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Americans Need Their Emergency Unemployment Benefits Now

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Over 10 million Americans are still unemployed.

It’s bad, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

We can thank those considerate people in Congress for making an already dire situation much worse when, in December 2013, they simply allowed the emergency unemployment benefits to expire for 1.4 million Americans. Oh, they won’t be alone for much longer, because nearly 4 million more are on the brink of joining them. Isn’t that awesome?

As stimulating as the movie may have been, the unfortunate truth is that not all of us can be the Wolf of Wall Street like Jordan Belfort. We’re all walking a different path in life—whether you believe it’s preordained or born from your own free will is a matter of metaphysical belief—and that path is likely to be filled with rent, student loans, debt, and that stubborn feeling of hunger.

Admittedly, I’m not one to keep up with the ongoing soap opera of politics, however, if you keep your ears open to the partisan-filled streets of CNN, Fox News or, of course, your preferred cable news media network designed for mental conditioning, you’ll hear the Republicans and Democrats playing their traditional blame game.

“Instead of working on reforms that would actually help people overcome the challenges so many of them face in this economy, Democrats plan to exploit these folks for political gain,” said Republican Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, when speaking on the Senate floor.

President Obama assures us that, despite statements like those made by McConnell, we shouldn’t be concerned about the benefits issue being used as a ploy for political warfare. He points out that, regardless of who has been in the White House, both parties have historically put their “partisanship and ideology aside to offer some security for job-seekers with no strings attached.”

Barack, that’s cool and all, but you might want to speed up the process, because the American people need their unemployment.

Sure, these are what you might consider first world problems, but when those debt collectors come calling and bills begin to pile up, many of these upper middle-class folks panic in a way that worries me. Recently, I’ve read stories on Mother Jones, a non-profit news organization, where reporter Dana Liebelson spoke with seven Americans who are currently unemployed and without their unemployment benefits.

Heidi S., a 45 year-old freelance journalist from Michigan, was once self-employed before her divorce. She soon chose to return to college to receive her bachelor’s degree with the hopes of improving her chances of finding better work. At first, she struggled finding a decent job and offered her writing services as a freelancer while looking for a stable job and collecting unemployment. Then, as luck would have it, in July 2013, an unexpected accident significantly forced her progress to languish. Uninsured, immobile, and with her freelance clients now gone, Heidi was once again heavily dependent on her unemployment benefits.

“When I had unemployment, I was able to put gas in my car and pay rent, utilities, and insurance. Now I cannot. I’m also running low on dog food, laundry soap, toilet paper, and things like that, which aren’t covered by food stamps,” said Heidi about life after being stripped of her benefits.

At the risk of sounding ignorant, I’m from the hood and I, along with many others, know how to handle living the broke-ass lifestyle. Conversely, I’m very much aware that some Americans do use their unemployment benefits to sit around their homes, doing absolutely nothing; however, this isn’t the case for everyone living in the low-income neighborhoods of America.

I’m a firm believer that the system was designed to keep those in poverty at the bottom of the ladder of success. (According to recent studies, this may have something to do with where you grew up.) So what do you do when those designated to help you, fail to provide security in times of a personal or national financial crisis? You help yourself. You do what you have to do in order to survive, even if it means engaging in illegal activities.

A 30-something technician from Illinois, who chose to remain anonymous, was receiving unemployment benefits from May through December after having lost his job due to a micro stroke. He’s currently selling drugs to stay afloat. “If I didn’t sell drugs, I’d be dead,” he said.

Over the last few years I’ve learned not to put all of my eggs in one basket. Even if you’re already holding a full-time job, it’s important to have multiple streams of income. Remember, if the money stops coming in, the bills won’t. So, until these incompetent idiots in Washington crawl out of their seemingly incessant haze of indifference, take control of your situation. Get your hustle on, America.

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Enrique Grijalva - Mr. Minimum Wage

Enrique Grijalva - Mr. Minimum Wage

My father came, my mother saw...and I conquered. I encourage children to do drugs, I buy alcohol for teenagers, and I drink beer with the homeless. In my spare time, I attend art galleries for the FREE booze while rubbing elbows with modish elephants. I also hammer six-inch nails into small penises. Stuart knighted me as Broke-Ass King of New York. You've been warned.