What Do I Do When My Unemployment Benefits Run Out?

aaron_image1CNN Money recently ran a feature of folks whose unemployment benefits expired – and shared their stories of how they were making ends meet without them. It was very humbling to read what they've had to do and how they are managing.

Many of us have gone through a period of unemployment ourselves and know how difficult it can be – both emotionally, socially and even physically. It's a very trying time for everyone involved. Earlier this year I shared how my wife lost her job through no fault of her own and has been on unemployment since. She is among about 2 million people whose benefits will expire by the first of January, if Congress does not approve extensions (which is a part of the Fiscal Cliff talk). That's a lot of people. 

So what do you do when the unemployment benefits run out – and you have no more cash flow coming in? It can be a scary time- but one that isn't hopeless.

Here are a few ways that my wife and I have prepared for unemployment ending – and ways you can get help if your situation is dire.

  • Check to be sure the benefits are really ending. As is the case with unemployment extensions and government managing things – things can be very fluid. Be sure to check in with your state's unemployment office to be sure there have been new changes to the length of your benefits.
  • Here in Minnesota – there is a Workforce Center available to those going through a period of unemployment. Be sure to ask them for any guidance and assistance in regards to your situation. They're equipped to help those whose benefits have run out and can offer you more input and/or even grants to get more education, etc. Just because your benefits expire – doesn't mean you can't still receive assistance from these centers.
  • Family, friends and churches (religious organizations, non-profits) are important. When I was going through my own period of unemployment, I still had a lot of pride in my heart and I didn't like getting any help. It was very humbling being in that position where I couldn't find work and relying on assistance. Yet – it is oftentimes like this that make us better people. I didn't want to hear that at the time – but it's true. When you have nowhere to turn – it's when your family and friends can really step in to show you how much they care. You have to remember the times you've helped others and how that made you feel. Many people genuinely want to help others and get great satisfaction in doing so. So, let them have that joy and step out and ask for help. If you're married like us – you're definitely in a better financial situation to weather the storm. However, if you are single and need to care for children – your situation can be very serious. If you can reach out to an area church, (I would probably recommend a larger congregation here – as they have more of a “budget” to work with) you'll find they might have benevolent funds to help folks who need money to pay the rent or mortgage. I know our church does this.
  • Food stamps are an option. In September, Bloomberg ran a story citing nearly 50 million people in the US that are now utilizing food stamps. This is startling. And, your situation after unemployment may get so dire – you could be struggling just to get food on the table. But you don't have to go hungry. Here is how you can apply for food stamps if need be.
  • Consider applying for the WIC program. WIC (stands for Women, Infants, and Children) is a government (USDA) program to help the vulnerable. Eligibility is based on each situation and income level – but it can ensure that you and/or your children do not go hungry and can get health services.
  • Explore all avenues. Utilize your contacts. Do you have an uncle who runs an insurance business? Maybe he can hook you with some part-time work? Where is your money going? Try and cut where you can and live more thrifty. Can your spouse find extra work? Are you on LinkedIn – and connected to your past co-workers and colleagues? Also- many HR departments manage their own Twitter accounts so you can get the latest job openings and connect with them directly. This is a time to get creative and stretch your conventional idea of how to find a job.

Another thing that might be helpful is to connect with others who are going through unemployment too. About.com has a ton of stories listed there to help you not feel so alone.

Feel free to share your story here. Are you going through unemployment ending soon – and what are you going to do? Or how did you handle this?

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