unemployment

Pope Francis: Unemployment ‘Damages the Spirit’

Image via RNS.

Pope Francis on Aug. 19 reflected on the "serious social damage" caused by unemployment and praised governments for their efforts to create jobs.

Speaking during his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said one’s working life and spiritual life are closely linked.

"The lack of work also damages the spirit, like a lack of prayer also damages practical activity," he said.

The pontiff focused on the dignity of work and the responsibility of employers.

"The management of employment is a great human and social responsibility, that cannot be left in the hands of the few," he said.

Provisions for the Long Haul

MANY CAREER COACHES and job market experts offer this advice: Don’t use online job boards as your main job search strategy. Networking and finding supportive organizations often are the game-changers for the long-term unemployed. Here are a few suggestions and resources:

  • THE 300 LIST

In early 2014, during a congressional squabble over extending unemployment benefits, the White House started a program for companies to voluntarily hire the long-term unemployed. About 300 companies signed on. Visit whitehouse.gov, and enter “For Recruiting and Hiring the Long-Term Unemployed” in the search box.

  • JOSEPH'S PEOPLE

This nonprofit ecumenical group with 14 chapters throughout Pennsylvania offers seminars and resources to assist the unemployed. Services are free. josephspeople.org

  • PLATFORM TO EMPLOYMENT

This successful public-private partnership started in Connecticut and has expanded to 10 major cities, including Chicago, Detroit, and San Francisco. The organization places workers into jobs and subsidizes their wages for eight weeks. After that trial period, the company has the option to hire the worker full time. platformtoemployment.com

  • POLITICAL REPRESENTATIVES

They are connected people. Send them a résumé and ask if they can help. Also, encourage them to provide funding for re-employment programs. To find your representatives and their contact information, go to whoismyrepresentative.com for national representatives; openstates.org for state representatives.

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Left Behind

CHRIS PASKI HAS a binder containing computer screen shots of every job he’s applied for in the last year and a half.

“I keep track of everything—I’m an engineer,” he says.

Paski blitzed the commutable radius around his Exton, Pa., home with résumés. He extended his search to Washington, D.C. If he found work there, he planned to sleep in a travel trailer during the week and return home on weekends. Despite impressive experience as an aerospace systems engineer and sending out 270 résumés, he’s scored just one interview. He’s still looking, and he says his faith is intact.

“I know the Lord will take care of me, but he seems to be taking his time,” Paski says, laughing.

But Mike Heaney of West Chester, Pa., doubts that God has a plan for his job search. He remembers a previous bout of unemployment when he lived in North Carolina that changed him.

It was a dark time, he recalls. Problems in his marriage escalated because of unemployment. That led to divorce. Money was tight and medical benefits a luxury. When he needed some major dental work, he drove from North Carolina to Mexico, where it was done for 75 percent less. “They call it dentistry tourism,” he says.

He attended job support groups at a church where he repeatedly heard that God had a plan for anyone who was unemployed. But after seeing the devastation that unemployment caused to the people there, he disagrees with that—a belief he says he’s reconciled with his Catholicism.

Going through a spiritual crisis isn’t uncommon for the jobless. It’s triggered by a job market where the unemployed are in a Hunger Games-style fight for survival: Find a new job in six months or a time bomb goes off. They’ll be labeled then as “long-term unemployed”—out of work for 27 weeks or more, as defined by the U.S. Labor Department.

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No Short or Easy Struggle

FIFTY YEARS AGO, on Aug. 20, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act into law. It had already been a momentous year. The Civil Rights Act was signed in early July, ending legal segregation. Mississippi Freedom Summer was underway, with hundreds of volunteers joining in voter registration campaigns. The effort to overcome poverty was the next step toward economic empowerment.

The Act created 11 different programs, including the Job Corps, Neighborhood Youth Corps, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), and both rural and urban Community Action Programs. Collectively referred to as the “War on Poverty,” the programs were coordinated by the Office of Economic Opportunity. In 1965, Medicaid and Medicare were created to provide health insurance for people in poverty and the elderly, and Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provided funding to school districts with students in poverty. It was the most comprehensive package of social legislation since the New Deal.

Results of the programs have been mixed, with the most striking gains for older Americans. According to a special report from U.S. News & World Report, “While the national poverty rate has ultimately fallen by 4 points since 1964, when the War on Poverty began, from 19.0 in 1964 to 15.0 percent in 2012, the poverty rate for people over 65 has plummeted by more than two-thirds, from 28.5 percent in 1966 to 9.1 percent in 2012.” But with the poverty rate still at 15 percent—46.5 million people in the country currently live below the poverty line—where do we go from here?

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Pride: It's All About Who You Know

Close up of peacock, CoolR / Shutterstock.com

Close up of peacock, CoolR / Shutterstock.com

Let those who boast, boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:24, NRSV) 

Pride has taken many forms in my life, but most dangerously in this: I have taken myself far too seriously. You wouldn’t think that a neurotic worrier who spent eight years in therapy would be full of pride. But for years I was utterly consumed with anxiety over what would happen in my life, because I believed that it should go a certain way and that I had both the responsibility and ability to bring that about.

So there’s nothing like having your worst fear come true — 19 months* of unemployment in a bad economy — to show you how small you really are, especially compared to God.

It was kind of amazing.

Unemployment, the Vote, and Hope

Lisa Sharon Harper/Sojourners

President Obama speaks after the Senate cleared a three-month extension of Unemployment benefits. Lisa Sharon Harper/Sojourners

I stood in line and waited until they called my number.

“Neeeext,” the woman behind the counter called!

The woman put out an energy that dared anyone to cross her, challenge her, even speak to her. She gave me a pile of papers to fill out “over there,” she waved her hands dismissively in the general direction of all the other losers sitting in rows of old school desks — the kind where the chair and the desk are attached. They were all fully engrossed in one task: filling out their unemployment insurance applications. I joined them.

Of course we weren’t losers, but it felt like we were. We were grown adults. We represented many races: white, black, Latino, and Asian. We represented a small fraction of the sea of people who were out of work at the height of the economic crisis. If you had come to us only weeks before we were school teachers and firemen, opera singers, Wall Street brokers, and justice advocates (like me). But now we were all numbers, experiencing the same humiliating moment together.

But, how much more humiliating it would have been to be thrown out of my apartment? How much more dehumanizing would it have been to become homeless or go without food?

Making a Difference in a World That's Falling Apart

Airbrush illustration courtesy leonello calvetti via Shutterstock. Via RNS.

While church planners listened, a five-person focus group described life outside the congregation’s doors: A world falling apart.

Families are in disarray, the group said. Parents are refusing, or unable, to do the basic work of parenting, from giving guidance to saying “no.” Instead, they are prepping their children to join a national epidemic of narcissism.

Obesity is rampant, along with obesity-related diseases such as diabetes. Infant mortality is worsening as pregnant girls routinely continue smoking, doing drugs and drinking during pregnancy.

Clueless parents are buying heroin — today’s drug of choice — for their children, so the little ones don’t get beat up by dealers. Parents buy cases of beer for their underage children so they can drink at home, rather than drive drunk. Methamphetamine usage is widespread.

Survey: Hispanics Flock to Pope Francis, the Democratic Party

Julio Parissi prays for Luis Rosas of Holyoke, Mass. RNS file photo by Mieke Zuiderweg

A new survey of Hispanic political and religious values finds they’re overwhelmingly Democrats who hold a largely negative view of the Republican Party.

The 2013 Hispanic Values Survey of 1,563 Hispanic adults was conducted online in both English and Spanish between Aug. 23 and Sept. 3. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

The survey found that most Hispanics are delighted with Argentine-born Pope Francis, but they hold slightly less favorable views of the Catholic Church. While nearly 69 percent look favorably on the pope, only 54 percent see the institution in a favorable light.

British Government to Investigate Discrimination Against Jews

Photo courtesy Konstantnin/Shutterstock.com.

Jewish Sabbath. Photo courtesy Konstantnin/Shutterstock.com.

The British government plans to investigate whether other Jews were denied employment benefits after an Orthodox Jew who refused to work on the Sabbath won a landmark appeal.

Jacob Slinger, a 19-year-old who lives in Greater Manchester, won an appeal against the Department of Works and Pensions after he’d been denied a jobseeker’s allowance of 56.80 pounds ($86.67) a week because he refused to work on Saturdays. He told the tribunal he had to rely on the generosity of his grandmother to survive.

After listening to his case, tribunal judge David Hewitt ordered the DWP to pay Slinger 1,500 pounds ($2,288) in benefits and called on other Jewish people who had been denied benefits to come forward.

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