Speeding Toward Disaster   Leave a comment

I was planning to write a few blog posts this week but I’m too weak, too tired, and too sad to focus on anything complex. Maybe in a few days.

I’m also scared. I keep thinking of my partner, our dogs, and myself in a car speeding toward a cliff. Unless something changes, we’re going to go over that cliff. And I don’t know what I can do to slow down the damn car, let alone put it in reverse.

Things were bad before I got sick and now they appear utterly hopeless. My partner continues to look for work but the job situation around here is pretty bleak. Either he isn’t qualified, or the job is only part-time and/or the pay is so low it would barely cover our rent, leaving nothing for our bills and food. On top of that, most of these jobs aren’t local. They’ll require spending two hours a day commuting, and he would be working over an hour a day just to cover the transportation costs. That’s a lot of commuting for a job that’s only part-time. But he keeps applying, hoping that something will work out.

My partner has a college degree but he can’t find a job that pays a living wage. Unfortunately that’s not unusual these days. I wasn’t surprised to learn that in 2010, over 43% of low-wage workers had attended or graduated college. Oh, and that other myth conservatives never tire of flogging, the one where most minimum wage workers are unskilled teenagers just trying to make a few “extra” bucks and gain much-needed work experience? Not surprisingly, that’s more BS. In 2010, just 12% of low-wage workers were under age 20 (down from 26% in 1979). And I’m sure a substantial number of those teenagers aren’t middle class kids living at home or attending college on their parents’ dime but young people working real hard to support themselves (like I was at that age).

Unfortunately even low-wage work is hard to come by in this economy. And many employers don’t like to hire people with degrees (and corresponding employment histories) for low-wage work because they assume–usually correctly–that since no one invests four years and vast sums of cash hoping they’ll get to stock grocery store shelves, workers with degrees will quit as soon as they find something better. My partner has applied for numerous low-wage jobs and never even gets called in for an interview.

Yesterday he went down to the employment office in the faint hope that they might have job listings that don’t appear in the newspaper or online or that they might be able to provide assistance with job training and placement. Unfortunately the only job openings were for registered nurses and mechanics and a couple of other things he’s not qualified to do. He then described our situation and asked about job training/placement assistance. They said if he was eligible for cash aid, they could offer him “employment counseling.” Asked what that entails, they explained that participants learn to prepare a resume and improve their job interview skills.

Yes, because he totally needs help with that. Not. He’s got several versions of his resume (tailored to different positions) ready to go, and he generally interviews well. That has never been a problem. The problem is that there’s a shortage of jobs. And there’s a MAJOR shortage of jobs that pay enough to actually live on.

Of course he isn’t eligible for cash aid anyway because he doesn’t have kids. All he could get is food assistance (CalFresh); however, applying for food stamps is a bad idea if you’re an unemployed ABAWD (Able-bodied Adult Without Dependents). Due to the “workfare” requirement (thanks President Clinton!), you get to spend twenty hours a week picking up trash or doing other menial labor that takes time and energy away from searching for a job that pays enough to live on.

So this is where we’re at. There’s no way we can pay the May rent, but we’re going to run out of money even before then. Neither one of us has family that can help. One of the big and often unacknowledged advantages of coming from a middle class background is that if you fall, there’s someone to pick you up. Whether it’s providing financial assistance or using family connections to get you a job, if life deals you a rotten hand, you at least know you won’t end up in the street.

We don’t have that. I’ve been on my own since I was 16, and I haven’t even told my mom I’m sick. She has a bad heart and just got out of the intensive care unit last week. The last thing she needs to hear about is my illness. And she wouldn’t be able to help anyway as she barely makes enough money to get by herself. My partner was abandoned as a baby, first by his dad and then by his mom. The grandmother who raised him now has Alzheimer’s.

When I asked for financial assistance on this blog back in January, you guys came through for us, but how can I keep asking for help when there’s no end in sight? If you help us out this time, I can’t guarantee that we won’t be in the same mess again next month. In fact, unless we finally catch a break and my partner lands a job that pays a living wage, we *will* be in the same position again next month. Our freelancing business is practically dead. We have nothing coming in at all at this time.

I truly don’t know what we’re going to do.

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