and a resource of news and information” for the jobless, “all of which is ultimately a way for us to organize unemployed workers and their supporters on behalf of things that matter for working people.” The site gathered over 100,000 signatures for a petition urging Congress to re-authorize the extended unemployment benefits program.

 
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