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February 16, 2011

Vermont Woman Who Led Fight for '99ers' on Verge of Homelessness

Jarrin2 A Brattleboro woman who led an effort to raise awareness about the plight of people who exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits and were facing eviction is herself now on the verge of homelessness.

Alexandra Jarrin, who was featured on the front page of The New York Times last August and on CNN in December, has been staying in a motel for the past week after she had to leave a friend's home.

In December, Jarrin organized a national effort called "Letters to Bernie." She collected letters from fellow "99ers" — people who were unable to find work after 99 weeks and have since lost unemployment benefits. She hand delivered them to the Brattleboro office of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on the day that Sanders took to the the floor of the U.S. Senate and embarked on an eight-hour faux filibuster — dubbed the "Filibernie."

The goal of the letter-writing campaign — which she launched last summer — was to pressure senators to continue extending unemployment benefits for people who were actively looking for work, but were unable to find a job. Since delivering the letters, Jarrin has not heard from the Senator or his staff. But, she didn't really expect to get a call or a thanks. Sanders did attempt to provide additional unemployment benefits for the long-time unemployed like Jarrin, but that measure failed.

Jarrin has been unemployed since March 2008 when she was let go as a client services manager at a small tech firm in New York. After unsuccessful attempts to find work in New York she eventually trekked to Tennessee to look for a job. But, employment never materialized, so she moved to Vermont to live with a friend while she continued to look for work.

She estimates she's applied for more than 3000 jobs in her three-year search to find work and long ago depleted her personal savings.

"I didn't apply for unemployment for the first few weeks because I had never had a hard time finding a job before," said Jarrin. But, the job she hoped to find never materialized. "I even relocated the way many politicians were suggesting but that didn't help," she said.

She came to Vermont in August and since then has been "literally living off the kindness of strangers and friends," Jarrin told Seven Days. "There's been one person who has been helping me out from time to time since August and they recently paid for me to be in a motel for a week."

That week ends today. She also expects that her car will be repossessed in the coming weeks, further adding to her dilemma and making it harder for her to seek out jobs. The stress of being out of work is also starting to take its toll on her personal health, Jarrin said.

"I hope to find something to keep me in the motel for a little longer, but right now it's a day-by-day thing, and I have no idea what's going to happen," said Jarrin.

Earlier this month, Sanders' office published a booklet of stories from low-income and middle class workers who have been reeling from the effects of the recession.

"We didn't cause this recession, but we are the people who are paying the price," said Jarrin. "For all these years, we paid into the unemployment fund. Every year that you worked for a company, you paid into the fund. So if you work for a company for 30 years, why is it you're only allowed to get it 26, 52 or 99 weeks?"

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) is trying to amend the continuing resolution budget measure. Her proposal would provide an additional 14 weeks of unemployment benefits for the "99ers."

It's estimated there are close to 2 million "99ers" similar to Jarrin in the United States.

She's been told where to get help, right?

What help Tim? The tiny bit of housing money around the state falls very short of helping most folks.

People need to realize the safety net has disentegrated and begin to make noise about that.

As Ms. Jarrin said, she paid into these systems all her career. Where is the help she paid to get?


help can also be found here

don'tlook down...we are all on the same tight rope, and there is no "safety net" in sight.

What troubles me the most is that there are lots of jobs out there. People just have high standards and don't want to settle for doing a task that is below their skill set. My advice to this lady is to go get a job at a restaurant or as a highway flagger. 99 weeks is a long time. Time to work again lady.

Get real you people. The ordeal of getting a job, ie competing with 20 and 30 somethings, heck even forty and fifty somethings, is literally squeezing folks out of any job market. If newly graduating college kids can get jobs, why or how is anyone else to? And how on flagging jobs, can someone really support themselves? The last I checked in the paper, that job paid $9.50. That is a long way from the $174,000 plus federal med and dental benefits that our congresspeople are getting. Why such a disparity?

If this lady can call me, I can help her get housing.

How long are you going to recycle this story? Isn't she employed by Bernie Sanders as a campaign fundraiser?

Bernie has been pimping this story for months. You would think he would have the courtesy to put her on the payroll long enough so she could at least get back on the dole.

He dishes piles of Cash to his wife and daughter to manage his perpetual reelection campaign. why not the letter writer instead she needs the work unlike Jane?

Sukie says

"And how on flagging jobs, can someone really support themselves? The last I checked in the paper, that job paid $9.50."

It still pays more then ... nothing. This is the attitude that is prolonging the recession. The job doesn't pay enough. Well, look at it as a stepping stone, a place to start and work for the next year or two until things turn around. Regardless its a paycheck. If someone wants to wait until they can pick up another 50K/year job with benefits, then so be it. You may starve in the process and be homeless, but that would be your choice and will get little sympathy from anyone really. Because the reality is some of us are working 2 jobs at 9.50 an hour to live and provide for our families.

Jcarter has this one pinned. Get a frickin job. Any job. Why should we have to pay this woman's unemployment if she's holding out for a $50k a year gig? Get a job waiting tables honey, it ain't gonna kill ya.

Wow. Lots of assumptions here, and almost none of them correct. Alex cannot physically handle heavy labor. She has serious health issues, and despite the fact that she may well qualify for disability, she's out there looking -- she's applied for over three thousand jobs in the past three years. "Get a job"? She's been trying to do just that. But as Sukie pointed out correctly, she's competing with 20 and 30 year olds who are NOT struggling with health issues.

It's something I've noted lately: those of us who are comfortable, if struggling a little bit, maybe unable to afford luxuries but who have our basic needs met, seem emotionally incapable of facing up to the cold hard truth of America today: that we can do EVERYTHING right, and STILL end up in Alexandra's position. I get it, I do -- it's scary to think such bad things can happen. But wake up, folks. They ARE happening. Every single day. To millions.

"And how on flagging jobs, can someone really support themselves? The last I checked in the paper, that job paid $9.50."

So, what you're saying is, no one at all should ever take this job?

Is she too disabled to hold a flag and stand?

"She estimates she's applied for more than 3000 jobs in her three-year search to find work . . ."

And if she didn't get a job out of 3,000 tries, I can only conclude that there may be something wrong with her.

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