99ers Send Their Appeals for Help to Sen. Sanders in "Letters to Bernie" Part II

This is a follow-up to the 99ers send their appeals for help to Sen. Sanders in "Letters to Bernie"

Alexandra Jarrin, a 99er from Vermont started a letter writing campaign aimed at helping the growing population of 99ers -- those that have exhausted their maximum available unemployment benefits. Currently, there are estimated to be 4-5 million 99ers.

Jarrin's appeal was in response to congressional discussions to extend unemployment benefits for those who have not exhausted all unemployment benefits. 99ers are NOT being considered in the unemployment legislation currently before Congress.

As a Vermont resident, Jarrin decided that she would start a "Letters to Bernie" campaign and have the unemployed send her their unemployment stories, which she would hand deliver to Sen. Sanders' office. According to Jarrin, who spoke to one of the senator's staffers, Sen. Sanders is a supporter of extending unemployment benefits to all unemployed.

Jarrin shared, with permission of the writers, some of the letters she received. What follows are a couple of those letters to Sen. Sanders from the long-term unemployed.

Dear Sen. Sanders:

I am an underemployed 99er. My benefits ended on Sept. 3, 2010. I found data entry work at minimum wage. I worked 144 hours in under 2 weeks at minimum wage in order to cover October's rent. Concurrently, I found a part-time job (no guarantee on number of hours, project-by-project basis). This was the first work I found after two years of looking at least 10-12 hours each day. My stack of applications and job hunting information and networking contacts, etc. is 17 inches high (yes, I measured).

On Friday, I learned that my hours were cut to just 15 hours of work next week. I used to earn $52,000 per year as a researcher. I now earn $13 per hour as a telephone interviewer where, ironically, I speak with millionaires about their investments. $13 per hour and 15 hours of work? You do the math. How I'm supposed to keep going, even after TAKING a lesser-paying job, the only "real" job I could even get in over 2 years. Answer: I'm not. I like the job, I like the people, I like the feeling of being productive after not working for so long. But I can't live this way.

What horrible things did I do to get into this mess? Ah...I was one of two new people chosen for their own project. I'm on target to make our project's goal for Monday (a goal they thought might not be reached, but are thrilled with), and I work whenever they ask, so I can get the hours. They call me a "trouper," as I have to take time off for court because a creditor is suing me, an indigent. In short, I've been an exemplary employee -- but the work simply isn't there. I will show up for work, making an hour and twenty minute trip one way, JUST to get 1-1/2 hours of work completed to get a few more dollars. And then I will turn around and make the trip home.

I have been paying most of my pay to my past-due Nov. rent, rent which my landlord told me she would take as long as I kept making payments -- without a five-day eviction notice. So I paid $400 on Nov. 15, $400 on Nov. 30. Then Dec. became due. I told her last week that I would pay off Nov. and have a large chunk of Dec.'s rent with the Dec. 15 pay. Guess what I got when I came home from learning my hours were cut? A five-day eviction notice. I will be short about $400 to cover Dec.'s full amount...and they are trying to evict me. I met with St. Vincent de Paul Society last week, and they paid my Nov. and Dec. heating bill of $118.

Move? With what? My $1.58? St. Vincent De Paul gave me a thirty-day bus pass because I used my transit to pay to avoid electric shutoff. LIHEAP is paying about 80% of my electric bill, but the money has not come through yet. In order to avoid shutoff, I had to take the only money I had left to get me to work for the rest of that pay period -- $24 -- and make a payment arrangement with Com Ed.

From the day that I get paid to the day that I get paid again (the 15th and 30th), I am lucky if I have $3.00 to even buy a roll of toilet paper, until I get the next pay -- and it starts all over again. Avoid eviction, avoid shutoffs, avoid avoid avoid. There isn't $20 for me for two weeks -- you know, to just live on.

Please tell me what I did wrong, that I've done ALL this just in this past few days--and I have a landlord who wants to evict a 53 year old woman who lives alone--in the dead of winter.

I need help. I don't know what else to do. I'm going to be evicted for four hundred dollars? They mean business.

Michele Lang
Chicago, IL

A 99er from New York state shares her story:

Honorable Senator Sanders,

Never in my wildest imaginings would I have believed that I would be writing a letter like this. Not in America, not in the country that I have loved deeply and believed in my entire life. I feel as if I am living in a nightmare from which I will never awaken.

I am a 41 year old single mother that has been working in one form or another since the age of 12. At that age I had a regular babysitting job every day after school and mucked out horse stalls on the weekends to help pay for the boarding of my first horse. I was taught the importance of working for the things that I wanted and was never handed anything. I come from an upper-middleclass family and was instilled with a deep sense of love and loyalty for this once great country. I was proud to call myself an American and deeply grateful to be able to make a living for myself. I am a college graduate that paid for half my education on my own with no college loans.

On October 1st of 2008 I lost my job as a Body Shop Manager (not an easy job to land as a woman to begin with, but I had earned it). I was almost 4 months pregnant. One month prior to that I requested a meeting with one of the owners of the company as I had heard rumors that I was too much of a liability being pregnant and working in that environment. I was of course assured that this was not the case (because as we all know it would be illegal to fire me for being pregnant) and they were more than happy with my performance. I was told that they would "never pull the rug out from under me". Guess what? The Body Shop was the only department at the dealership that they still did the numbers manually and they fudged things to make it look as if the profits were down. Bye-bye Steff.

So now here I am, pregnant with no income and no health insurance. I was told by my case worker at the NY State DOL that I had absolutely no chance of being hired while I was pregnant. She was right. Then on March 11, 2009 the most wonderful thing happened. I became the mother of a happy, healthy baby boy! Thanks to Unemployment Insurance and Medicaid I was able to get by and provide for my son on less than half of what I had been earning. And of course now that I was no longer pregnant, I should have no trouble finding a job right? Oh so wrong! Resume after resume sent out with little to no response. Three interviews in 99 weeks with no job forthcoming.

My benefits expired on September 5, 2010. I have gone through all my savings and sold everything that I can sell in order to survive and keep a roof over our heads. I have exactly $5 in my wallet and $46.77 in my checking account. My rent is due on December 15. I did apply for Food Stamps in September (never imagined that would happen to me) so I have been able to put food on the table, but I don't know what will happen next or where we will be even in the next month.

I know that there are millions that have been without UI benefits since March of this year and I'm not sure how they are still able to survive. I don't know how I will, but I keep fighting -- for my son. He deserves so much more than I can provide for him. He deserves to know the magic of Christmas and to live in a safe and stable home. He deserves a mother that can work to provide these things for him. He deserves to live in a country that will believe in him as he believes in it. Where is that country now? It seems to only believe in the rich and possibly the poor and starving in other countries, but not the poor and starving in its own backyard.

I hear President Obama and so many other Senators and politicians say that something must be done for the 2 million people who have not yet received the full 99 weeks of UI. They must not be allowed to suffer through this holiday season and face the possibility of losing their homes and cars. Well, yes. BUT why are the 5 million 99ers who are no longer eligible to receive Unemployment Benefits less important? Why have we been forgotten, forsaken and left for dead?

The media can't even seem to get things right in this respect. They are reporting as if the current legislation on the table will help all the unemployed. It is baffling to me that such a thing can happen in this country! That so many can be swept aside as if they never existed. All I want is a job that will support me and my precious son. There is none and the unemployment rate is rising and I have been forgotten by the very people who were elected to speak for me and protect me.

Dear, dear Senator Sanders, thank you for being the voice of the 99ers. Thank you for realizing that we are still here, still suffering, still hoping and praying that others will listen and take action to help us until we too can find jobs. Jobs that, at this time, we cannot get due to discrimination against our extended unemployment. Jobs that, at this time, are being fought for by so many others in the same desperate position. Jobs that, at this time, do not exist...


Stephanie I Ludes (and Kyler)
Williamsville, NY

With little disagreement, the Senate passed today the $856 billion tax bill that contains 13 months of unemployment benefit extensions for those unemployed who have not exhausted benefits. The Senate did not include any help for the millions of 99ers who have been without financial support for up to eight months.

99ers may yet be able to find some hope in the House as the Congressional Black Caucus has demanded that 99ers be helped in any tax package. But that show of support may not be enough to help the growing population of desperate 99ers.

As Congress decides to extend hundreds of billions in tax cut relief for the 2.5 million wealthiest American households, millions of 99ers without any income are asking for some relief as well.

If people are interested in helping these 99ers and wish to contact them directly, please send me a note at mike@layofflist.org.