When unemployment insurance ends, families and children are hit hard


by Brian Washington

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In his 45-years of driving a school bus for a rural district in Wisconsin, Bob Welsh has met a wide variety of students. However, when his normal route temporarily changed at the beginning of the school year, he encountered three young brothers who reminded him of the old adage—you should never judge a book by its cover.

“Before I took this route, I had been warned about these three—that they were troublemakers and that they were rough and rowdy,” said Welsh, who made up his mind that he would ignore what people had to say and draw his own conclusions. “As it turned out, I ended up getting along just fine with them.”

NH School Counselor Maxine Mosley
NH School Counselor Maxine Mosley

However, during the 4-months he was assigned to this new route, Welsh said he noticed that the three students—one in high school, the other two in elementary school—were often agitated when he would arrive at their home each morning to pick them up.  He soon discovered why when he heard the oldest boy talking with a friend just before the holidays.

“He told him that his family didn’t have any money—both parents had been out of work—and that the family had just $30 left on a credit card,” said Welsh, who believes the teen and his younger brothers were having a hard time grappling with the family’s financial crisis. “And I thought, wow, everybody is bad-mouthing these kids when this is the real problem.”

When parents lose their jobs, adults are not the only ones in the household who suffer.  A loss of employment by a mother or father—or both—is also felt by the children, who often carry the difficulties they are facing at home into the classroom. And when a loss of unemployment insurance (UI) is added to the mix, families are left with little hope of making ends meet while students face the strong possibility of having their education disrupted.

We’re seeing a lot of trauma to kids because they have to leave the school situation that they are in—their friends, their comfort zone, their learning environment,” said Maxine Mosley, a middle-school guidance counselor in Manchester, New Hampshire, “because the family can’t afford to stay where they are anymore.

In 2012, UI saved 600,000 children nationwide from poverty. However, on December 28th, it ran out for more than 1.3 million people and since that date, 72,000 people a week have lost their unemployment benefits.

Education Votes, through the Speak Up for Education and Kids Facebook page, recently asked educators to describe what they’re seeing in the classroom in the wake of a loss of benefits for so many Americans in need.

“A lot of my students are coming to school without a jacket because they outgrew their jacket and mommy is trying to find work,” said Patty Matthews.

“Many students are hungry,” said Anne Hendrickson. “One girl told me about being hungry because it was the end of the month. Not extending unemployment benefits will simply cost more in terms of welfare and medical conditions.”

President Obama has called on Congress to approve a proposed 3-month UI extension. The legislation is currently being debated in the Senate, where lawmakers are searching for offsets to fund it. In the meantime, parents without a job and/or unemployment benefits should reach out to their child’s school.



“I think the strongest message I can give to parents is to be honest and open with your school staff,” said Mosley, who points out that, more than likely, there is someone at the school who can track down the right resources and services to help struggling families.  She adds that if a student is forced to leave his or her school because the family has to move, parents and educators should work together to ensure a smooth transition.

Welsh has a strong message to give as well —to Congress. He wants lawmakers in the House and Senate to move quickly to approve a UI extension because he says families and children, like the three siblings he met on his bus route, are hurting.

“My route ended in mid-December just before the holidays and I no longer see the boys, but it still bothers me,” said Welsh, who’s back to driving his normal route. “I hope they’re doing alright. I just can’t get them off my mind.”

Click here if you’re an educator to tell us your story about a student who belongs to a family that is struggling after losing unemployment insurance.

Reader Comments

  1. Match the unemployed with jobs already available; lot more jobs are available than employers hire. Employees pay taxes, buy goods, and insurance policies.

  2. I don’t want to hear my students say I’m hungry. I want them to be nourished and attentive because they have much to learn.

  3. Why is the USA broke(n)? For the answer you’d have to go all the way back to the (roaring) 1920’s.

    The Great Depression was arguably caused by wealth consolidation at the top, while declining income for the workforce resulted in reduced demand for production and the ensuing snowball effect of unemployment, further demand reduction, and the domino effect of curtailed capital investments, the withdrawal of capital when stock prices fell, and finally the bank runs, and the crash of ’29.

    With the lessons of the Great Depression fresh on the minds of our nation and its elected officials, policies were enacted to bolster the middle class. To kick start a recovery, Roosevelt enacted New Deal work programs for the displaced workers like the CCC, CWA, and PWA. Then policies like The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, The Wagner Act, otherwise known as The National Labor Relations Act, and
    later, the Employment Act of 1946, were measures enacted to fortify the middle class. The Glass-Steagall Act separated the investment banks from commercial banks, and marginal tax rates were set at 90%. These measures, it was agreed,were necessary to fortify the middle class (create and sustain a dynamic consumer market), stabilize the financial sector, and practically assure the investment of capital back into the USA.

    These measures were met with bitter opposition and cries of protest from the business sector and their friends and profit protectors in Congress who claimed they were “unconstitutional,” an “infringement on freedoms,” “socialism,” etc.… Sound familiar?

    But look at the results! For the remainder of most of the 20th century, the USA cultivated the world’s premier, most prosperous consumer economy. The cumulative effect of employing millions of high wage workers resulted not only in the clearing of retail shelves (demand), and the uptick in production, but in the filling of local, state, and federal treasuries. To get a tax break, our wealthy INVESTED their vast wealth in the USA.

    Together, we were able to achieve the largest expansion in US history, create a “social safety net” (Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and unemployment compensation), develop the world’s most powerful military, rebuild post WWII Europe and Japan (The Marshall Plan), win the Race to the Moon, AND win the Cold War against the competing Communist system.

    During those years of unparalleled Historic USA expansion and investment, we even had a few years when there were budget surpluses (1951, 56, and 57). We also had steady trade surpluses up until around 1975; by then the offshoring of manufacturing jobs (shoe, garment, textile, toys, and electronics) to 3rd world countries to by-pass the high wage US worker began to take its toll. Then, by the end of the millennium, GATT and NAFTA, but in 2001, when China (Avg. wage- $1.36/hr., some work for 30 cents/hr) joined the WTO (with MFN status), even our jobs in Mexico left for China, and it’s been a steep downhill plunge ever since. (Incidentally, our burgeoning trade deficits exceeded over Half a Trillion $$$/yr. by 2004 and have not diminished!)

    In my view, our middle class got fat and happy and left the fight for their slice of the American Pie to “someone else,” but in the business sector, their eye never wanders from the bottom line. They continued to probe the fences for weaknesses so they could reclaim their “losses” to US labor.

    FTAs Incentivized the jobs exodus to offshore sweatshops and introduced the “global economy” where “multinationals” and “transnationals” continue to monopolize world commerce. The Gramm, Leach, Bliley Act, initiated the deregulation fever that created the lucrative bonus systems on Wall Street and witnessed the “smartest men in the room” behaving badly, then Citizens United, Super PACs, in our “pay-to-play” legislature we have today… All of these bills advanced the interests of BIG $$$, and the by-pass of the spoiled, fat and complacent US middle class (aka: we the people). And now, after 30 years of favor for our “job creators” (how disingenuous), and the decimation of the middle class, the USA has her tit in a ringer!

    Ironically, no sooner had the USA won the Cold War, proving to the world that capitalism, combined with a prosperous middle class was a system that really worked, than capitalists went about proving Karl Marx right about how unchecked capitalism works.

    And now, in just 30 years of legislative favor, we’re back to pre-Great Depression conditions where corporatists have managed to garner all of the gains to themselves that they were once required to share. Our Utopian (sophisticated and expensive) society is going broke, and guesses who is making record gains again?

    We’ve forgotten the lessons of the past.

  4. Unhappily, too many lawmakers do not understand that students do not check the concerns about poverty at the school house door before they enter the classrooms. If they do understand, then they are hostile to education of the less fortunate. They are, wittingly or unwittingly, enemies of public education.

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