November 20, 2009

Unemployment Sucks. Employment Sucks More.

I call this: theatre — Posted by KP @ 9:54 pm

OK, so you may recall I’ve had the month of November off between gigs. Naturally I tried to file for unemployment so that it would start as soon as I needed it. Despite what everybody says about filing the week before your job ends so your waiting week is the week you’re working, I was unable to get that to work. I think maybe those people do it by lying.

Anyway, I patiently waited my waiting week (so now I’m down to three claimable weeks). A few hours after I filed my claim I got a call to work at Phantom the following night. I called back to the unemployment office to make sure that this wouldn’t screw up my claim. The lady told me as long as I wasn’t making more than $405, I should be OK. This made sense, and as far as I can tell, she was right.

The following week, one of the stage managers at Phantom was sick, and I worked Wednesday and Thursday night. Working two performances when on unemployment is kind of disappointing because it juuuust puts you over the $405, so you don’t get any extra money that week. But hey, you’re working, right? Cool.

So I dutifully filed for my first real week of unemployment, and reported that I had made too much money. At this point, I realize that I’m now going to get a payment for no more than two of the four weeks I will have been unemployed, but still, if I end up not subbing a lot during those weeks, I will need that money.

So today I get a letter saying that because I made too much money during my first week of eligibility, my entire claim is not valid and I would have to start over with another waiting week. Well at this point I’m basically out of time. By the time I saw any money I would be on contract with The Acting Company anyway.

So what we have here is that despite the fact that I was unemployed for four consecutive weeks, the fact that I found employment within a certain 30-hour period within that time means that I will not see a dime for any of it.

Once again proving my opinion on unemployment “insurance”: There are two ways to avoid problems getting your money. Either

1) Be fully employed all the time
2) If you’re not employed full time, don’t take any jobs at all

It never ceases to amaze me how much the system punishes people who find occasional employment while awaiting their next job. Isn’t that something the government would want to encourage, so that people aren’t just waiting for a handout?

I used to think that people who turned down work while on unemployment were just being lazy because they realized they could make roughly the same amount working or not working. My entire experience (including my previous claim) is that if you work at all, you will come out with less money. And given the fact that you’re unemployed and all, you probably really need that money. Thank God I have a decent credit limit on my Visa, or I’d be royally screwed right now. And I have a tour lined up, which I was hoping I could use to save up for a new computer next year. As it is, it’s going to take a couple months just to dig myself out of the BS from this fall.

That being said, while I didn’t realize the chaos that my working that week would cause, if I had to do it over again, I still would have to take the work, due to the nature of the job. “Sorry, I’m on unemployment” is not an appropriate response when someone needs you to call a Broadway show in 3 hours. I just wish the state would consider why “Sorry, I’m on unemployment” is such a common statement, and it’s not just because people want to be sitting around leeching off the government. It’s a matter of survival.