During December 2010, Alexandra Jarrin, an unemployed Vermonter, organized the "Letters to Bernie" campaign, where she encouraged the long-term unemployed to send their unemployment stories to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Sen. Sanders had courageously filibustered President Obama's and the Republican's tax cut compromise as well as supported the extension of unemployment benefits to all unemployed. Ms. Jarrin's appeal was in response to the proposed extension of unemployment benefits for those who had not exhausted all unemployment benefits. The unemployment extension did not include millions of 99ers, some who have been without any financial support for up to one year and desperately need financial lifeline. Ms. Jarrin collected those letters and hand delivered them to Sen. Sanders' Vermont office.
Her appeal received a strong response from the unemployed and her efforts were featured on a CNN segment highlighted on The Huffington Post. Ms. Jarrin unselfishly mounted this campaign to encourage others to share their unemployment experiences with a senator sympathetic to their plight, hoping to convince Congress to extend unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed, the "99ers".
During that December 2010 campaign, Ms. Jarrin's life was stressful, but she had a place to live and was hoping for better days ahead. Unfortunately, those better days have yet to materialize in 2011. She is still unemployed, although she has applied for more than 3000 jobs. A friend of Ms. Jarrin contacted me and relayed that Ms. Jarrin was nearly homeless. I contacted Ms. Jarrin and asked how she was holding up and she replied:
I am sorry that I didn't get a chance to get back to you when you emailed me last week; things have just been blowing up all over the place in my life. That whole issue was I just had knee surgery, and fell right afterwards which caused issues. The surgery was not successful really and I am still recovering from it. I have several health issues that I was aware of before but not to the degree that I am finding out, that is what happens when you go years without health insurance.
So on the heels of all this, my friend -- the place I was staying -- told me that I had to leave immediately because her landlord would not allow her to have someone live there any longer. On Wednesday he threatened her with eviction if I didn't leave that day. So I am homeless again. I am so stressed out and I came down with some version of the flu even after getting a flu shot this past fall. UGH, just miserable.
Ms. Jarrin received some much needed assistance from a Good Samaritan and "Letters to Bernie" reader who graciously paid for a one-week hotel stay. After that paid-week Ms. Jarrin will again face the prospect of homelessness during a brutal Vermont winter. Ms. Jarrin's car will likely be repossessed, which will put her in an even more precarious situation; unable to visit a doctor, unable to look for work properly, and unable to live in the car in the event she can no longer pay for her hotel room.
Since Huffington Post has taken more than three days to publish this post, the situation for Mrs. Jarrin remains grim as her following update indicates:
I have one more night here that is paid for after tonight. I have to be out by noon on weds if not paid. The loan company has called me all day long about my car. They are relentless. I am so stressed out that the medical tests they tried to do today couldn't be done. They are trying to do a glucose tolerance test but you are supposed to remain calm. I don't remember calm and what it feels like.
What makes Ms. Jarrin's situation even more troubling is that she is one of millions of long-term unemployed who have been abandoned by a disconnected and near inhumane Congress and executive branch and left stranded without any means of support. Even Vice President Joe Biden quipped clueless to the unemployed, "Hang in there." How can someone "hang in there" who has nothing?
Many people doubt that the long-term unemployed are anxious to get back to work and simply want to collect benefits. The job openings data show that assumption couldn't be further from the truth. The latest BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary showed "3.1 million job openings on the last business day of December." When considering that there are nearly 26.5 million unemployed and underemployed who want full-time work, 3.1 million job openings is not nearly enough to make a significant dent in the unemployed/underemployed population. That's more than 8 people seeking each available job. And many of those job openings are part-time, seasonal, or temporary, which puts full-time jobs in even greater demand. The bottom line is that there are not enough jobs to meet the demand for jobs and until that situation improves, the unemployed, such as Ms. Jarrin, cannot simply "hang in there" without some assistance.
With the backing of a compliant Congress, corrupt bankers and failed corporate executives now are receiving record compensation after robbing the American Treasury of trillions of dollars, but that same Congress can't see fit to help those most in need. This American tragedy won't improve unless Americans demand more accountability from their government. Unfortunately, even if the American public finally opens its eyes fully to the fact that the middle class and poor are being financially disadvantaged and hustled for the benefit of the most well-to-do, change will take more time than people in Ms. Jarrin's position can wait.
Since Congress currently seems incapable of acting responsibly for those most harmed financially during this Great Recession, the American people will have to step forward and take up the slack. One person cannot help everyone, but everyone can help one person.
Since this post was released, there has been a generous response to Ms. Jarrin's situation. Ms. Jarrin can accept Paypal contributions and communications at firstname.lastname@example.org from those who wish to help. If you have any questions or concerns about this process, you can also contact me at email@example.com.
"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." Franklin D. Roosevelt