This 60 Minutes episode on "The 99ers" was really difficult to watch, and not only because I'm in the same boat. (My benefits ran out in March after 72 weeks. If you're collecting the top of the scale, benefits run out faster.) Watching people who were making good wages picking through the trash for recyclables or eating in a soup kitchen is a very, very emotional experience:
"60 Minutes" and correspondent Scott Pelley went to several communities in search of the 99ers, but we didn't expect to find such a crisis in Silicon Valley, the high tech capital that many people hoped would be creating jobs.
If you want to understand why the economy is stalled, come to San Jose, Calif., and talk with 99ers like Marianne Rose. "I remember it coming close to like six months. I was saying, 'I can't believe I'm out of work this long.' Then the year mark hit. And I just started just panicking seriously. Now that it's over two years I can't believe it. I just, I can't believe it," she told Pelley.
Rose was a financial analyst at a real estate firm. Age 54, she's single with a grown daughter. After being laid off with about 100 co-workers, she spent her savings, lost her home and finally found herself sitting in a truck with her dog and all of her possessions.
She made a desperate call to a friend and found refuge upstairs in the home of strangers, her friend's brother and sister-in-law.
"How long did you think you would be in here?" Pelley asked.
"Two weeks really. That's all I thought," she replied.
But she told Pelley it has been six months. "And not really an end in sight, yet."
"What sort of things would you be willing to do at this point?" Pelley asked.
"Well, I can say that probably the lowest level position for me has been now to apply for a clerk, a county clerk and I just realized the competition is pretty stiff out there," she replied.
Asked what she meant by stiff competition, Rose explained, "There's a lot of people, speaking of the county. I had applied to those clerk positions. There's actually four positions that were open. I found there were over 2,000 people that applied for those four positions."
Rose is one of at least a million and a half Americans who've exhausted their unemployment checks.