By Desirée Taylor
“It’s extremely scary,” said John Fugazzie.
What’s scary, John Fugazzie said, is losing his safety net. His extended unemployment benefits will soon expire, just three days after Christmas.
“People are going to have to feed me and my family. I’d have to rely on help from family and friends. So there’s no doubt that you are really looking for help in personal circles,” said Fugazzie.
Fugazie isn’t alone. The decision by congress not to renew long term unemployment benefits affects some 90,000 New Jerseyans. Among them, Lottie Palmer, who says she depends on that money to make ends meet.
“I don’t think it’s right. People still need to survive out here. They still need to to pay bills and take care of themselves and without the benefits how are people going to live” said Palmer.
The federal extended emergency unemployment insurance program kicks in after the standard 26 weeks of payments. Congress designed it to help the long-term unemployed during the great recession. It’s just a temporary program, and the national and state unemployment rate has dropped. But Fugazzie, who lost his job and his home in the past year says New Jersey’s job market has yet to bounce back.
“There’s been so much reduction in companies, consolidation, outsourcing, there are so many factors that have really contributed to the lack of jobs. It has impacted me directly,” said Fugazzie.
Along with searching for a job, Fugazzie is also helping other unemployed residents through an organization called “Neighbors Helping Neighbors.”
“We are basically an all volunteer search group. We provide support and networking help and we are an education. What we are really doing is peer leadership. other people are out of work, we meet weekly and we talk about all the things you need to do to get yourself back to work,” said Fugazzie.
One stop career centers, located throughout the state, are designed to help job seekers, says Newark Manager Morris Murray.
“They can use our computers to assist them in their job search. usually every day someone is coming up to me and letting me know that they have finally found a job,” said Murray
Congressman Donald Payne is among the lawmakers calling on his colleagues to renew the extended benefits program. That would require a separate bill.
If congress doesn’t take action another 80,000 New Jersey residents will lose their long term unemployment benefits in the first half of 2014.