A key labor group and two liberal advocacy groups organized a news conference today featuring an Iowan who lost his job three years ago. The groups hope by highlighting the plight of Bob Shultis, they’ll be able to increase public pressure on congress to again extend the number of weeks laid off workers can receive unemployment benefits.
Shultis was laid off in June 2011 from Clipper Wind Power in Cedar Rapids and he finally found a full-time job for roughly the same kind of salary this April.
“I applied for more than 200 jobs during that period,” he said. “No satisfactory offers. I did have jobs during those times. I did not turn down work, but the jobs were not good fits for my skill sets and also didn’t compensate me sufficiently to be able to support my family.”
Shultis said it was “degrading” to have to make a claim for unemployment benefits, but he disputes those who say extending the number of weeks out-of-work Americans can get unemployment checks will encourage those Americans to stay out of the workforce.
“The unemployment wasn’t even enough to make our house payment, let along provide food, clothing, medical care,” Shultis said. “That all came from my savings and thank God I invested well or we wouldn’t have made it. We would have been out on the street and homeless, there’s no doubt.”
Shultis was among those who were cut off from unemployment at the beginning of the year when congress failed to keep extended unemployment benefits in place. In 2008, Congress voted to make checks available for up to 99 weeks. Last year, lawmakers cut that to 73 weeks and then on January 1st unemployed workers became eligible for 26 weeks of benefits. Advocates for extending unemployment benefits are holding events across the country every Wednesday to call attention to the issue.