No Money For Nothing

August 5, 2010

My husband Ken pointed out to me that in yesterday’s post, I had many typos in my final paragraph. He knew, because he witnessed it, it was because I was writing the post while falling asleep on my chaise! So for you regular readers, I wasn’t drunk, just exhausted. I went back and fixed them!

Today, guest blogger Bret takes us on the front lines of unemployment. And also sheds light that you collect unemployment in the state where you worked, not where you live. I did not know that. Take it away, Bret:

After receiving unemployment benefits from the State of New Jersey for 4 months based solely on my online application, I wasn’t entirely surprised when they asked me to appear in person and explain what I’ve been doing to find a job.  I was required to attend the euphemistically named “Job Search Assistance and Assessment Workshop” or risk losing my bi-weekly check.  The accompanying paperwork that I had to complete – where I had to document the jobs I had applied for over the prior two weeks – made it clear that the emphasis would be on “assessment” rather than “assistance.”

When I arrived at the “classroom,” there were about 20 other victims of the recession.  The instructor was incredibly eager and professional.  I think he sincerely thought he could help each of us find a job despite our wildly varied backgrounds and aspirations.  But the system didn’t make it easy.  The first half hour involved having us line up so he could review our paperwork one person at a time.  As he said, “if we’re going to get anything right today, it’s going to be the paperwork.”  He explained that in order to receive federal funds, the state was required to perform this kind of assessment to ensure that only those seeking work would be paid.  His role was to make sure that we completed the forms adequately to avoid red flags triggering a full-blown audit of our benefits.  Again, he sincerely wanted to help and advised a few people that their forms hadn’t demonstrated enough of a job search – he gave people a chance to add more details or even postpone the assessment for a few weeks.  Unfortunately, the conversation with each person was right there in front of all of us and created some awkward moments.  One woman hadn’t completed the form and tried explaining that she was seeking a job in the court system (where she presumably worked before) so her job search consisted of making calls to people she knew. At one point, in frustration, she said she would “shine shoes” or do “whatever.”  The next 45 minutes involved going through some additional paperwork, reviewing a few of the government resources that are available to assist and answering questions.  Amazingly, he handed out extremely helpful materials that contained tips on networking and other job search strategies, but he didn’t review that at all – as he explained, if we did “we would be here until midnight and they aren’t getting overtime” and we probably wanted to get out as quickly as possible.  The rest of the time (scheduled to be another hour or longer) was his reviewing our additional paperwork, one person at a time in front of everyone, and providing some recommendations on resources to help our job searches.  Luckily, I was one of the earliest people to be reviewed (based on the order in which we lined up at the start).  To his credit, despite my utter cynicism that he could offer anything useful, he gave me a few good tips.  And sure enough, a few days later I received an automatic email from the unemployment office that actually had a few jobs targeted for attorneys.

Overall, not a bad use of 90 minutes.  And, after all, they paid for my time.

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