LYNN NEARY, host:
One person who's hoping that Congress extends unemployment benefits is Debra Rousey. She's been on unemployment since shortly after she lost her job last November.
Rousey was an assistant bank manager in Gainesville, Georgia, making $41,000 a year, supporting a household that includes her 17-year-old son, 25-year-old daughter and two grandchildren. Now, Rousey's unemployment checks have stopped, and she's not sure what will happen next.
Debra Rousey joins us now from WABE in Atlanta.
Thanks so much for being with us.
Ms. DEBRA ROUSEY: Thank you.
NEARY: Let me begin by asking you, if you don't mind, how much have you been getting in unemployment benefits since you lost your job?
Ms. ROUSEY: Weekly, I've been getting $355.
NEARY: So that's a little over $17,000 a year. Is that right?
Ms. ROUSEY: Right.
NEARY: How difficult has that been for you to live on? What kinds of changes did you have to make in your lifestyle just to live on your unemployment benefits to begin with?
Ms. ROUSEY: Well, you know, dinner out instead of being at a fairly nice restaurant now is Taco Bell if anything. Usually, it's eating at home. Instead of being able to just buy whatever groceries we wanted to, we need to clip coupons and buy the cheapest stuff on the shelf.
NEARY: And now you're one of the two million people whose benefits have been cut off, pending a congressional decision to extend unemployment. So what are you living on now?
Ms. ROUSEY: Not much. I have child support coming in. My son will be 18 next month. So that'll end. Other than that, you know, it's just kind of trying to survive.
My daughter does get assistance, food stamps for her and her boys. So at least we can eat. But honestly, my rent's overdue. All of my utilities are overdue. Everything is at that cutoff point, whereas if I don't come up with something by the end of the month, everything will be shut off.
NEARY: Are you possibly going to lose your home as a result?
Ms. ROUSEY: I got my three-day notice yesterday in the mail from my landlord, saying pay up or get out. So I actually got some money from my in-laws and paid the rest of June's rent, but I still owe for July. So I'm just kind of holding on for dear life.
NEARY: Wow. Are you supporting all of the family members who are living with you, or...
Ms. ROUSEY: Yeah, I'm basically supporting everybody. Nobody has a job in the house. I was hoping my son would be going to tech school this fall, but I'm not even sure we're going to be able to pull that off.
NEARY: So he may have to go out and work, you're saying?
Ms. ROUSEY: Right. And at 17, I mean, it's hard enough for mom and big sister to find a job. It's going to be really hard for him at 17, you know, soon to be 18, to find a job with no job experience.
NEARY: Well, what is your experience in trying to find work? What's been happening?
Ms. ROUSEY: It's been hard, you know, just trying to put in applications. If you actually walk in some place, they tell you, we're not accepting applications here, you need to go online. So I'm going online every day, putting in applications for everything and anything I can possibly think I might qualify for.
NEARY: Are you willing to take any job at this point to support your family? I mean...
Ms. ROUSEY: Absolutely. I mean, you know, I calculated it out. If you take my unemployment and divide it by 40 hours, I think it comes to about eight bucks an hour. So, you know, at this point in the game, I'm looking for anything over eight bucks an hour.
But unfortunately with my resume, when my resume hits a company, they look at my qualifications, and they think I'm going to want a whole lot more. And I think that's one thing that's kind of shooting me in the foot.
I've had people say, well, dummy down your resume. The problem with dummying down my resume is it's kind of a catch-22 situation. Do I dummy it down so that I can qualify or not be overqualified, or do I keep all the information in there so that I can get what I should be getting?
NEARY: Do you think if you had some extra time with extended unemployment benefits that that would make a difference in your job search?
Ms. ROUSEY: I don't know if it'd make a difference in my job search because my job search is desperate whether, you know - with a little bit of money coming in or with no money coming in, I still unemployment still wasn't enough to make it. You know, I was still getting help from family and friends to just survive on a monthly basis.
I mean, a lot of people say, well, unemployment's a handout. And I've got to say no, it's not. You know, it's just trying to keep me - you know, my head above water so that I can breathe long enough to find a job.
I miss my lifestyle that I had when I had a job. I don't want to be on unemployment. I don't want to get that check every week. I'd rather get three times that amount of money in a paycheck every week and live the lifestyle that I'm accustomed to. But I need the unemployment to keep the lights on and keep the roof over our head and keep my grandson in diapers and, you know, all of that kind of thing, which I can't do with nothing coming in.
NEARY: Would you ever apply for public assistance? Would that be a really hard decision for you to make?
Ms. ROUSEY: Yeah, yes and no. I mean, I've been there, done that. You know, 20 years ago, when I was a single mother with two little girls, I was on food stamps and Medicaid for them and whatever we needed.
And I feel like I've come so far, you know, making the income I was making, getting the degrees that I've got, and now I feel like I'm turning around. And to go back to public assistance is like taking three steps backwards.
NEARY: Now, I know you've said you've been applying for a lot of jobs. Do you have any prospects lined up at this point or anything coming up?
Ms. ROUSEY: Yeah, I actually have an interview Thursday I'm pretty excited about, and it's a position that really encompasses my whole resume. And I'm very excited about the opportunity to interview with this company on Thursday.
NEARY: We've been speaking with Debra Rousey of Gainesville, Georgia. She's at member station WABE in Atlanta.
Debra, thanks so much for talking with us.
Ms. ROUSEY: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you very much for this opportunity.
NEARY: Good luck with that job interview.
Ms. ROUSEY: All righty.
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