Editor’s note: Due to sensitivity of subject matter, names of those interviewed have been changed to respect their privacy.
MARSHALL CO. — In 2010, Plymouth resident Susanna Crowley was unexpectedly laid off from her job of 10 years.
The 58-year-old was experienced in administration and said her work history was good. Still, she spent the past two years on unemployment benefits, and her job search grew increasingly frantic. Recently, she was informed that her unemployment benefits had run out.
“It was kind of unexpected for me, because earlier this year I had heard talk about extended benefits,” said Crowley. “I didn’t qualify. It kind of hit me like a ton of bricks. I had applied for hundreds and hundreds of jobs with very little interviews. I’m 58, so that makes it hard. I was about out of money, and about out of hope.”
Joe Frank, a spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, said that an individual can get up to 63 weeks of unemployment benefits.
“That’s 26 weeks of state unemployment and 37 weeks of federal extended benefits,” said Frank. “Extended benefits will be ending December 31, so anyone on extended benefits will no longer receive anything.”
Frank said the federal extended benefits were only approved for one year.
“We are really trying to stress to folks, don’t wait until your benefits are up, come in to your local WorkOne and we can help you find that next job,” said Frank. “The vast majority of WorkOne services — like classes and workshops — are free.”
Crowley has been working part-time for a few months now. Her income doesn’t come close to paying her bills, but she’s still grateful for the work. She’s also taking college classes to possibly finish a degree she started many years ago.
“At my age, it’s not realistic to get a loan to go to school,” said Crowley. “I’m taking classes one at a time. We’ll see what happens.”
Teresa Welson, also of Plymouth, lost her graphic design job when the RV industry began failing four years ago. The single mom struggled to find work, applying to factories and fast food restaurants. She said that several prospective employers told her they were afraid to hire her because she was so overqualified for the job.
“They wouldn’t hire me because of my degree,” said Welson. “They were worried I would leave to go somewhere else.”
She continued, “It’s frustrating because I have this degree but I can’t find anything around here. I won’t uproot my daughter and take her away from her dad to move to Chicago or Indianapolis.”
Since she first lost her job, Welson has taken six different jobs and moved three times. Her unemployment benefits ran out about a year ago. At one time, she was surviving on her income tax return and a part-time job at a daycare. She was also forced to borrow money from her family.
During her job search, Welson said she received a large amount of help from WorkOne.
“WorkOne did a fabulous job,” said Welson. “They have classes that refreshed my computer skills and helped me with interviewing. I would definitely recommend it to anybody.”
Still, Welson said she went through moments of severe depression, and even experienced some suicidal thoughts.
“Every time I was laid off, I felt like a failure,” said Welson. “I would wonder, what’s wrong with me? I’m a bubbly person and I didn’t want to be around people. I made it through by trusting God, and with help from my family and friends. That’s where my strength is.”
Welson recently landed a full-time job at a local factory. She started last week, and is excited to have benefits for the first time in four years.
“I thank God for this job because I’ll be able to get off of (government assistance),” said Weldon.
According to a recent report from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Marshall County has about 500 less unemployed people this year than last. The seasonally adjusted rate of unemployment in the county is at 7.8 percent — identical to the national rate.
“When I was laid off, I never thought it would be as bad as it was,” said Crowley. “I do believe things are getting a little better — but I don’t buy into the belief that there is some easy fix (for the economy).”