$355 A Week Is Tough, But It's Even Harder Without Debra Rousey doesn't want to get an unemployment check every week. She'd much rather get a paycheck, as she used to back in November, before she lost her job as an assistant bank manager. But now that her unemployment benefits have ended, and Congress is deadlocked about extending them, she needs the money just to keep the lights on and a roof over her family's heads.
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$355 A Week Is Tough, But It's Even Harder Without

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$355 A Week Is Tough, But It's Even Harder Without

$355 A Week Is Tough, But It's Even Harder Without

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Thanks so much for being with us.

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?

ROUSEY: Weekly, I've been getting $355.

NEARY: So that's a little over $17,000 a year. Is that right?

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?

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?

ROUSEY: 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?

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...

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?

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?

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...

ROUSEY: 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?

ROUSEY: 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?

ROUSEY: 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?

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: Debra, thanks so much for talking with us.

ROUSEY: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you very much for this opportunity.

NEARY: Good luck with that job interview.

ROUSEY: All righty.

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