Many New Jerseyans Struggle After Losing Unemployment Benefits

NJ Spotlight News | December 30, 2013

By Dari Kotzker

In eight short weeks — Bill Cowen Jr.’s initial 26 weeks of unemployment benefits will end. He’ll use a severance package and savings to pay the next couple of months on his mortage, but now, with no emergency unemployment compensation available, he may have some tough choices to make.

“Scared, I’m very scared, where am I going to pay my mortgage. I’m not the type that ever missed a payment so to speak, or late, that’s not my personality. I love my home, but I’m afraid to lose it, I really am,” said Cowen.

Cowen was laid off from his job as CEO for a non-profit group back in July, after working there for 13 years. His old company helped pay for career counseling services. Mitchell Baskin is co-director of BBCS Counseling Services. He helps people improve their interview skills, resumes and cover letters as they job search. His advice for clients who were receiving long-term benefits?

“I tell them almost take any job, one of the reason not just because of benefits and because of people’s mental state. You want people to have a little sense of pride their doing something, earning money, but also making contacts,” said Baskin.

Approximately 90,000 jobless New Jerseyans have no access to the federal emergency benefits, and another 89,000 will exhaust their regular state unemployment insurance in the first half of 2014.

“My reaction is of course I’m disappointed. I think there is a need for it, people are unemployed and no source of income how are they supposed to pay for their house, their bills, their medical,” said Cowen.

And what about those who opposed the extensions saying they’re not necessary anymore?

“I don’t think its fair I really don’t, especially since it’s been in place for three or four years to just end it like, I don’t think people are thinking about everybody affected by it,” Cowen said.

“A lot of times, it’s not the persons fault it is the industry and they are really few jobs and a lot of people, without those extended benefits, a lot of times there’s people have no alternatives,” said Baskin.

Baskin says since we’re coming into the new year, more people tend to get hired because new jobs have been added into budgets. And Cowen hopes to be one of those new hires.

“My hope is that I’ll find a job, I’m willing to do whatever I have to do and hopefully someone out there will see my resume and see me and say this person will be a great fit,” said Cowen.

When congress reconvenes in January, democrats plan to take up the issue of reinstating extended unemployment benefits.