The Situation, Day Who’s Counting, Anyway?

$ 21 May 2013

Original Blogger tags: The Situation 2013

So, I made an error that might cost us dearly — I neglected to certify online for unemployment benefits (with the MARVIN system) during the week ending May 11th. I certified the following Monday, the 13th, instead. I don’t really have a good excuse; I was focused on other things, like job applications, and somehow thought that I didn’t need to certify until the following week. I think some of my confusion is the perpetual conflict between monthly billing cycles and getting paid every second week, meaning that paydays drift in relation to bill due dates.

Anyway, the immediate upshot is that since you can only certify for the previous two business weeks, I was concerned I won’t get a payment for the week ending April 27th; it’s not a lot, but it’s money we need to pay the mortgage. I put in a customer service request to the system to report a “missed appointment time” on May 13th, but I’ve received no response. And it appears there’s another upshot. I usually get paid the next business day after certifying online. But I haven’t been paid at all for the weeks ending the 4th and 11th. So it looks like I have to put time into sorting that out — maybe I will go into the office today. If they have somehow decided that because of this mistake, or for some other reason, I’m not going to get any more unemployment compensation, our finances are going to hit the wall a lot earlier than we hoped they would.

So how is the job search going? Well, I had my first actual rejection letter, for a local position I interviewed for. That was demoralizing, but the experience interviewing there strongly suggested that I wasn’t a good match for their office culture. Still, local jobs in my field are not… plentiful. And most of my applications seem to be going into a black hole, as far as I can tell from the response rate. I’ve been talking to recruiters a lot more than I’ve been talking to employers. I’ve been talking with three different recruiters by phone and e-mail this morning. Recruiters are a mixed bag — some of them seem to understand what I actually do and what the jobs actually entail, but some don’t. I do have a phone interview with a group that I think is a real employer, in the form of a tech out-placement firm, lined up for tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes.

I’ve applied for a couple of jobs that I consider intriguing “long shots.” For years now my hobbies have included audio production and live sound. I was a DJ and production manager at the College of Wooster’s campus radio station, WCWS-FM. I’ve been recording podcasts and recording and producing my own music for some time now. I applied for a position at a state university, doing audio production. I’ve also applied for a radio producer position job, which is close to home, and sounds intriguing. But given the published pay grades, these jobs might pay so little that I couldn’t afford to take them. They might support a single man without a mortgage. I think on that salary, we’d still be eligible for food stamps, but I’m not sure we’d be able to pay the mortgage, and we certainly wouldn’t be able to pay our utilities. University pay scales have never been closely competitive with private industry, but it looks like in the last decade they’ve absolutely collapsed, while tuition soars. Still, I’d love to be able to get at least a phone interview for one of these jobs. Grace and I are carefully considering what we need to earn, collectively, to stay in our home — and, of course, whether that is even a worthwhile goal. We’re starting to look into whether she might be able to find work as well — maybe we’d become a two-shift family, where she worked in the evenings. But of course we don’t actually want to just barely survive — with no disposable income to spend on repairs and fixing things up as they inevitably deteriorate. We didn’t buy this house just to let our investment fall apart.

Oh, and I’m selling off some of my guitars. I originally considered some of these instruments to be part of a collection, and that they might appreciate in value, or at least hold value. That’s certainly not the situation after only five years or so. The results have been very disappointing. But that’s a story in itself. Maybe I’ll write something up over on my Geek Versus Guitar blog.

We’re still waiting for that lead testing. More phone calls…

UPDATE: I went to the Michigan Unemployment office (aka “the Happiest Place on Earth”), and after a wait of only one hour, I got to talk to a representative. For my mistake of being one business day late to certify online, 3 weeks of benefit payments are “in question.” That’s a mortgage payment plus a little more. I never did get any response to my online inquiry, sent May 13th, and I did not get any indication that I wasn’t going to be paid for the weeks ending May 4th and 11th. I’m told that the state will send me a paper questionnaire, by mail, and that I will need to explain why I missed my “window” to certify, and send it back. Within four to six weeks I should have a judgment on whether I can get paid for those three weeks. Wow. What should I tell them? It was a mistake on my part. I screwed up. If I say that I’m very sorry, but I was distracted by phone conversations with recruiters and online applications, will they still pay me?

The representative claimed that I should still be able to certify next week, for this week and last week, and get paid for those weeks. I hope she’s right.

UPDATE 2: the online system still shows no response to my inquiry submitted on the 13th, and I haven’t received any paper mail or e-mail or calls, but I noticed that on the same page of links where I submitted the customer service inquiry there was a link, “Claimant Response to 1713 Separation Information Request,” which took me to another page, that indicated I had an unanswered request, and allowed me to fill out an online form to answer it. I guess this is the response to my inquiry, or my visit to the office in person. So I filled that out. I wrote:

I have been using MARVIN online to certify for weeks of unemployment. During the week ending 11 May I should have certified, but I became distracted by a number of phone interviews and conversations with recruiters and forgot. I certified online May 13th for the weeks ending May 4th and May 11th. The system looked like it accepted that but now I have not received payment for any of those 3 weeks.”

Elsewhere in the online form, I had indicated the week ending April 27th as well. I guess I’ll see if that gets any response. This is quite confusing. Should I now cancel my “pending” customer service request? My guess is that I should mess with it as little as possible, especially because the same questionnaire might also be coming to me in paper form.

Meanwhile, I have continued to submit my weekly job search records, although the postings are few, and although the information I have is often thin — sometimes a recruiter, not an employer, and sometimes not even a name for a recruiter — something like “Unspecified Tier 1 Automotive Supplier via CareerBuilder.” And here’s how out-of-sync their online reporting system is with my job search reality: you can specify that you contacted an individual (who they want the name for) by telephone, paper mail, fax, or e-mail, but there is no good way to specify that you applied for a job online. Yet most of the jobs I have applied for, including two at colleges, only allow you to apply via their online systems — and there really aren’t any names I can put in the required “name” fields of the online forms.

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