Vermont Woman Who Led Fight for '99ers' on Verge of Homelessness | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Vermont Woman Who Led Fight for '99ers' on Verge of Homelessness 

Bernie Sanders

Published February 16, 2011 at 9:36 a.m.

A Brattleboro woman who led an effort to raise awareness about the plight of people who exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits and were facing eviction is herself now on the verge of homelessness.

Alexandra Jarrin, who was featured on the front page of The New York Times last August and on CNN in December, has been staying in a motel for the past week after she had to leave a friend's home.

In December, Jarrin organized a national effort called "Letters to Bernie." She collected letters from fellow "99ers" — people who were unable to find work after 99 weeks and have since lost unemployment benefits. She hand delivered them to the Brattleboro office of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on the day that Sanders took to the the floor of the U.S. Senate and embarked on an eight-hour faux filibuster — dubbed the "Filibernie."

The goal of the letter-writing campaign — which she launched last summer — was to pressure senators to continue extending unemployment benefits for people who were actively looking for work, but were unable to find a job. Since delivering the letters, Jarrin has not heard from the Senator or his staff. But, she didn't really expect to get a call or a thanks. Sanders did attempt to provide additional unemployment benefits for the long-time unemployed like Jarrin, but that measure failed.

Jarrin has been unemployed since March 2008 when she was let go as a client services manager at a small tech firm in New York. After unsuccessful attempts to find work in New York she eventually trekked to Tennessee to look for a job. But, employment never materialized, so she moved to Vermont to live with a friend while she continued to look for work.

She estimates she's applied for more than 3000 jobs in her three-year search to find work and long ago depleted her personal savings.

"I didn't apply for unemployment for the first few weeks because I had never had a hard time finding a job before," said Jarrin. But, the job she hoped to find never materialized. "I even relocated the way many politicians were suggesting but that didn't help," she said.

She came to Vermont in August and since then has been "literally living off the kindness of strangers and friends," Jarrin told Seven Days. "There's been one person who has been helping me out from time to time since August and they recently paid for me to be in a motel for a week."

That week ends today. She also expects that her car will be repossessed in the coming weeks, further adding to her dilemma and making it harder for her to seek out jobs. The stress of being out of work is also starting to take its toll on her personal health, Jarrin said.

"I hope to find something to keep me in the motel for a little longer, but right now it's a day-by-day thing, and I have no idea what's going to happen," said Jarrin.

Earlier this month, Sanders' office published a booklet of stories from low-income and middle class workers who have been reeling from the effects of the recession.

"We didn't cause this recession, but we are the people who are paying the price," said Jarrin. "For all these years, we paid into the unemployment fund. Every year that you worked for a company, you paid into the fund. So if you work for a company for 30 years, why is it you're only allowed to get it 26, 52 or 99 weeks?"

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) is trying to amend the continuing resolution budget measure. Her proposal would provide an additional 14 weeks of unemployment benefits for the "99ers."

It's estimated there are close to 2 million "99ers" similar to Jarrin in the United States.

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About The Author

Shay Totten

Shay Totten

Shay Totten wrote "Fair Game," a weekly political column, from April 2008-December 2011.

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