Doing the Right Thing

(Side note: Has anyone noticed how long it’s been since I’ve written about shoes or pie? I need to work on that.)

Last week had its Not Good moments. Many/most/all of you know that I’ve been officially Not An Employee since August 26, 2008. That’s the date that “my” company laid me off, along with many others, during yet another in a string of restructuring moves. I had just begun a new project at the office, though, so I was immediately hired back on as a contractor and was back at a desk (not my desk, but a desk) by the end of the week. Without the interruptions of so many other little tasks that people always think “won’t take you any time,” I was able to complete the project in a couple of weeks, and then I filed for Unemployment to tide me over until I found another job, or my freelance work picked up enough to support me.

I’m sure I covered the original Unemployment saga earlier within the pages of this blog, but in summary: I applied. I was approved. Freelance work was frequent enough that I didn’t mind that there was clearly a problem with my claim, but when it dried up and so did my savings account, I had to start making phone calls to straighten things out. I finally started receiving benefits in May of 2009, eight months after I filed.

Fast forward: I had freelance work for three days in September. Well, one in August, and two in September. I claimed those three days on my bi-weekly benefits request, just as I’m supposed to. My payment was proportionately cut for that week, exactly as I knew it would be. And then, on or about September 5th, my benefits ran out.

I applied for an Emergency Unemployment Claim (EUC). Quickly: “Regular” benefits are determined by the State, and are paid by your previous employer(s). EUCs were put into place as a Federal program because of the high rate of unemployment, and the vast number of people who have run out of State benefits. They are paid with Federal funds, but still managed by the States’ labor offices.

The Department of Labor called. They were reviewing the paperwork for my EUC, and saw that I worked for three days. They needed me to send in any/all paperwork related to my work as a contractor, because they felt that it was not contract work, but that I was actually an employee of the company that hired me. Which would mean that I would not be eligible for an EUC, but would have to open an entirely new claim.

Um, exsqueeze me? That’s just silly. I sent the DoL a copy of my invoice for the three days of work that I did (for which I still haven’t been paid, by the way), as well as copies of invoices and receipts for the freelance work I did before I received any Unemployment benefits.

The DoL, using logic so flawed that I cannot even begin to comprehend their decision, determined that my freelance work was actually as an employee. The letter states, “… it has been determined that you were not free from control and direction in the performance of the service or you were not customarily engaged in an independent trade, occupation, profession, or business related to the service.” Really? REALLY? My freelance graphic design business, which is a Sole Proprietorship registered with the State, is not a “customary” profession? Or is it that the work I did was under the “control and direction” of my clients? Isn’t that the case with ALL freelancers? I dare you to hire a contractor to paint your house, but give them no direction as to deadlines or color choices. See how far you get. I explained my disagreement to the representative at the DoL, and he curtly explained that it was the State’s official determination, and suggested that I write to my Congressman and ask him to change legislation. I shit you not.

This determination means that I am not eligible for an EUC. The Labor Department will instead open a new Unemployment claim for me. The benefits will again be paid by my previous “employer” (thus guaranteeing that the company will NEVER hire me as a freelancer again) at a percentage of my wages for the last two quarters. I don’t like to discuss hard numbers, but it’s relevant in this case: I billed $1200 during the last two quarters. That averages out to $46/week. I haven’t yet received the Determination of Benefits letter, but I sure hope there’s some sort of minimum, because a percentage of $46/week doesn’t exactly seem useful.

In other news last week, I was turned down by my bank for the Mortgage Loan Modification Program. This program is supposed to stave off foreclosures for people in hardship situations by bringing mortgage payments down to 30% of your income for 5 years, and then jumping back up to whatever the interest rate is at that time. I didn’t meet the automated prequalifying conditions, so I went in through a back door to speak to a Wells Fargo mortgage consultant who shall remain anonymous (as well as my connection to him or her). This person couldn’t go into my specific account, but assessed that I was most likely turned down because I’m not behind on my payments. The suggested solution? Stop paying my mortgage. Re-apply for a loan mod when I’m 30 days late, and if I still don’t qualify, apply again at 60 days/30 days late. Hope that I get approved before foreclosure proceedings begin. And get my other financial ducks in a row now, because my credit score is about to take a big hit.

The moral of these stories? Doing The Right Thing will bite you in the ass.

As you inhale like a breath of fresh air

There has been a bit of a stink in some circles, because President-elect Barack Obama wants to add, as many Presidents have, “so help me God” to his swearing in today. Back in school, I refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance because of the “under God” line. I stood up and put my hand over my heart, don’t get me wrong. I am allegiant. I just didn’t dig bringing God into it. In all the years of my doing it, I don’t think anyone even noticed. I wasn’t trying to make a statement, it was simply a personal thing for me. Speaking the Pledge was my choice, and I chose not to, because that one line didn’t mesh with my personal beliefs. But if we went back to the original Pledge, before that line was added in the ’50s, and I wanted to tack on a “so help me God” at the end? I don’t have a problem with that. That’s a voluntary postscript. So you folks out there who are all “Blah blah blah, separation of Church and State, yadda yadda…” Yeah. I get you. I hear what you’re saying, and I’m on your side. Trust me. But you’re MISSING THE POINT. Mr. Obama is choosing to keep God by his side during this rather momentous occasion. If you don’t allow that, you are joining your enemies in forcing your own beliefs on someone else. So back off, would you? Thanks.

Now, on to the glee:

Today, we get a new President. TODAY, WE GET A NEW PRESIDENT!

Can I kick it? (Yes, you can!) *7X*
Well, I’m gone (Go on then!)

Can I kick it? To all the people who can Quest like A Tribe does
Before this, did you really know what live was?
Comprehend to the track, for it’s why cuz
Gettin’ measures on the tip of the vibers
Rock and roll to the beat of the funk fuzz
Wipe your feet really good on the rhythm rug
If you feel the urge to freak, do the jitterbug
Come and spread your arms if you really need a hug
Afrocentric living is a big shrug
A life filled with *HORN* that’s what I love
A lower plateau is what we’re above
If you diss us, we won’t even think of
Will Nipper the doggy give a big shove?
This rhythm really fits like a snug glove
Like a box of positives is a plus, love
As the Tribe flies high like a dove

[Phife Dawg]
Can I kick it? (Yes, you can!) *7X*
Well, I’m gone (Go on then!)

Can I kick it? To my Tribe that flows in layers
Right now, Phife is a poem sayer
At times, I’m a studio conveyor
Mr. Dinkins, would you please be my mayor?
You’ll be doing us a really big favor
Boy this track really has a lot of flavor
When it comes to rhythms, Quest is your savior
Follow us for the funky behavior
Make a note on the rhythm we gave ya
Feel free, drop your pants, jack your hey-ya
Do you like the garments that we wear?
I instruct you to be the obeyer
A rhythm recipe that you’ll savor
Doesn’t matter if you’re minor or major
Yes, the Tribe of the game, rhythm player
As you inhale like a breath of fresh air