One argument that has been made against unemployment benefits is that such benefits discourage people from seeking jobs. Why would they bother looking when they can get a free handout from the government?
Speaking solely from my own experience I can tell you that receiving an
unemployment check did not keep me from looking for work – after all that check hardly replaced a paycheck. What it did was provide some small measure of security for my family; the knowledge that even if I didn’t find the work necessary for us to get out of this mess, at least I could pay the rent and put food on the table. That knowledge provided immeasurable comfort and a foundation from which to conduct the daily search for work. I was able to strategize, and plan, to carefully budget and feel in control of our diminished lives.
Without it I find myself almost paralyzed; my mind overwhelmed by anxiety about our future, my nights plagued by insomnia and depression as I picture us homeless once again. I feel both sluggish and edgy during the day as I struggle to focus on the job hunt, the applications, the resume to be reworked, while fighting the distracting thoughts of whether I have enough money to put gas in the car and which bills I can afford to put off and which I have to pay. I suffer from migraines almost constantly and my blood pressure is high even with my medication.
I feel much more of a failure now than I did just 4 months ago when we were receiving benefits. And I fear it shows in my interactions with other people and my parenting, which is short on patience. When my daughter tells me she needs gold paint for her class project I lose my temper and tell her if she NEEDS it the school will have to provide it. I snap at the child who spilled spaghetti sauce on my partially filled-in job application. When my son doesn’t finish his dinner and slides it to the floor for the dogs I go into a tirade about food costing money! Money that we don’t have! The older two have caught on and are careful, but the youngest still don’t understand why we won’t be doing any of the fun things I had originally suggested during their fall break from school next week. “But you promised!” they whine, ignoring the attempts of their older siblings to hush them.
I regret the impatience and tirades, the curt negative responses to questions about whether we can eat out or see a movie. I’m sorry that I’m annoyed and tired; that I chastise them for not understanding or helping out more or about their whining about missing the after school program. And I’m especially sorry that in the darkest hours of the night I sometimes wish I weren’t their parent, wish that I had no one dependent upon me.
When someone complains about the cost of extending unemployment benefits consider whether there might be even greater costs without those benefits.