Transcript: Testimony of Vera Volk on the expiring federal unemployment insurance before the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee on Dec. 5, 2013

Partial transcript of testimony of Vera Volk, a bio-tech professional from Lynn, Massachusetts, on the expiring federal unemployment insurance before the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee on Dec. 5, 2013:

Thank you for inviting me here today. Thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of millions of unemployed Americans across this country who, like me, face the year-end shutdown of the federal emergency unemployment compensation benefits if this Congress fails to renew these acts for 2014.

My name is Vera May [sp?] Volk. I live in Lynn, Massachusetts. I have earned a Bachelor’s degree in microbiology. I have earned a Master’s degree in immunology. I have worked for over 20 years in the biotech-pharmaceutical industry in various positions and under various functions both in academia and in the industry.

Most recently, I have invested 4 years in a company that is developing a very vital diagnostic tool for cancer in test development.

I was laid off in May 2013 due to lack of funding that was complicated by the sequester earlier in the year.

I am deeply engaged in job searching, spending at least 8 hours a day in front of my computer, networking, searching job boards, being involved in professional groups.

I have posted over 50 resumes on job searches and to companies. I am applying to jobs, like Lisa, at all levels, even including entry-level. I am actively engaged in networking groups, which consists of professionals throughout the Massachusetts area. I have attended their job search workshops. I have pursued job postings.

As the seventh month of my job search begins, I continue to look for employment within the biotech pharmaceutical industry. I have also applied for seasonal jobs and I have applied for part-time jobs within service and retail industry.

My husband is self-employed business consultant in IT. Because his business is failing due to the economic sequester, we have very little appreciable income coming in. In fact, it’s just my state unemployment. That will end at the end of this week.

So I am going to be one of those 1.3 million Americans on the EUC in 2013 and to face the facts that those benefits end at the end of this year is truly creating distress within me.

I have very sleepless nights. I wake up with fears and tears. And I just don’t know what I’m going to do.

We also need health assistance, food assistance, heating assistance, home assistance – just like my friend, Lisa, did.

And this fear is keeping me from moving forward and pursuing these activities and from pursuing my job search. Today, I think I’m getting a new spark.

This lack of funding coming up with exacerbate my Crohn’s decision because I’m making a choice of having to less quality foods that contain ingredients that I cannot eat and therefore my health will suffer even more than what it does. And I don’t even know what I’m going to do for medications for both of us.

I am asking Congress to renew the ECU benefits for 2014. It is the least this Congress can do. It must do this for America. Please invest in America that’s where you’ll get results for the economy to grow.

Thank you very much for your time.


Q&A responses:

For me, and I’ve been asking myself what Congress is doing and how they’re doing it for me as an individual and as a community…I think it’s to find a way to resolve these issues that are facing our nation, help the people that are under your reign or under your –

My husband and I were talking on the way to the airport that this is the Congress that has done the least amount for the American people as a nation of all of them that have been thus far. And that’s one of the reasons why I rarely listen to the news anymore; it’s because of how depressing it is that there is just no talking with you.

Even I have to talk to my family or my friends to negotiate and with my husband to negotiate issues and negotiate what we’re going to pay and what we’re going to eat, and sometimes we make concessions and sometime one makes the concession and sometimes the other. But usually both make a concession on what we’re going to do in this situation. And to me, I don’t understand why our Congress is not – we’re all here to earn a living to be responsible to our communities and to our nation.

And I’m asking myself that – as Lisa and Stan have – is what can I contribute back to my community. As a STEM professional, what can I do? As a home gardener, what can I do? As a daughter of a veteran, what can I do for the veterans of our community?

And soon, I may be homeless. So every time I see a homeless person, I’m actually giving them whatever little change I have in my purse, in my hand, or my pocket. I’m starting to make an effort to hold, keep coins in my pocket so that I can give something to someone. Because whatever we can give to the least of us, we do for ourselves. And I don’t know if that’s really what you’re asking…It’s somehow – can this Congress and future Congresspersons come together and work for us as people, as a nation?

There is a lot of discrimination against older employees because we don’t have the same skill-set as those that are recently graduating from the universities. And I come from a community that has some very prestigious schools.

I’m also feeling the fact that even though my skills are not new, that I’m feeling wage discrimination because I haven’t earned that – why haven’t I moved up beyond supervisor, why I haven’t gone to management or director. I realized that’s not my role in the biotechnology community.

I have taken on seasonal jobs with US Postal Service. I am on call with UPS. I am taking on a part-time job with Renewal by Anderson Windows to help make ends meet. Because that will be the only salary coming in after my state unemployment runs down and if these benefits for next year are not renewed. And I’ve had these benefits in the past and they have helped me.

What I’m also experiencing – and my heart goes out to all these people who have minimum [wage] jobs. How are they making it and I read the stories and I hear the stories that they’re having to go to the churches and community houses for at least one supper a day. How are they doing it? My heart goes out to them all.

And I’m having to consider that possibility that I might be taking a minimum wage job sometime. I’ve considered doing housecleaning on weekends.

So we experience age discrimination. We experience educational discrimination. We experience skill discrimination. Even though in every position I’ve had, I’ve done everything that a quality assurance person could do, they won’t look at me because it has not been my title and it has not been for 5 to 10 years or more of that specific skill but I can do it; it’s just they won’t look at me for it; they won’t train me.


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