How Do the Long-Term Unemployed Survive, When Benefits Stop?

Six weeks after the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program expired, Congress appears to be no closer to an agreement that would restore benefits to more than 1 million Americans whose regular unemployment has lapsed. A recent Washington Post article looks at some of the creative solutions some workers have cobbled together, to keep themselves afloat.


(Photo Credit: jronaldlee/Flickr)

For example, Wessita McKinley of Capitol Heights, Maryland tells the Post that she has resorted to "legal hustling" to pay her bills, including data entry for small businesses, driving friends to appointments, and helping people fill out financial aid forms.

"There's no shame in my game," McKinley says. "If you're not creative in this economy, you're going to be squashed." Prior to the recession, McKinley earned a six-figure salary as a private contractor.

She's not alone. Of the nearly 2 million people who have fallen off of unemployment in the past month and a half, only one-third are able to find other government programs, such as social security, to fill in the gaps. The others rely on support from friends or family.

A recent NBC News article cataloged several stories from workers who borrowed money from family members, just to stay afloat. One MBA borrowed $12,000 from his wife's sister in order to make bare-minimum payments on things like health insurance and college tuition.

"I feel responsible for juggling every month and figuring out how the bills are going to get paid," he says. "There's just so many things to juggle and address ... and spending as many hours as I can trying to find work."

These stopgaps can only be temporary, while the long-term unemployed wait to see if their benefits will be restored. Congress is currently in recess until the end of February.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever had to survive without unemployment? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


  1. 2 Steve 21 Apr
    Live in a "depressed rural county" where half the employed work 30-60 miles away. Living with friends, food stamps (and food bank), occasional temp work. Considering Social Security. Lot of people took early SSA during the Reagan recession that's when they raised the age. We may get evicted, we payed the power but may not get to this month. Its late spring though. Leaking roof, but unemployed can empty the buckets. My neighbor, a handyman, is thinking of robbing a bank so he can go back to jail (he's been out for 20 years now). My other neighbor works 3 jobs because other ones cut back hours because nobody's buying. His wife gets rejected by employer credit checks (cheaper than background checks if company owns a bank; illegal here but what can you do.) Gee, unemployed have trouble paying their bills? They would do bankruptcy but can't afford it. Kmart HR sent me to interview at a store that was closing, letting people go. Walmart "not hiring til June".
  2. 1 Shay 13 Feb
    Been living in shelters, basements, abandoned buildings with my children since loosing emergency unemployment.  Does my age matter or how experienced I am or if im a college student trying to better myself?  Does it matter my car was repossessed or that we lost everything after being evicted? Does it matter that my 19 year old daughter is suicidal and struggling in college or that my 14 year old is walking dogs to earn money for bus fare and clothes. Our cell phones were the only thing we have left, and that will be turned off soon tomorrow.  Im freezing and accepted this may be the way my life ends. 


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