My view from the unemployment line

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The view from the unemployment line is the view from my kitchen table. My little office space I carved out in our home since I was laid off from the newspaper a few weeks ago.

When I’m confused over some bureaucratic issue involving the now-online claim filing process, the computer screen stares blankly back at me. Which is probably the same look I’d get if I spoke to an actual person. I’m basing this solely on my past experiences with the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles.

The process of filing an unemployment insurance claim is not that bad, though like most government forms these days, the main goal seems to be figuring out if I’m a documented citizen who is able to work in the United States. I can’t tell you how many different ways I was asked this question with little digital check boxes to assure them I’m indeed a red-blooded American able and allowed to work here.

God forbid one of my wonderful foreign friends working in the United States on a green card ever gets laid off. I just don’t see how you’d ever navigate the system.

Like most government entities, the single phone line at the Montana unemployment office is always busy. I’ve found that asking other unemployed people questions about earning freelance wages on top of what I get from unemployment insurance to be the best way to navigate the system.

And there is no shortage of people who have a lot of experience figuring out unemployment in this town and across the country.

I think the best thing about my view from the unemployment line is that my four-year-old daughter is sitting right next to me learning how to write her name while I figure out the claim and fill in my job hunting requirements for the week.

Bureaucracy is somewhat more tolerable when a cherub-faced little girl asks you to help her write her Gs, then the sustained sadness of a place synonymous with downcast men in fedoras and trench coats since the 1930s.

In some ways, the digital process makes it feel a bit more unreal. Lines are real, forms are real, bureaucratic-minded workers who are always five minutes from their next break are all too real. Telling a form that I’m American and can work here and have been laid off and where the next screen flashes your approved amount almost instantly still is a bit unreal.

But I’ll take it, process and all.

See you in the unemployment line next week.

Tim

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