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Archive for March, 2010

I have my 4th interview in nine months on Tuesday. Even though this cool and hip digital PR firm contacted me, doesn’t mean they are any more interested than if I had contacted them. I have learned not to get my hopes up: the competition for jobs is so fierce that I totally undercut myself in terms of salary. I quoted them less than I made at my first job in public relations over a decade ago:(

On another note, my hearing stemming from my unemployment claim last June has finally come to fruition. I go before an Administrative Law Judge week after next to present my evidence that I have indeed been unemployed since end of June ’09. If being on Public Assistance and Food Stamps isn’t proof, I don’t know what is. However, I have been commanded to bring tax returns, bank statements (what bank, my accounts were closed in the fall for lack of funds and numerous overdrafts) checkbook (again, what checkbook, I don’t have any bank accounts OR credit or debit cards!).

Crossing my fingers that the NYS Department of Labor will be fair and give me UI benefits going forward and hopefully even my back unemployment from July!

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The verdict on my “feel good” interview:

“They selected the individuals that they want to bring back for second interviews. Unfortunately, you were not among them. This is certainly no reflection on your qualifications and credentials, which are excellent. They were very impressed with you, but these decisions are always relative, and several of the other candidates they felt were more on target for both the marketing and PR responsibilities in the job.

We have enjoyed working with you and hope that we will have the opportunity again. Meanwhile, please let us know if you secure another position and/or your contact information changes.”

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I had a job interview on Friday, or rather two interviews. A recruiter contacted me the Friday before last about a PR/Marketing position at a prestigious hospital in Manhattan with an attractive salary. There was no question that I am interested. I still haven’t paid my March rent and the prospect of a day job after 10 months of underemployment seems quite appetizing just now.

So, I went out into the New York rain to the Upper East Side last Friday and interviewed and was interviewed for two hours by two different department directors. I left feeling pretty good about my ‘performance” and certainly my credentials are up to par.

Afterward, I called the head recruiter as per her instructions, but got her voicemail. She called later while I was underground and said one of the women had gone home sick so she had not had the chance to debrief with them, but would early this week and get back to me.

This is only the third interview I’ve had since I was laid off in June. But it also seems the most promising.

Fingers crossed.

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PUBLIC  ASSISTANCE

Your public assistance case has been RECERTIFIED for the period May 1, 2010 to April 30, 2011.

You will continue to get the SAME AMOUNT of public assistance benefits:  $151.00 Even though we figured your public assistance benefits again, it did not change the amount of public assistance benefits you get.

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“This is to tell you that your public assistance will be DISCONTINUED. You will no longer get public assistance beginning March 16, 2020.

This is because we have determined that you willfully did not complete the following employment requirements:

You did not keep going to the employment or work activity assignments at ARBOR WC BKN. Your attendance at this assignment for the period January 26, 2010 to February 9, 2010 was unsatisfactory.

We have decided that you willfully and without a good reason failed or refused to comply with the requirement to keep participating in the assignment.”

[Perhaps HRA should assign a WEP worker with writing experience to replace their government nonsense-repeatspeak correspondence writer.]

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YEP!  It finally happened, I’ve been officially FTC’d.  HRA caught up with me and realized I have not been participating in the WeCARE classroom activities or even showing up at the Arbor WeCARE offices on Elm Place in downtown Brooklyn. I *think* I have a Fair Hearing scheduled on the 22nd to present evidence to dispute this FTC finding.  My evidence, such as it is, are three letters from my psychiatrist and psychologist stating that the best environment and optimal setting for me to conduct a job search is in my home office where I also need to do my work as a freelance journalist to make enough income to cover at least part of my rent . And, also that HRA has NEVER sent me any follow-up documentation about any of my meetings, reviews, visits or anything else, so I have no clue about the status of or what is going on with my case.

Another participant, who has been FTC’d five times said to me, “Well you’re really not part of the system unless you’ve been FTC’d.”  But I don’t really want to keep going back, lining up in front of the Linden Job Center in downtown Brooklyn in the chilly morning air at 7:30 a.m. to open a new case.  Fortunately, I have been recruited and heavily courted for a well-paying PR/Marketing job at a hospital in NYC. I have an interview on Tuesday and hope to move forward with it.  I feel hopeful about this job potentiality and hope to not have to deal with HRA much longer. It’s a punishing and punitive system, not at all what it pretends to be, a source of assistance for people down on our luck. It’s a road to certain failure–HRA sets it up that way. I choose to be–and always have been–on the road to success.

I’m writing an article based on my experiences and that of others working their way through HRA for a NYC publication that I will link to here when it goes live this week. Please stay tuned.

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So I was re-certified for food stamps on Thursday.  I luckily (and it is all pure luck of the draw!) had an on-the-ball worker who noticed that I supposedly hadn’t kept my conciliation appointment the day before and therefore was FTC’d (Failure to Comply). I told her I indeed kept my appointment and produced the document, which had “appointment kept” written on it and dated the previous day. She reversed the FTC and said I would have to present evidence at my Fair Hearing in two weeks to avoid being actually FTC’d.

Also,  I just learned that HRA’s computer system automatically defaults to failure to keep appointments for all participants and until and unless a smart (and complete oxymoron) worker enters other information and enters it correctly, we, the welfare masses, are assumed not to have kept our mandatory appointments. We are judged guilty until we prove our innocence.

This process, going through HRA’s maze-like system,  is also a very isolating experience. No one talks to anyone else at the public assistance or food stamp offices. And I, for one, have never and I mean NEVER received any follow-up documentation to my visits, interviews or requests for documentation. The only documents I receive are the self-serving threats by HRA to cut off my benefits. I just file for a Fair Hearing simply to gain information about my case because there is apparently no other way to obtain it.

Oh, but I have to say Medicaid has been very good about getting me enrolled and making sure my insurance is active. I’ll give them that.

I also saw a perfect profile of a do-nothing HRA worker while I was sitting through my re-certification meeting. This worker was behind my worker. He was a big, slow schlub and apparently gay guy—he had OUT Magazine covers with hot guys pinned to his wall, a lot of Johnny Depp and Daniel Craig, a Pride calendar and such. I would not have read him as gay, but then I’m not a gay man. He was a study is the slow-as-–molasses movement that gives city workers a bad name for being lazy and wasting time. He was shuffling papers around his desk for quite a while, stacking and restacking file folders. Sharpening pencils, cleaning off his telephone and the coup-de-grace was him reaching into his pocket and pulling out a fistful of change and counting it e-v-e-r- so s-l-o-w-l-y into his other paw. Damn, was it excruciatingly slow and I‘m not sure he was finished by the time I left. I was there for about 20 minutes and this guy did nothing. In fact the guy in front of my worker was doing nothing either. Yet, the female worker in front of him had a client, just like me whom she was trying to help. I wonder what the ratio of achievement of female to male is, both actual and reported/recorded.

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