Dear Committee Members:
I was laid off in January 2009 from my position at a non-profit that provided support services to adults with intellectual disabilities. After the financial crash, the social services job market evaporated because of severe budget cuts in state and federal funding. I know the budget cuts were across the board, ie, in all social services across the state, because of the drastic budget cuts occurring in both state and federal funding for social services. For over two years I have tried to find a replacement position. But unfortunately, since all social services have been downsized due to budget cuts, there aren’t any positions.
During the time I have been laid off, I repeatedly went to the Career Center at the Unemployment Office and requested re-training, as it was clear to me the social services industry was basically on life-support, and there would not be any jobs in the field for many years. The career center said I wasn’t eligible for the retraining program because I was not in the category of people who were eligible for the Trade Readjustment Act (losing a job in the manufacturing sector) in which people in manufacturing were eligible to go to school for retraining, and keep their benefits while they were learning a new skill to sell on the job market.
In fact, I was told that if I went back to school to retrain, I would lose my unemployment benefits, while the people who were in manufacturing could go to school, and keep getting their unemployment benefits. I was also told that because I already had a four-year degree (sociology), that also disqualified me, even though I received my degree in the early 90’s, and my degree was no longer a marketable degree, especially since my work experience was in the social services field, and the new jobs that have emerged don’t require these credentials.
Because so many jobs have been outsourced, and the American economy is changing into different types of services (green economy, etc.), the job market has drastically changed. Many of us who hold bachelor’s degrees, associates degrees, etc. from twenty and thirty years ago, are having difficulty finding a job because we are older workers, and because there is no demand for our past area of training. We need viable opportunities to retrain. We can not retrain if we are homeless. We need workable solutions that take into account that we need a roof over our heads while we retrain. Even a one-year certificate program in the new emerging industries is more likely to get us a job than the meaningless four and two year degrees that we got 20 and 30 years ago. We need new skills on top of our old skills to have a chance to compete in such a retracted and changing job market. Jobs are few and far between, and those that are there require new skill sets we don’t have.
My suggestion would be to extend unemployment benefits for one year to those out of work for more than a specified number of weeks, and provide free training at a one-year certificate program for them, and not disqualify people just because they already have a degree from two and three decades ago. A one year certificate in a new, emerging field would give people the new skill set they need to enhance their old degrees.
We have children to take care of. Please help us.