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Help for the Longtime Unemployed Takes Step Forward

Founder of North Jersey job search and network group attends unemployment meeting with President Obama and CEOs.

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
By John Fugazzie /Aol Jobs

John Fugazzie is the founder of North Jersey-based Neighbors-helping-Neighbors USA Inc., an all-volunteer job search support and network group for adults seeking employment.


The news this past Friday was that the unemployment rate has dropped to 6.6 percent. Meanwhile, 1.7 million Americans are impacted by the inaction of Congress once again failing this week to get the vote to extend long-term unemployment benefits.

On Jan. 31, President Obama kicked off his Presidents' Pledge to help the long-term unemployed and I was in the room.

I remember watching the "Popeye" cartoons as a child, and there was a line he would often shout just before being pushed into action: "It's all I can stands, I can't stands no more!"

Watching President Obama's "State of the Union" Address, I clearly felt as though he had reached his "Popeye" moment when he told Congress he was going to do everything in his power to help American families, with or without their support. In a time of crisis, this is exactly what a good leader does, and I applaud the President for finally deciding to take action despite the preventative measures being thrust in the way by an unnecessarily combative Congress.

At the meeting of Obama and the CEOs in the East Wing of the White House, the President acknowledged, "Folks who've been unemployed the longest often have the toughest time getting back to work. It's a cruel Catch-22: The longer you're unemployed, the more unemployable you may seem. This is an illusion, but it's one that, unfortunately, we know statistically is happening out there."

The President gained the support of more than 300 major corporations by signing a pledge to improve their recruitment and hiring processes, including the abolishment of discriminating against long-term unemployed candidates. With the White House stating these types of people still make up 37.7 percent of the total jobless population, this is a step in the right direction to getting Americans back to work. More Americans back to work means more money can be injected into our floundering economy, and regardless of which side of the isle you're on, you have to agree this is a good thing.

Credit history impact
The President also addressed a need to examine the impact of credit histories on the long-term unemployed. If someone has been out of work for 18 months, he noted, missing some bill payments may affect your credit score, but this should not be a barrier toward being hired. Sadly, this is not already the case, and many Americans have been turned down for potential employment opportunities on the basis of a credit check.

Even several of the CEOs at the meeting acknowledged candidates should be hired based on their merit, and fixing this problem in some situations may be as easy as simply paying more attention to these instances and ensuring candidates aren't being tossed aside because those responsible for hiring are using erroneous or outdated guidelines.

'Ready to Work Partnerships'
Finally, President Obama announced an upcoming Department of Labor grant competition called "Ready to Work Partnerships," that will support innovative public and private efforts to help train unemployed workers for higher-skill jobs. The $150 million in funding for the program will come from existing resources associated with the H-1B visa program, which is a non-immigrant visa that allowed employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations.

All-in-all, I was very encouraged to see both our top government officials and a list of CEOs from so many huge American companies taking time out of their busy schedules to meet and discuss these very important issues that are still plaguing the nation.

This is clearly creating momentum in a positive direction, and I sincerely hope it continues, because there are still around 27 million Americans that are unemployed or underemployed impacted by long-term unemployment and discriminatory hiring practices that have thus far gone unaddressed by a Congress that seems determined to do everything in its power to create more hurdles towards finding gainful employment.

I think it is extremely important to once again stress the fact that these people want to find work – not receive government handouts! The majority of these long-term unemployed Americans have worked their entire adult lives, paying into unemployment insurance every single year, meaning this is essentially their money anyway, although this often goes unsaid during debates about cutting these programs.

Many are out of work through no fault of their own, and one of the primary solutions is to create new jobs so they can get back to work as soon as possible. Hopefully, the rest of Washington will finally get this message and follow suit, ensuring that this country continues to move towards the end goal of a stable, steadily-rising economy and steadily-dropping unemployment numbers.

jr February 09, 2014 at 10:25 AM
This is a joke, right? The rate dropped to 6.6%? Why? because there are that many new jobs created? Or is it that so many have dropped out, or have stopped looking for a job? How can you add 114000 jobs, have more than 10 times that # go on unemployment and the job # goes down. Here is what I do know. We were greeted by a $1400.00 bill mandated by the federal govt for "our portion" of the interest paid to the federal govt for the monies borrowed for unemployment. I'm sorry, but I'm sick and tired of paying for people who DONT WANT TO WORK. If you continue to give the handout, there is no incentive to look for a job! If you don't believe that, you are living in utopia. 99 weeks of unemployment and counting. Its pretty disgusting. Its simple, stop paying them and they will be forced to go out and look for work. I know plenty of people who wont start looking for a job until the handouts are going to stop. Stop this madness!
Eyeballs February 09, 2014 at 06:46 PM
no more handouts! no more handouts! no more handouts!... cut my taxes now!... I want the best of everything and I want someone else to pay for it all... I am a typical American... lazy, fat and stupid... thank you...
Roll Back Our Tax February 10, 2014 at 06:47 AM
Eyeballs aka Bozo the clown speaks again making NO sense.
Susan February 10, 2014 at 08:25 AM
These developments are sensible. Someone needs to put some teeth into the discussion against nonsensical barriers toward hiring the long-term unemployed. As a society, we are all going to pay if we pretend that such people just go away. Chanting "get a job" may feel good, but it's pretty out of touch. When people can't find a job and have no more benefits, what do you think they will do? After they sell everything they own, eventually they will need other benefits, which you and I will still pay for. Which is to state the situation in terms that completely ignore the humanity of our neighbors, which we have no right to do. The fact is, it could happen to any of us and simple compassion requires us to pay close attention, and may I say, stop listening to the voices who earn a handsome paycheck urging us to demonize and blame others who might need something from us.
FL4LIFE February 10, 2014 at 08:45 AM
got to love the "christian" conservatives- jesus would give a poor man the shoes off the feet, however certain jesus followers criticize the poor and would rather see them starve in the streets than pay additional taxes.
Lia D February 10, 2014 at 09:14 AM
And Bush made all the sense in the world huh??? Our president is far from a "bozo" and highly intelligent. Once the "lazy" American applies for a job and a credit check is performed, "lazy" gets a letter from the potential employer stating that said employer is no longer interested due to his credit score or activity. FACTS!!!!
common sense February 10, 2014 at 09:52 AM
There are 12 million unemployed and 3 million jobs available according to published reports. If those 3 million jobs get filled, what are we supposed to do as 'the great society' for our fellow Americans who are unemployed without hope? That 1.7 million without coverage also have 2.5 million children with the possibility of no food or housing. Where has the decency and compassion gone in America? Hiding behind the word 'Liberty' and money.
Leaking Ink February 10, 2014 at 09:54 AM
My husband was out of work for 2 years after working 18 years in one company, and 22 years in another company. I don't know what we would have done without his unemployment benefits during those two years. He looked for a job every single day for 2 years. He discovered that sending out resumes and applying for jobs via computer was not getting him anywhere. His white hair also wasn't helping. He began literally walking the streets, resume and recommendations in hand, looking for a warehouse job. During that time, he got 1 part-time, no-benefits, job for approximately 3 months, and he painted a friend's kitchen, and cat-sit once for another friend. He got a lot of doors slammed in his face, some that wouldn't even let him in the door, rude people, and people who were kind enough to talk with him, even though they didn't have a job for him. Finally, he got a temporary, part-time, no benefits job. He's been there for two years now. Though the job is still part-time and no-benefits, he is a permanent employee now. Ironically, FL4LIFE, it's a Christian company.
The Good Guy February 10, 2014 at 10:04 AM
We need 0% unemployment rate and it would benefit the government because they will getting more tax money. The biggest problem is the outsourcing of jobs to other countries. I've been the victim of that multiple times. But, we are the cause of the outsourcing because we do not buy American. Look around your house and your car. What percent of that was made in America or touched by American hands? If we want to save this country we have to support it. The politicians can't do anything. It's up to "We the People".
centurion February 10, 2014 at 11:40 AM
It's easy to see who has been through a "layoff" and who hasen't. Until you've been through it, you cannot understand how hard it is to get back into the workforce.
FL4LIFE February 10, 2014 at 11:51 AM
common sense, if congress would allow the president to create tax breaks for companies that employee americans, and tax companies more when they hire over seas there would be plenty of jobs to go around. however that would go against the almighty free market, where profit is more important than patriot.
common sense February 10, 2014 at 12:33 PM
FL4LIFE....This Congress is obstructing this President from doing anything that helps the vast majority of the people. Remember what the GOP leadership swore to even before Obama was sworn in the first time. "We will do everything in our power to make sure this President will become a failure and be able to do nothing." Don't hold your breathe for Congress to do anything meaningful except name some post offices. Take ALL private money away from contributing to politicians and just then you MIGHT get something done. Since Citizens United was approved by SCOTUS, this country will forever be controlled by the very few with the most money. I read the other day a post that stated: "Instead of our Constitution start with "We the People" it should have started with 'We the Dumbasses". Sad but true.
Leaking Ink February 10, 2014 at 12:35 PM
Centurion: As the saying goes, "Nothing happens until it happens to you." So true in the case of unemployment.
Rev. Susan Gillespie February 10, 2014 at 12:51 PM
"Common sense" makes an important point. For the party in charge of the House of Representatives, it is worth it to stand in the way of anything that would improve our economic situation, since they are laser-focused on gaining back the Senate and the White House, in my opinion. Thus they are literally working at keeping things difficult, and making more people angry - they intend to use that anger for their benefit. We need to keep our eyes open and not fall for it.
Anonymoose February 10, 2014 at 01:21 PM
Stop the H-1B visas. Too many American jobs are lost to American companies importing foreign workers to do the job Americans can do for a fraction of the cost. Add the fact that it is a temporary job that will require no additional benefits and you can see that it is American companies that are being given every incentive to kill America. Refuse to make your purchases from American companies like Hewlett-Packard that raved about how much they love outsourcing. The phrase "Buy American" is meaningless, unless you really know who you are buying from and what their policy is regarding outsourcing. American companies blame higher taxes in America. But, as soon as they get their tax cuts, they send even more jobs packing using every loophole they can to establish "legal" jobs abroad that evade American taxation. American government and American corporation are tag-team raping America.
shimon baum February 10, 2014 at 04:08 PM
Did Obama promise everyone a pony too? Because I'm sure if he said it than it will happen.
Greg Toombs February 10, 2014 at 06:28 PM
Government interference is today's greatest problem. It's high taxes, increasing regulations with regulatory uncertainty and rhetoric bashing successful business people that stops businesses from hiring. Stop creating disincentives to success and the businesses grow, employment grows and the economy grows. Taxes would grow faster too. Rev. Gillespie, I'm glad I'm not a member of your church. Understanding business and the economy is clearly not your strong point. I doubt you understand Jesus too well, either.
Susan February 10, 2014 at 07:15 PM
So how exactly does extending unemployment insurance affect these regulatory problems? Or cutting food stamps? If that's really the problem, why don't the representatives in Congress get to work on that? Although I note that the tax burden has fallen precipitously in the last 50 years, and companies are reportedly sitting on record levels of cash, so that doesn't really seem to be the problem. I've heard the problem is lack of demand, which cutting unemployment + food stamps will only exacerbate. You're right, my expertise is not in economics. But I do know Jesus didn't seem to have a lot to say about tax policy (other than that you should pay them - rendering into Caesar, etc); he did have a lot to say about compassion. That leaves us doing out best to be wise AND compassionate toward all our neighbors - business owners and unemployed alike.
common sense February 10, 2014 at 07:18 PM
Greg...I've owned my own business for over 45 years. I'm a CPA with offices in Manhattan and Monmouth County. I believe that I know more about businesses than most people being a owner and having small and medium sized companies as cleints for decades. The ONLY point that I agree with you is that when employment increases, so do taxes. Taxes for the 99% haven't been this low for decades. Regulations have absolutely NO or extremely limited effect on small and medium size businesses, which represent about 90% of all US business. Partly because the government can't afford to hire the necessary people to enforce those regulations (See Texas explosion and WV chemical dump). The majority of these small and med businesses do the vast majority of hiring in America. Large corporations outsource or mechanize at the drop of a hat reducing labor, usually their #1 fixed cost. Your bashing sounds like the typical mindless GOP talking point. Your statement about the good Reverend was uncalled for.
Debbie B February 10, 2014 at 08:10 PM
My last 2 jobs my contract (whole team) was terminated to send the jobs to India. These were large corporations sourcing out IT jobs , it's time to penalize $$$$ companies for sending our jobs overseas.
Macy February 11, 2014 at 08:26 AM
It is easy for those who have not been unemployes for an extended ti,e to say others are lazy. I have a friend who has been unemployed for two years and is told she is overqualified, too expensive ($40,00 is too expensive?). Most companies, if they are hiring want to pay $10 per hour and expect a college degree, be on call 2/7 etc. Sure there are plenty of jobs out there is you can survice on $7 per hur like illegals who live 25 to a room.
Deleted because of harassment February 11, 2014 at 01:44 PM
Try being over 50 and looking for work. No one will even hire you for minimum wage jobs because they think you will leave - not even try you out. My kid is working with no previous skills, and I've sent resumes walked the streets with resumes networked and begged...lazy? That's what idiots who have not been downsized by companies sending jobs to China and India use as a means of inflicting blame on those of us who used to have jobs. And, FWIW, there hasn't been 99 weeks of unemployment in three years.
jojo February 11, 2014 at 09:57 PM
Or try being 62, at a job for 28 years and one day they say we are closing down in a month, no updated technology, and then try applying for a job online. CVS app is like applying for FBI, and you never hear back. I am going for updated tech program, but at this age, don't really know why, full time jobs are not offered and part time jobs are seemingly filled by the younger generation, which is fine, they do need something. When I was able to get unemployment, it was at least enough to get by (no insurance at all), part time is not, which is absurd. I am trying to hold out til 63 to apply for SS and thank God I do not have children to provide for. It is extremely discouraging no matter who is doing what politically. I hope that those who are being so cavalier about this may one day find themselves on this side of the fence; I would be interested in their comments at that time.
Frazure February 12, 2014 at 07:46 AM
This president has done nothing positive for this country and the people of this country. He will continue to push his ignorant socialist agenda pushing this once great nation to third world status - Thanks Oblahma - your level of incompetence present you difficulty in managing a lemonade stand.

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