The Lord must figure I need more practice in dealing with frustration; He’s put me head-to-head with the world of unemployment.

When the company and I couldn’t arrange a less stressful position (necessary for my recovering mental health,) we “separated amicably” and I was thrown on the mercy of the job market and the Department of Labor.  The first is a behemoth that chews you up and spits you out; the second provides the condiments.  For the 1 or 2 of you who have not encountered these things first-hand, let me share a few of my experiences and roadblocks, in no particular order.

  • I applied for Unemployment Insurance.  There is no place on the application for “separated amicably”–the closest are “laid off due to lack of work” or “quit.”  They didn’t lay me off; so I opted for “quit” with an explanation.  Result:  my benefits are being withheld pending investigation.
  • According to legal definition on the application itself, any effort that produces or could potentially produce income is considered work.  Therefore, my self-employed side jobs (preaching, public speaking, consulting, and writing) are considered a business.  Result:  my benefits are being withheld pending investigation.  Investigation involves a 5-page questionnaire regarding officers of the corporation and who is writing the checks since I am unemployed, etc., and three years of tax returns.  If I write even 1 sentence that is designed for future publication for money, that counts as a day of work and reduces my weekly benefits by 25%.  (I could do it and not tell them, and several government employees have suggested I do just that, but I suffer from a virtue called integrity.)
  • The Department of Labor offers workshops to assist in the job search,  but requires you to sign up for them.  The web site offers no information on how to sign up for them.  When I call the local unemployment office–sorry, they want to be called Workforce these days–I am told that I have to come into their office to reserve a spot.
  • When I arrive at the office and request a spot in a workshop, I am told that they cannot help me until I am “registered” with them; when I try to register, they tell me they can’t help me until I have filed for unemployment.  Since I have already jumped through that hoop, they give me the registration form and tell me to have a seat;  the form is 8 or 10 pages long and takes 20 minutes to fill out.  It requires me to enter my NYS identification number, which I will not receive until after I have registered.
  • After I have registered and waited a little longer, I have to meet with a representative who must enter my information into their computer system before I am officially registered and issued my number and a card.  The representative is a two-fingered typist; if that weren’t bad enough, she was interrupted by 2 phone calls, a visit from another client needing help, and a former client who wanted to show her a new baby.  My time with her was over an hour.  After all that was finished, she was able to get me an appointment the next day with a career counselor–her fifth choice.  ( “He’s pretty good, too.”)
  • Visit 2 to the Workforce office gives me a very helpful 1-hour consultation with a knowledgeable and helpful counselor named John.  In addition to answering specific questions and offering good advice, he informs me that the services of the office are free on demand to anyone at any time during regular business hours.  It is NOT necessary to be jobless, to apply for or receive unemployment, or even be registered in order to get help.  (He does say that registration is helpful for their records, but not required.)
  • After meeting with him, I still want to sign up for a workshop.  I am directed to the resource room, where I sign in, show my registration card, and am told to sit and wait.  After 10 minutes, a representative calls me into a cubicle to ask me what I want.  I provide the name, date, and time of the workshop I want (all information I got from the web site); he has to check the calendar on the wall to see if it is really being offered, and then looks up the date on the computer to confirm that it is really being offered, and that there is room for me.  Finally, he signs me up for the workshop, held a week later.
  • Visit 3 takes me to a workshop that starts 30 minutes late due to a staffing issue and gets out more than an hour early due to lack of material to cover.  I discover that the purpose of the workshop is to teach me how to navigate the Department of Labor web site and use its links to career exploration.  I had already discovered that; it had recommended the workshop.  (The site directs you to the workshop; the workshop directs you to the site; and the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round….”) 
  • Along the way, I have discovered that the county will generously provide an escort for me if I need to leave the room to use the lavatory.  Thankfully, I don’t have to register or sign up in advance for that service.

At this point, I have invested more that six hours and 60 miles of driving and have not received a check, and have no idea when or if I will get one.  On the bright side, the Resource Room representatives tell me that once my unemployment has been approved, the Department of Labor will send me a registration form and an appointment for a required Orientation meeting so that I can learn what the local Workforce office has to offer and how to begin to use their resources. 

This is just my opinion based upon my limited experience with the whole system, but it seems to me that the Department of Labor is doing a great job of saving taxpayers’ money by making it difficult for those in need to access their benefits and services.  Just imagine how much more they could save if they had more staffing and procedural requirements!  The liberals and progressives are right:  apparently, the key to saving our economy and reducing the deficit is creating a bigger bureaucracy and providing more government jobs.

As the philosopher Vizzini said, “INCONCEIVABLE!”

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