This is a quick list of immediate to-do items and resources that I’ve pulled together for people who will be facing emergency crisis levels because of unemployment benefits that ended yesterday. If you’re receiving extended federal unemployment benefits, you won’t be getting another check if a deal isn’t reached in the “fiscal cliff” discussions.
Immediate To-Do List:
- Kick into survival mode (you probably already have).
- Toss out your pride. I realize that many of you have been demoralized, debased, and stripped of your dignity because you’ve been unemployed for a long time. I know. I’ve talked to hundreds of you.
- Reach out. At this point, you probably know who’s there for you and who isn’t. Let people know what’s going on. You’ll find help in places you never thought of before.
- If you have bills coming directly out of your bank account, cancel all auto-drafts immediately. When your bank account hits zero, you’ll start getting hit with overdraft fees. Call your creditors and tell them to stop auto-drafts.
- Call the utility companies and tell them what’s going on. Most will work with you and give you at least a month.
- Identify things you can sell if you need emergency cash. Avoid pawn shops and try to sell your things directly via Craigslist or similar venues. Many areas have “online garage sale” groups on Facebook. Identify the one in your area.
- Apply for food stamps, TANF (formerly known as welfare), and Medicaid for your children immediately. Emergency food stamps can kick in quickly. The way they determine if your case is “emergency” is basically based on the amount of assets and/or cash you have on hand. Apply when your bank account is at it’s lowest. GO TO THE OFFICE in your area to do this and take all of your bills, bank statements, social security cards, birth certificates, and any income information, including child support and alimony. Don’t mess around with online forms, etc…Be persistent. The staff in government offices aren’t usually good with making things happen quickly. You have to be proactive about this. Click here to find the offices in your state. (http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/applicant_recipients/apply.htm)
- No matter what, pay your cell phone bill. Get rid of the “extra features” that you don’t need on your account, but you have to have a phone. Your phone is your lifeline to the rest of the world. You need it to find resources, take care of your family, and apply for jobs. If you have a smartphone, even better. You can use it to visit any of the websites listed below. Call your phone company. Most will work with you.
- Identify shelters and all other resources in advance so that you’ll know what to do and where to go when needed.
- First stop: Benefits.gov
- Information about housing (www.unemployed-friends2.org/t4630-government-hud-homeless-assistance-programs)
- The link in that informative list is broken, so go here. (http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/comm_planning/homeless/programs)
- Homeless Shelter Directory (http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/)
- Call churches to find all resources in your area. They know about food banks, emergency shelters, organizations that will help you pay your utility bills, and more.
- Unemployment Lifeline has a lot of resource listings. (http://www.unemploymentlifeline.com/)
- Call Feeding America. You can find food banks there. They are unfortunately closed for the holidays (I called to check), but you can also search for foodbanks on their website. Their number is 1-800-771-2303. (http://feedingamerica.org/need-help.aspx)
- Prescription assistance (source: www.unemployed-friends2.org)
- Phone services (if you qualify for food stamps, you qualify for these services)
- Pet resources. Some people scoff at this, but for many of us, our pets are family. There are pet food banks.
- Website with nationwide links for low cost spay/neuter http://www.lovethatcat.com/spayneuter.html
- Pets of the Homeless Organization (http://www.petsofthehomeless.org/what-we-do)
- The Humane Society of America~Resources for Pet Owners (http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/trouble_affording_pet.htm)
Lastly, tweet questions to me via Twitter (@tiffany_willis). I’m only one person (I don’t have a team here, unfortunately), but I can answer quick questions and my answer to your question may help other people, too. If I don’t have the answers, I’m committed to posting resources that will help you.
I invite people to add other options and resources in the comments section.
I am an “an unapologetic member of the Christian Left” and worked in workforce development with youth and adult job-seekers for 10 years. Most of my career has been devoted to working with “the least of these” and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. I’m passionate about their struggles. To stay on top of topics I discusses, subscribe to my public updates on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me via LinkedIn. I do also have a grossly neglected blog. Find me somewhere and join my conversations.