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The Road Away from Unemployment…

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Unemployment wasn’t what we thought it would be. Standard unemployment would have been tight but the additional federal funds meant my husband made more on unemployment than he did working. When he wasn’t looking for work, I think my husband imagined himself catching up on his YouTube subscriptions, reading books, relaxing, and sleeping. We had some family and friends in a similar situation, making more while unemployed.

My husband was unemployed for a total of two weeks before they called him back to work.

Two weeks.

I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a weird feeling. Ecstatic that he had his job back but oddly sad that it meant late hours for less pay. I asked him if it crossed his mind to say he couldn’t go back, to enjoy unemployment a bit longer. He looked at me, completely confused. He wanted his job back. Relaxing was great but working was better.

We furloughed some folks at my work in March and recalled them back last week. Some declined to come back. They make more on unemployment. We had several file for unemployment that weren’t furloughed or laid off. It’s been a frustrating process from the prospective of an employer.

I think I would have been more infuriated if I hadn’t experienced the other side of that coin. My husband went back immediately when recalled to work but our financial situation isn’t dire. The extra funds were nice but in the scheme of things, the impact was small. I’m not saying people should stay on unemployment when called back, far from it. In most situations, that’s fraud. I’m saying I get it. I get the struggle. It helps me have more compassionate conversations with those staff members when telling them they must return.

This is just a crummy time.

If you are stressing, trying to figure out how to pay bills, I want you to remember this feeling. If anything good comes from this, it’s the feeling that you never want to be here again. It’s the feeling of being over it. Hold on to that. Let it fester long enough to move you toward getting serious about paying off your debt.

We’re about a month away from the formal announcement about the status of my job. Yeah, I’m sad about the potential financial loss but I’m insanely grateful for our financial position. Having no debt helps me sleep at night. I don’t worry about credit cards, car payments, or student loans. The only payment we make is our mortgage.

Paying off our debt was one of the best decisions we ever made. I hope this situation is pushing you harder in that direction.


29 Comments

  • Reply Reece |

    Interestingly, yesterday Steve Mnuchin said employees who reject an offer from their employer to return to work are no longer eligible for unemployment for this very reason. So if people have been doing that they won’t be for much longer…..

    • Reply Beks |

      You are correct. Unfortunately, that’s not an instant process and people may not realize that we report the recall date. Even if you receive a check from unemployment, you’ll have to repay it.

  • Reply Cheryl |

    Our local news talks about stuff regarding the virus, the stimulus money and unemployment everyday. They said if you are called back you can’t refuse. It might just be our area, I don’t know.

    • Reply Beks |

      I think we follow the same rules. There are some exceptions for those required to return to work but I imagine those are consistent across the nation.

  • Reply Jennifer |

    If a worker is called back and they refuse their unemployment is ended. Employers must report this. If they don’t they are liable for fraud. One of the weekly claims questions is did you refuse work this week

    • Reply Beks |

      You are absolutely correct. That doesn’t mean it’s an easy or quick process for employers.
      Yes, the unemployment questionnaire asks that question. That doesn’t mean everyone answers it honestly.

      • Reply Cwaltz |

        A part time worker in some states could return to work and still collect under the CARES Act. The act was written to help deal with not just unemployment but underemployment when businesses reduced hours.

        • Reply Drmaddog |

          That’s what the soundbite is, but in my state, most people at my place of work who had reduced hours and applied for unemployment were denied. The explanation was that in order to be able to collect the COVID-related supplemental unemployment pay for reduced hours, you have to first qualify for at least $1 of straight-up unemployment, which meant their reduced paychecks had to be less than what basic unemployment would pay. None of them met that criteria. So, that was a small detail that was communicated by HR to, literally, no one who got reduced hours until after the fact when their applications were denied. So frustrating.

  • Reply Laura |

    The bump in unemployment pay was created so that an person would be able to pay their housing costs, estimated at a fairly low rate country-wide. If your employees are making more while on unemployment, then you aren’t paying them a living wage, and you should rethink how you treat and compensate them.

    If they’re opting to not return to work, then there’s a good chance they do not actually like the work, like your company, and/or cannot live on the pay they’re compensated with.

    • Reply Beks |

      That’s absolutely untrue. Part-time workers who are paid fairly saw a jump in pay.
      You may like your job but you may like money too.

      • Reply Laura |

        I do have to agree with this. $600 extra a week, on top of regular unemployment, is a lot of money. Even at 40/hr a week that’s $15.00 an hour . I know in some parts of the country with a high COL that doesn’t sound like a lot but in many parts of the country it is.

        • Reply Beks |

          Paired with state unemployment it’s $26.25/hour here in California. That’s a lot of money.

          • Kerry |

            But it is only for 4 months. If people are going to refuse to return to work because they “they make more on unemployment “ there are multiple problems. 1) their wages are that low that a 4 month windfall is worth giving up a job and thinking they’ll find another easily. 2) They don’t understand the unemployment system at all, which indicates luck, or youth or just naïveté. Or 3) they just don’t have the analytical skills to make a reasoned decision which also indicates they might be in low skill work.

            Honestly state unemployment systems vary a lot—in AZ, the macimum payment is $230/wk for 24 weeks, and everyone who makes over about $25 k gets that amount.

    • Reply Cwaltz |

      If they don’t answer it honestly they will end up having to pay the money back when the state gets notified by the employer you refused to return.

  • Reply Alice |

    Probably the most powerful thing I’ve read today: “If you are stressing, trying to figure out how to pay bills, I want you to remember this feeling. If anything good comes from this, it’s the feeling that you never want to be here again. It’s the feeling of being over it. Hold on to that. Let it fester long enough to move you toward getting serious about paying off your debt.”

    Great post. I’m so glad you’re in the position you’re in. I’m in a position where I am safe on the job front. We know we’re not getting raises next fiscal year (starting July 1), and they’re cutting the employer contribution to retirement in half. But we have jobs. Best wishes for your situation.

  • Reply Kiki |

    Goes to show that people are simply vastly underpaid in this country if life is better on unemployment. Shameful.

  • Reply Sarah |

    I knew this would happen…$600 extra a week for four months is a lot of money! Though, if they turn down their old job now, there may not be another job in three months. With the way the economy is going to be, there are going to be less jobs available. A lot of places will only be allowed to have 50% of their customers so they will not need as many employees (and the working from home gig is going to change things, too). They might regret making this decision. Though a friend of mine was laid off in January. She got a new job in April and filed with the unemployment office that she is now employed and someone miss recorded it and she got a notice that she had been laid off from her new job. California pays on a debit card…she is leaving all the extra money on the card because at some point, hopefully the error will be recognized.

    • Reply Beks |

      Yes, we are having the same issues stopping the unemployment as well. We’re trying to stop it but there is no instructions on how to do this on the website. There’s no ‘I got a job. I don’t need this anymore!’ button which is frustrating. We haven’t received an extra payment but we are worried we will and will be forced to figure out how to pay it back.

      • Reply Sarah |

        My friend said the same thing. I think you are in CA so have a debit card. Only spend what is yours on the debit card and leave the rest. I would assume CA can go back to the debit card and withdraw what is not yours if they ever figure it out.

        • Reply Beks |

          Yup, CA with a debit card. It’s a mess to stop payments. I hope they figure out a way to make it easier!

  • Reply Sara |

    We have one part-time employee especially feeling torn because she made so much more on unemployment. She is worried about the health risks of coming back, so it’s been a complicated decision for her. What a weird, weird time this is.

  • Reply Karen |

    $26/hr is not vastly underpaid but it surely isn’t living in the lap of luxury either. That comes out to a little under 55k if the person works 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year. By the time taxes, insurance, and any retirement comes out, the person may be making maybe 35-40k a year. People making less than that are definitely struggling, especially if they live in a High Cost of Living area.
    I’m sure you are doing all you can for your staff but the fact that a few weeks of extra money makes such a huge difference shows why financial health is so important.

    • Reply Beks |

      Perhaps it’s our area but I don’t think that’s low. That’s what I made until a few years ago. My husband made less than that but together we made six figures. I don’t think that’s a bad number.

  • Reply Rosalind |

    It’s funny that you can ask your husband if he wants to enjoy unemployment a bit longer but be frustrated that your employees don’t want to come back. There is just zero self awareness here.

    • Reply Beks |

      Asking him if it crossed his mind vs actually declining work is completely different. Plenty self aware thanks.

So, what do you think ?