Posted Friday, September 11, 2009
The worst downturn since the 30's has brought tremendous pressure on Ohio’s social service agencies. The latest data shows the pain has clearly spread to suburbia. The same middle class people who supported charities are now asking them for help to put food on the table and pay for other basics. Requests for help with utility bills have more than doubled. How are those agencies keeping up? And how will the state continue to fund unemployment benefits? Join Regina Brett as she explores the needs of the middle class in this special "Help Wanted" edition of the Sound of Ideas.
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Unfortunately, I only caught the last 20 minutes of the show today (Sept 11). During that time, the guest was the Ohio Unemployment director. I lost my job back at the end of May and have been collecting unemployment. It disturbs me to hear that they are considering decreasing benefits (also looking to increase taxes to businesses as an option) to deal with the unemployment benefits debt. I am college educated and have been working constantly, full time since I left college in 1993. I have seen huge chunks of my paycheck go out to social services that I never collected upon until now. Now, there is a possibility, when I am in need, that I might lose some of the benefits I am collecting on? I am already struggling to survive as my bills increased when I lost my job (I pay more now for health care than when I was employed) and I found out I do not qualify for food stamps. I am making $60 too much per month because of the extra $100 per month I am receiving from the federal government. It doesn’t matter that I do not gross my rent in one week (not even close) or that I pay for my health care and had more expensive electric bills due to hot summer days. The computer program says you can only make so much per month if you are a single person with no dependents (I am single and live alone). I am stuck in a lease so I cannot find a cheaper place to stay at the moment. With all the news telling us that we are on the upswing but it will still take some time for people to get jobs, this new news that I might lose some benefits is naturally disturbing. I am certain that I am not the only middle class person in this predicament as I can see evidence of this every morning at the public library where all of us unemployed go to look for jobs on the public computers. We certainly can’t afford to have internet in our homes when we don’t even qualify for some basic benefits.
I have looked in to the food banks which help. But at least with food stamps, you can actually buy more nutritious food rather than what the food banks were able to get donated. Of course, I may one of the few poor that actually looks at nutrition labels. I am not looking a gift horse in the mouth, I am just stating that those of us who fall through the cracks have very little help to get out of them. I know of two other people that also do not qualify for food stamps, both college educated, because of the extra money per month the federal government is giving them. Also, we run into a problem with getting part time and temporary jobs. We might not be able to get our unemployment benefits when we lose those jobs. I know that has stifled my search for a job somewhat. I am very careful at what I apply for because I don’t want to get offered a job that will go away before I can find something else and then I no longer qualify for benefits. Hence, causing me and many others like me to remain on the system. And we college educated middle class people wonder why so many people remain on welfare for most of their lives.
I am just wondering is anyone has searched for a better way to do this while we work ourselves through this recession? Most of the people I know who are in the same boat that I am in are open to volunteering for service. As long as I am not working, I have plenty of time to offer. Making more services out there like this and making them known to people like me who have never had to look into welfare or unemployment benefits before would be extremely helpful. I called 211 once to get the food bank information. I actually asked if there were any programs out there where I could volunteer for assistance. I just got food bank numbers near me. It just seems that the services out there are too used to people who are only there to get the service and not to those who actually want to work for it. I know I am not alone in this feeling of uselessness. It would definitely help those of us unable to find work to feel better about ourselves and our place in society if we could offer something of ourselves in place for services. As we are college educated middle class people, we have MANY skills to offer, not just a strong back. We just need to know what is out there and have easy access to find this out.
Thank you for your time in reading this message. As you can tell, this particular broadcast hit home with me and I felt the need to share my experience. I only hope that someone listens to me and actually comes up with a better plan to help those of us in need rather than just limit our benefits.