Being laid off is a new experience for me. I should say, being involuntarily laid off is new. My wife and I volunteered to be laid off by The Seattle Times in 2001. And we could have collected unemployment at the time, but we chose not to. We took time off and drove around the country. It would have been easy enough to pretend to be looking for jobs, but we didn't need to and we weren't.
This time is different, and the journalism job market is a lot worse. Actually, it's worse than worse. So the first thing I did Monday was apply for unemployment benefits. It's unbelievably easy. You fill out a form online.
Then every week you have to fill out another form online to demonstrate you are actively looking for work. There's a formula based on your employment history that determines what you'll get in benefits. It looks like they will about cover our mortgage for up to 26 weeks. That's a pretty long time, and it's comforting to know it's there if I don't find something, but it's nowhere near enough to cover all our expenses without major downsizing and use of savings.
So the job search isn't just for show, for the sake of state bureaucrats.
The State of Washington's Employment Security Department has streamlined the benefits process to a great degree, but if there is an anomaly, you still have to navigate the bureaucracy. For example, there is an error on my "Monetary Determination" form that needs correcting, and they don't make it easy to do this. I tried to call about it, but after listening to a bunch of recorded stuff, including in Spanish, I pressed the button to talk to someone and the automated phone system said it was receiving a high volume of calls.
I thought, no problem, I'll hold — I've got nothing but time! But no, the recording said, "Please try again later," and hung up. Um, try again later? When is later?
So I had to write them a letter and mailed it, with a stamp and everything. It's been so long since I actually wrote something with a pen that my hand got tired while addressing the envelope.