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Elyssa Schmier's picture

The Senate is scheduled to vote, once again, on an extension of unemployment benefits tomorrow. With each passing week that goes by where Congress takes no action it becomes increasingly critical that an extension get passed. Below you will find one mother's story about her experience with unemployment.

Melissa's (from Durham, NC) story:

In June of 2013, my husband became unemployed as a Director of Tennis at an exclusive area country club.  There was no notice and no warning; just a Friday afternoon meeting with his boss.  He was nervous because he didn’t have many meetings with his boss since he ran the department with no issues.

At first it was a shock, but I was excited to have my husband home more since he worked 12 to 14 hours days, nights, holidays, etc.  In June, my kids were 4 and 5.5 years old. I had just started working full time in May for the company I had worked for since I was pregnant with my first child and was working part-time for them for over 6 years.  I was thankful that I had taken the job a month prior.  I have been a contractor for this company and didn’t need benefits since my husband’s job had paid our family’s benefits. When they initially hired me for another position and asked me whether I wanted to be a contractor or an employee it didn’t really matter to me at the time.  They gave me flexibility to work from home two days a week and I felt like things couldn’t get better.

Once I had found out that getting my family’s benefits through my contracting agency would cost me two weeks pay, the stress was daunting.  I said something to my new boss about what had happened and within 48 hours she bumped me to employee status and cut the cost in half and also ended up giving me vacation based on my tenure there.  Another bullet dodged, so I thought.  Things were moving along fine and within the first week an opening at a local club came open.  My husband interviewed 4 times, took a drug screen, and his references were checked and then the long wait of what was going on just kept lingering. We thought this was made for us but about two months after the first interview he got the news that they had chosen someone else.

My husband’s self esteem and drive began to really go down.  He was not used to juggling the household like I was.  My kids were sad that their mom wasn’t around as much and things got harder.  We thought we were not going to need unemployment since my husband did get 8 weeks severance from his company.  Yet as a tennis pro 40% of your salary is lesson income.  They also paid him for his unused vacation and the rest of the month for health care (which was part of his compensation).  We felt like luckily we can rely on unemployment and be ok while he searched for a job.  When he inquired about unemployment he kept getting different answers of when it would start and how it was calculated, etc.  I believe he called the unemployment office over 15 times before it actually started after he was promised it would start the first couple of calls.  This is extremely daunting when you are so down anyway and never thought you would be in this situation but we felt fortunate to have this benefit even though recently the maximum benefit was almost cut in half. But what hurt the most was the 20 weeks and no extensions.

We are now entering the winter months where the market for Tennis Directors are few and far between.  The frustration on my part is of having a husband that is home that could get our house ready to sell in the event we can’t afford it but has no drive to do so.  It is extremely tough to see someone you love go through this.  Also, the extreme pressure that I was holding to make ends meet, still be PTA Vice President for my kindergartener and room mom, be on a board for a mom’s club and also keep the house going.  It was obvious my husband was getting worse.  The negative feelings of worthiness are overwhelming. The financial instability is overwhelming.  The questions of “Where are we going to live”, etc. is overwhelming.

Being a project manager by trade I went into action.  I had taken some time off and asked family members to help get the house in order. I have gone through most of my house getting it ready to sell and have given my husband a list of jobs hoping he can bring himself to work on some of the things so we are not left with a foreclosure.

This is our new reality but I am still positive that things will turn around.  Some of the things that really bother me are the loss of extended benefits when we need them.  This would give us more time to get things in order and hopefully find another job and not have to uproot our family.  It is not easy to find a job in 20 weeks.  We have both worked 20+ years and have never needed unemployment benefits, but it feels as if when we need the benefits they really aren’t there for us.

We are not trying to “milk the system”, we did not choose to be in this situation and wouldn’t wish this on anyone. It really makes me wonder what happened to the state that I have called home for 30 years and never wanted to leave. I am having second thoughts now.  When the President wants to extend the benefits but my local governor wants to deny us from these benefits so his budget can be paid back ahead of time, it really makes you wonder what is more important.  I wonder what he would think was more important if he were in my family’s shoes.


If you are interested in sharing your story and thoughts on unemployment with MomsRising (and possibly having your experience posted on this blog) please go here:

Please make sure to check out the other parts of this series:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

Part 7:

Part 8:

Part 9:


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