Long Unemployment Spell 'Like A Divorce That Goes On And On And Doesn't Stop' [UPDATE]
WASHINGTON -- Paul Mann says that being unemployed for months and months is like dealing with "a death in the family or a divorce that goes on and on and doesn't stop."
Mann, 57, said he lost his job as a product and business development manager at the end of June, and that he's had only two interviews since then.
"I am a professional with almost 30 years of corporate business development experience," said Mann, who lives near Atlanta. "Bloomingdale's says I'm not qualified to sell shirts and Home Depot won't call me about my application either."
Adding to his anxiety is Mann's concern that Congress will fail to reauthorize federally-funded benefits for the long-term unemployed. He said his state-funded benefits will expire in January, and if Congress has not reauthorized the Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Extended Benefits programs by then, Mann will be left with zero income to support his wife and kids.
"I haven't slept through the night in six months. I wake up at 3:30, 4:00 in the morning every day," he said. "Your stomach gets tied up in knots."
Congress allowed the programs to lapse last week. The White House is in the midst of crafting a deal with congressional leaders that will reauthorize the benefits by attaching them to a reauthorization of Bush-era tax cuts for the rich.
Mann is familiar with unfriendly outcomes from congressional dealmaking. If he'd been laid off one month earlier, he would have been eligible to receive a 65 percent subsidy on health insurance for his family via the COBRA program, which allows laid-off workers to continue their former company's health plan but at full cost. Mann said his runs about $1,500 a month -- more than what he gets in unemployment -- and he pays it by dipping into savings.
Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives dropped the COBRA subsidy in May in order to win the votes of conservative members who were antsy about the deficit price tag of the previous unemployment reauthorization.
Dropping COBRA was just one of the first concessions that Democrats made during a 50-day battle that interrupted benefits for 2.5 million people over the summer. Mann is aware that such a long delay could happen again, but he figures that Congress will cut a deal before Christmas.
"They're playing politics and I think there's an awful lot of people out there that are anxiously worried about what's going on, myself included," he said. "I can't imagine that the end of the day, when they recess for the holidays that they won't pass an extension. I think the Republicans are just jockeying to get as much out of Obama as they can."
UPDATE 6/24/11: Mann reports he scored a job as a national sales manager for a small manufacturing company. He starts in the next couple weeks. "It's a crazy market out there," he said. "It's not easy. I was lucky."