By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published May 9, 2012
Jobless to lose weeks of unemployment benefits
EVERETT - More than 2,500 Snohomish County residents began having their unemployment insurance benefits cut short starting April 21. Thousands more already have exhausted the maximum 99 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits.
WorkSource held a resource fair last week targeting this group of newly affected people. Many of the people who came have been out of work for almost two years, exhausting their 99 weeks of unemployment insurance. That group of long-term unemployed is called “the 99ers.”
Andrea Inman, who just started working for the Everett WorkSource branch May 1, was one of those 99ers.
Inman, a single mom in Everett, spent two years out of work. When her benefits ran out, it was frightening, she said.
“There’s a lot of anxiety, it’s frightening,” Inman said. It was hard to budget everything with no money coming in, she said.
“How are you going to manage (to find a job) without a phone or Internet?” Inman said. “What else gets cut?”
Last week’s fair included more than 20 vendors inside Everett Station and a state Department of Social and Human Services RV outside to walk people through how to apply for food stamps and social services.
Most of the people who visited the RV recently lost their unemployment insurance, DSHS mobile unit administrator Shannon Monroe said.
“They don’t know what to do,” Monroe said.
About 350 people came to the resource fair, Lynnwood and Monroe WorkSource site manager Mike Schulte said.
Statewide, people began losing the last 26 weeks of their federal unemployment benefits April 21. The number of weeks dropped from 99 weeks to 73 weeks.
The drop affected an estimated 1,455 Snohomish County residents who ran out of unemployment insurance benefits on April 21, according to a state Employment Security Department forecast. An additional 1,344 residents are likely to exhaust their unemployment benefits between April 22 and June 23, the forecast states.
The cutback was triggered by the state unemployment rate improving. The state’s unemployment rate is tied to how many weeks of federal unemployment insurance is given to state residents. The state’s unemployment rate average dropped below 8.5 percent earlier this year, a threshold trigger that bumped thousands of state residents out of the program starting April 21.
About 19,000 Snohomish County residents are on unemployment insurance as of March, according to data from ESD regional labor economist Anneliese Vance-Sherman.
More than 9,000 county residents already have exhausted their maximum 99 weeks since the program began in 2008.
Dennis Searing of Lynnwood is one of those 99ers. Searing is a single dad whose career field in offset printing began to decline with the advances in digital technology. Searing’s unemployment benefits ran out about six months ago.
Searing’s printing department at the University of Washington went from 35 people to five. After searching for months, Searing’s union president told him there’s no jobs.
Searing gets $380 a month from DSHS, but “that doesn’t leave anything for gas,” he said.
“I got to get retrained,” Searing said.
Jennifer Maples, 33, ended up at the Everett Gospel Mission women’s shelter after bouncing around from place to place for months.
She’s been out of work for two years, and her job hunt is hindered by not having a place to stay.
“You can’t really work from your car,” Maples said.
Maples and her 3-year-old son moved into the women’s shelter in February, and she is losing her unemployment insurance benefits soon.
“It’s definitely been difficult,” Maples said.
Mike, a 53-year-old from Bothell, is frustrated with veterans getting preferential attention in the hiring process. He said he lost out on at least one job in pharmaceutical sales specifically because he did not have veteran status.
Mike, who did not want his last name published, was a pharmaceutical sales representative for years until the company sold to a bigger company. He said he lost his company car, lost his pension, he’s underwater on his house and he’s seriously thinking about bankruptcy after being out of work for two years.
He said he applies to jobs each week and can’t get one that fits his commission requirements to live. He thinks ageism is at play. He has numerous friends over 50 who also lost their jobs in this field, and he notices that new hires are younger.
As of March, 32,510 Snohomish County residents are unemployed, Vance-Sherman reported.
The state’s unemployment rate does not go down when people exhaust their 99 weeks, ESD spokeswoman Sheryl Hutchison said. The idea there’s a correlation to the unemployment rate is a common misunderstanding, Hutchison said.
The definition of unemployment is “somebody unemployed and actively looking for work,” Hutchison said.