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.

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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