If Congress fails to pass an extension of unemployment benefits, Ricky Macoy of Quinlan, Texas plans to take it out on the Republican Party by camping on his congressman's lawn.
"Ralph Hall is a good man," said Macoy of his Republican representative, whom he said he has always supported. It's the larger GOP Macoy has a problem with: "They're not willing to help. They're just playing political games."
Every day 7,000 unemployed workers exhaust their benefits, according to the National Employment Law Project, and 1.3 million will have run out of their benefits by the end of the year. The House of Representatives passed a 13-week extension in September, but Republicans have held similar legislation up in the Senate.
Hall voted against the measure in the House, which would extend benefits only in states with unemployment rates above 8.5 percent. The unemployment rate in Texas stands at 8.2 percent. But the Senate version would apply to all 50 states, with an additional 6 weeks for states with rates above 8.5 percent.
"If they can get it out of the Senate and it's paid for there's really no reason to expect the House not to go for it," said NELP policy co-director Maurice Emsellem. "It's a better bill."
Macoy's benefits ran out at the beginning of October. On Tuesday, the 52-year-old electrician found an eviction notice on his front door. He lives in a three-bedroom trailer with his ex-wife, also unemployed, and their 11-year-old son. (He said the divorce happened in 2001, but tough times have forced them back together -- he calls the situation "complicated.") They scrounged up $386 for the landlord but still owe a few hundred for their October rent and utilities. Macoy describes his landlord as a good guy who's in as much trouble as everyone else.
Macoy said he started drawing unemployment benefits in October 2008 after work dried up in the wake of Hurricane Ike. He stopped the benefits when he found a gig doing electrical work in Louisiana, but resumed them when the contract was pulled after just one month of work.
"I've been an electrician for 34 years," he said. "My dad and granddad both were electricians and I learned from them. I got really good contacts in this industry and I've never seen it this bad, even in the '80s."
Macoy and his ex-wife have been pawning stuff -- including his electrician's tools -- and holding yard sales just for rent and food.
"The thing that hurt the most was we had to hawk my son's Playstation 3, his Wii, his electric guitar," said Macoy. "We lived a good life. Middle income America, man. I'm used to construction, the booms and the busts. When we're making good money you put it up, so I was prepared -- we were prepared, we had a good Christmas. I was not expecting to be laid off this long."
The number of long-term unemployed has increased by 110 percent since last December, while the total number of unemployed has risen by only 36 percent, according to an analysis by the National Employment Law Project (pdf). More than 5.4 million people have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer.
"There's a very special need out there for the extra help," said NELP's Emsellem.
When pressed, Macoy insisted that he does, in fact, have the gumption to pitch a tent on his congressman's lawn. He said he's left several messages in the congressman's D.C. and Texas offices.
"I would show up there with my car full of bedding and my kid and a tent and start to set up," he said. "I'm just about crazy enough to do it. At least I'd go to jail and have a place to stay."
Hall's office did not have a comment on his constituent's potential living arrangement.
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