So far, so good. This is how the system is meant to work, right? Helping people like us get by until we get back on our feet. Good plan, really, and I enjoy living in a country that believes in helping people when they need it. But sometimes, if you turn on Fox news, you might hear that the current welfare system actually ENCOURAGES people to stay on it, and keeps people from moving into private sector work. Hogwash! my liberal self proclaims. That's simply untrue! But..but..well, maybe it isn't?
Alex was offered a long-term contract position this week, which he would like to take. It's good for him (gets him in the swing of things) and is much better for me (gets him out of my face). One problem-the day he starts working, we get kicked off the MSP. No problem, you say! Just sign up for Commonwealth Cares, the state's insurance plan. Easy-peasy. Except it's not. It's the EXACT opposite of easy-peasy. First, we are told that there is a 30-40 day wait for our application to be approved. That means that even if we get the application in today, it's likely that we won't have insurance until Dec. 1st, and because coverage always starts on the first of the month, if it doesn't get approved UNTIL Dec. 1st, we have to wait until January 1st, when everything is different anyway because of Obamacare. So we just have to re-apply for it all over again. Totally makes sense.
Meanwhile, while we wait for the state's insurance, we will have to pay for 100% of our COBRA or go without insurance. That's $1500/month. Pretty much wipes out any profit from the job that's more than unemployment would be. It's comes out to the exact same, actually, after we pay Blue Cross. So aside from the benefit of actually working in his field and having it on his resume, the benefit of getting OFF unemployment is absolutely none. There is simply no incentive for us to go off the dole, so to speak. Why work if you don't have to? That sounds lazy, but he's doing small contracts and interviewing as much as possible, and spending a lot of the day job searching and networking. Working full time will make it difficult to do these things, which could all lead to full time work. If there's no real payoff (this gig is not temp to perm), what's the point? Let me be clear-I am all for working and not relying on the government, and Alex is taking this job for that reason, but I can see how this could prevent a lot of people from making the choice to take a job. If Alex could take this job and get on the state insurance, we would actually NOT have to use our savings to pay bills and buy food, and maybe get ahead for when this job ends in case he doesn't have a permanent job by then. But because of a 30 day application process, which seems excessive and unnecessary, and typical bureaucratic BS, we'll be right back where we are now when it ends. Only we won't-we'll be worse off. Because that's not even the end of the silliness.
Alex is now on Federal unemployment, which works in time sectors instead of weeks. His current sector ends Dec. 31st. So even though he will be off unemployment for as long as the contract lasts, about 10-12 weeks, when it's over he doesn't get those weeks credited to his unemployment insurance. It's use it or lose it by Dec. 31st. If the idea is to get people back to work and off public assistance, this doesn't seem like a good way to make that happen. If people in the system don't get "credit" for the time they work, might they be less likely to take short term work like this, or postpone trying until they've used up all their benefits, since they'll disappear?
Short term work can often lead to permanent work, but people might shy away if they know they will lose weeks worth of income that is keeping a roof over their head. Having people work, even temporarily, is good for everyone. It helps people like Alex stay in the game, it introduces new networking opportunities, and it gets people off unemployment for a while or even permanently. Yet, it's often lower paying, it can be demeaning for a lot people who take jobs below their skill level, and it can cost people money, like it will for us (health insurance plus commuting costs will be about $2100/month). Still, this is a good gamble for a lot of unemployed folks, as the opportunity costs might be worth it. Someone MIGHT just end up permanently employed this way, and not need unemployment insurance anymore. That's would be the best result, but I am betting a lot of people don't even bother with those types of jobs when they know that once it's over they won't have any benefits AND it might even cost them much needed money. Knowing you can rely on employment benefits should the job fall through might make it a lot easier to take it.
Lastly, as I write this Alex is filling out the 25 page application form for the state insurance. By hand, since they can't get it together to develop an electronic application. He is doing this after speaking to several people last week who directed him to a certain form only to find after a phone call today that the form they told him to use is no longer the right one. Head spinning yet? There's so much more. They want information about the kids from five years ago. Proof of existence. So, I guess they don't exist currently? Not sure what that means, exactly. And, taxes from 5 years ago. Five. Years. Ago. Not sure why our salary 5 years ago is relevant to what we qualify for insurance-wise NOW. This seems like a huge waste of our time and theirs, and explains the 30 day process. Sort of. It has taken him almost 10 hours to get this form filled out.
This whole thing has been so absurd it's like a Camus play. These were just a few examples. There are many more, sadly. You can seriously go crazy trying to get a straight answer, and common sense is just a concept, not a reality. "Let's make it hard for people to do the things that will get them back to work" said everyone, ever, who works for these agencies.