(Ed. note: We invited Nicole Sandler to blog here to announce her new site, designed to help 99ers find support and work.)
Last week, while guest hosting The Randi Rhodes Show and discussing the unexpected but wonderful progress made in the lame duck session of Congress, we began talking about the group of Americans who've been left out in the cold: the 99ers. I wanted to something to help them, so I spent Christmas weekend building Helpthe99ers.com.
That's the name given to the millions of people who lost their jobs during the Bush almost-a-depression-recession, and have now exhausted all of their unemployment benefits. President Obama "negotiated" a big deal just weeks ago that, I supposed, paved the way for the lame duck Congress to repeal DADT, give health care to the 9-11 first responders, pass a food safety bill and ratify the new START treaty. He agreed to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans in return for the big Republican concession -- a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits, something that they should have (and likely would have) agreed to anyway.
But what most people don't realize is that the 13-month extension doesn't extend the benefits for the unemployed... it just allows the current unemployment benefits programs to continue operating, giving people benefits for up to a maximum of 99 weeks, for another 13 months.
But if you're a "99er" -- if you've exhausted your benefits, you're likely feeling quite forgotten right now. From the Obama-GOP tax cut "compromise" to the very productive not-so-lame duck session of Congress, there was nothing for the 99ers.
So, last week on the Randi Rhodes Show, we were talking about the plight of the 99ers, and people began calling in with their stories. I knew I needed to do something, though I'm not in much better shape than they are!
I'm also unemployed. Or, I guess, underemployed. My last regular paycheck stopped coming on January 21, 2010 when Air America radio filed Chapter 7 and closed its doors.
I immediately moved my show online, where it continues to this day Monday through Thursday mornings from 10-noon ET at www.radioornot.com. It doesn't come with a paycheck, but I don't collect unemployment, as I'm now technically self-employed.
In addition to doing some voiceover work, voicetracking, web work, and other odd jobs, I'm honored to guest host the Randi Rhodes Show when she's out or on vacation, as is the case for these last two weeks of the year.
So, I was trying to figure out what I could do, and I came up with the idea of www.HelpThe99ers.com, where people in need can post their stories, and those fortunate enough to be in a position to help can contact them directly.
The main part of the site is The Help Board. In addition to a general discussion area and a jobs area (where people can post their skills, employers can post openings, and entrepreneurs can share ideas), there's a section for 99ers to tell their stories, organized by states.
My idea and wish is that people who can help will read the stories and reach out to those who touch them the most. The site is set up so that people can contact one another directly.
But it will only work if people use it. So, if you're in need, post your story. If you can help someone, please do. And please help spread the word.