Last week, I accompanied Karen Friedman to Witness Wednesday, where she spoke about the fact that too many people who have lost their jobs and whose unemployment benefits have expired have had to dip into their 401(k) savings to pay for basic needs. She said, “If people use up their 401(k) money today…what will they do tomorrow?”
Just steps from the United States Capitol, we heard story after story of hard-working Americans whose unemployment benefits have expired – yet they must find a way to provide for their families. Witness Wednesday is a seven-week series of events, held every Wednesday, which documents the effects of long-term unemployment on various segments of the population, underscoring the need to renew federal unemployment benefits.
Karen spoke at the fifth Witness Wednesday, which focused on the impact that long-term unemployment has on older workers nearing retirement. Other Witness Wednesday events have focused on women and families, minorities, and veterans. Witness Wednesday is sponsored by the Center for Effective Government, the National Employment Law Project, the Coalition on Human Needs, and the National Women’s Law Center.
Karen stood alongside members of Congress, policymakers, and nonprofit leaders to tell the story of Janet, a 59-year-old single parent who has been unemployed since December 2013. After working at a company for 14 years, Janet was stunned when she lost her job. Here’s just some of Janet’s story:
I am currently struggling just to hold my head above water… but when my unemployment benefits ended in June, I had to borrow against my 401(k) plan to try to float my sinking ship. Honestly, I don’t know how long it will be before we officially go under, since it’s my salary that was the mainstay of the family.
Without an extension of her emergency unemployment benefits, Janet had to decide between keeping her retirement savings intact or feeding her family. We stand with Janet and the countless others like her who face a choice that no one should have to make.
*The above photo is provided courtesy of the Center for Effective Government.