"How does someone explain to their child that they can have a place to live and maybe stay warm in the winter, but in order to do that they won't have any food to eat? Or they can eat, but may not have a secure place to live? Just try to explain those adult decisions to a child and see how much they understand!"
Those are the thoughts of Toni Boughner in a note she sent to me back in April 2010. The similarity between April 2010 and December 2010 are numerous for Toni; unemployment extensions are again the issue of the day and she is still unemployed. One major difference is that now she is a 99er. 99ers are the unemployed who have exhausted the maximum weeks of unemployment benefits allowed in their state. In some states that maximum is 99 weeks, thus the name 99ers.
Toni is still searching for work and I asked her if she would write an update on her situation. What follows is some of her response:
It has taken a few weeks for me to work through my feelings in order write this update. I've been very lucky that my unemployment benefits were only stopped once since I lost my job on January 5, 2009. But my luck is running out quickly since my benefits end on November 30th. Even if the lame-duck Congress manages to pass the eligibility extensions, I will be a 99er on December 11.
I was fortunate to receive a good severance package and I had some money in my 401k, although a huge chunk of it went to pay early withdrawal penalties. But all of that money was spent within months from paying bills.
The variety and depth of emotions I feel every day are incredible. Everything from joy in seeing the contentment on my cat's face because she's happy to be near me, to helplessness at not being able to fix my situation, to extreme anger that Congress and the President have deliberately turned their backs on this country's massive humanitarian crisis.
My frustration level is so high that I cannot measure it. Intense boredom, loneliness and hopelessness are constant companions because I cannot contribute to the greater good through having a job and my skills are lying in a useless heap. I feel despair because I want to contribute to the economy and make charitable contributions rather than asking charities for help.
While I do not, and will never, advocate suicide for anyone, I understand where that decision comes from and why people feel that it is their only option. All of the talk about hanging on for better days ahead is worthless when one sees nothing but homelessness and starvation in the future.
I am also one of the millions facing foreclosure since I had problems paying the mortgage after losing my job. I bought my house during the height of the housing bubble and I recently discovered that my home loan is considered predatory and possibly fraudulent.
I attempted a HAMP modification but I was turned down because my only income was unemployment. A HUD-certified counselor gave me a budgeting plan which included advice to stop paying the mortgage and save that money for renting once foreclosure is finalized. It's somewhat hilarious that HUD-certified counseling agencies are telling homeowners to stop paying their mortgages, but disturbing that they are siding with the banks and advising people to just accept losing their homes.
I am blessed to have an attorney who understands the foreclosure process and the frauds perpetrated by Wall Street banks due to their greed and avarice. Housing is somewhat low on my list of immediate worries as long as I can continue to pay my attorney and the monthly HOA assessments.
I'm trying to remain optimistic in the face of gathering doom, but I'm not sure that things will work out for the best.
It's hard enough to talk about these things without breaking down completely. My friends and family have told me I'm courageous for being brutally honest about my situation, but none of this is my fault and I don't see the need to remain quiet.
There are millions of people in this situation and government must work on creating a sensible economic plan to not only provide the right environment for job creation, but to be compassionate enough to also extend the lifeline that unemployment provides until those jobs come back, which could take more than five years.
Toni speaks for many long-term unemployed who have seen their confidence damaged, their savings and 401k diminished and their hope for a better future dashed by foreclosure, bankruptcy and in some cases homelessness.
I forwarded Toni's contact information to NBC News who interviewed her this week. See that interview.
Toni is diligently looking for a new job and I offered to post her resume. Please contact Toni directly if you would like to help her in her job search.
The November employment report showed that 6.3 million people have been unemployed for 6 months or longer. There are an estimated 4-5 million 99ers who become the forgotten unemployed, since they are no longer eligible for benefits. Congress needs to act quickly to help ALL unemployed and not just those who have yet to exhaust all benefits.