Guest column: Unemployment leaves lasting financial scars
Hi, my name is Jo Anne. I’ve been asked to write a short piece on surviving the housing crisis. I will be giving you my point of view, as I have been going through it. I’m certainly no teacher, but maybe someone out there can learn from the mistakes I made trying to navigate this minefield.
My husband, Dave, and I both lost our jobs in 2009. Since then, he has retired and is on Social Security. I found a part-time job at Walmart as a cashier. We are making about half of what we made back then, so you can see money is definitely an issue.
We weren’t too worried when it first happened. We are both professionals, and we never had any trouble getting another job up until now. It is three years later, and we have exhausted our unemployment benefits, which weren’t much to begin with. Dave’s IRA has shrunk to almost nothing as we continue to meet the bills every month.
I wish someone had told me how long this dry spell was really going to last. I would never have touched that IRA; I would have declared bankruptcy right away.
As things stand right now, according to LINK (food stamps) and LIHEAP (help with utility bills), Dave and I make too much money to be helped by them. You see, they only look at your income, not your bills. At all. So, for example, if Dave and I make about $2,500 a month (this includes our two grown sons who live with us) and the mortgage is $1,500 a month and the Cobra health insurance for Dave is $800 a month, plus all the other bills – it doesn’t matter. It only matters how much we make a month. So, no help for us there.
However, I do go to the Cary Grove Food Bank once a month, and they are terrific. I suggest you go there if you live in the area and you are in need. They are very kind and understanding. Their number is 847-516-3602, and their address is 8901 Cary Algonquin Road, Cary. They are open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m. and from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. the first three Saturdays of the month.
We also have applied for a modified mortgage through our mortgage company. I believe it is a federally backed program with interest rates as low as 3 percent. This would help us a lot because right now we are paying 7.25 percent. Unfortunately, the demand is so high that it can take from three months to a year to get approved. So, do it as early as you can. Don’t wait until you might miss a mortgage payment. It is almost impossible to catch up again and the mortgage companies don’t take partial payments at all.
Also, I am currently checking into VA benefits and/or services to see whether they can help us at all. And I think there is a local church that might have a food bank also.
It is difficult to do all of this running around and calling because right now, Dave is going through chemo, plus I am trying to hold onto that Walmart job. It is part time, which gives me more time to do the running around, and also the people I work with are very nice. They are an extended family, and we tell each other our problems and sometimes offer ideas. Still, it is slow going right now.
So, the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be a train coming down the track. My ship came in, but I was at the airport.
But I’m still here.
Knock on wood.
• Jo Anne Minerly and her husband have been Cary residents for 27 years. In 2009 and 2010, she wrote a series of guest columns detailing her family’s struggles with unemployment in McHenry County.