An Out of Work Tennessean Pleads for “help and relief” from Governor Bill Haslam
UPDATE 5/20/11 at 2:00 PM: HB 2156 (Fitzhugh/Finney) to extend unemployment passes the house 75-22 with 1 present not voting. No votes: Alexander, Butt, Casada, Dennis, Dunn, Faison, Hall, Haynes, Holt, Johnson, Matlock, Miller, Nicely, Pody, Ragan, Rich, Sexton, Shipley, Sparks, Weaver, R. Williams, and Wirgau.
The day after the Tennessee Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development announced that Tennessee’s unemployment rate for April rose to 9.6 percent, a budget amendment that would extend unemployment insurance to approximately 28,000 Tennesseans for twenty weeks is turning out to be THE sticking point. If our legislature includes the $3 million amendment in the budget it means we will draw down approximately $60 million from the federal government to cover 28,000 out-of-work Tennesseans for 20 additional weeks.
Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press has the details:
Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the Senate speaker, said Thursday he doesn’t expect the GOP-controlled chamber to go along with Democrats’ demands to extend federally funded unemployment benefits for thousands of longtime jobless Tennesseans another 20 weeks.
According to the state Labor and Workforce Development, more than 28,000 Tennesseans who lost their jobs in the private sector would be eligible for an additional $57.7 million in federal funds.
That would only happen, however, if the state made a minor tweak in state law in order to take advantage of an expansion of the benefits signed into law last December by President Barack Obama.
State and local governments would be responsible for some $2.8 million in costs associated with workers they have fired.
House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, said it would be an “absolute travesty” if Republican senators balk on the measure.
He said House majority Republican leaders are going along with restoring and extending benefits and Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has now provided for it in the latest version of the budget.
He said his own home county has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state and “there are people who would love to be working and they just cannot find the jobs….they desperately need work and this would just come as a godsend to them.”
Last week we received an email from Tralisa Haggard Harwood of Chattanooga, an unemployed Tennessean looking for work. In the email to us she copied a letter she wrote to Governor Haslam on May 17 and gave us permission to reprint it here:
Dear Governor Haslam,
I am one of the thousands of long term unemployed Tennesseans that were abruptly cut off of extended unemployment benefits on April 16. I am urging you to assist the legislature to restore the benefits for another 20 weeks as soon as possible. I am running against time Sir. If something does not break for me with a job in the next few days, I will be homeless when June 1 arrives.
I am a 53 1/2 year old woman. I am single. I have been searching for a permanent job for over 18 months. I worked for the Chattanooga Times Free Press as an Advertising Sales Representative for Employment Recruitment advertising. When the jobs continued to go, so did the need to advertise for them. Eventually it affected me, I was laid off and I have been without a job for 18 months.
On my $275 per week unemployment, I paid rent, including electricity and water, my cell phone bill (as it is on my resume), car insurance (which is a state law), groceries and medicine, as I am a diabetic. I have 4 prescriptions that I pay for out of pocket with no insurance and two that Astra Zeneca sends to me free of charge. I can no longer afford diabetic strips to check my sugar twice a day. When my medicine runs out, I cannot buy that either. I use the internet at the Career Center to search for jobs, as I cannot afford to pay for it, nor do I have cable TV.
I have had two very good interviews in the past week, however, I feel, that even though employers are not supposed to discriminate on age, I have been passed over because of my age. Even the temporary companies now days are an online application process, and I have not had any response from them.
When I was abruptly cut from the unemployment benefits, I had enough money to pay for all my May monthly obligatons. If I could just have that extension, I feel that surely fate will smile on me and bring me some kind of stable employment. Until then, I will have no where to go come June 1 when I cannot pay the rent, no where to store my few worldly possessions and nobody to help me move it.
I am, at this point, pleading with you, for help and relief.
Tralisa Haggard Harwood
Hers is just one story in thousands. The hardworking people of Tennessee are our most valuable resource and helping during this difficult time is what we should do. It’s what we must do. Helping each other out during difficult times is part of our DNA; it’s part of our values. Abandoning those in need is not.