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Surviving Job Loss

So your worst fears have been realized and you’ve just learned your position is being phased out due to company cutbacks. What now?

Hopefully you’ve had an inkling that your employer has been on shaky ground and have been preparing for such an event. Even if you missed the signs or were completely blindsided, there are still actions that you can take to prevent the situation from snowballing into a real financial crisis.

Negotiate for additional benefits
Most companies will offer the standard severance of unpaid vacation and a good reference, but you may be able to haggle for more. Ask for additional compensation based on years of employment, extended health benefits, or reimbursement for job placement services. It’s likely that companies will be willing to provide one or more of these to avoid negative publicity. You won’t know unless you ask!

File for unemployment
Generally you should do this immediately because there’s a one-week holding period; however, from experience I can tell you there’s one exception to that. If it’s close to the end of the year, it might be in your best interest to wait until the new year. Compensation rates often increase every year, and by waiting a few days you may be entitled to more money. We learned this the hard way when my husband filed on December 27, 2005. If he had waited a mere four days, we would have received an additional $40 per week in compensation. Check with your state agency and if you can stick it out for a few days, do so.

Communication is key on all levels
Let your family members know about your situation. Explain to your friends that you’ll have to cut back on entertainment expenses for a while. Get the word out to your social network. You might be surprised by a job lead from an unexpected source. Finally, contact your creditors if you see yourself starting to fall behind on your bills. They may be able to offer some sort of temporary solution.

Seek out additional resources
These may vary by location, but it’s a good idea to see what’s available. Don’t be embarrassed to take advantage of what is available to you. There’s no shame in doing what it takes to keep your family from financial disaster.

A few to consider:

  • WIC
  • Food stamps
  • Medicaid in your state
  • Food pantries
  • Energy assistance programs
  • Your church

Your state department of job and family services may have additional suggestions. Don’t be afraid to ask your unemployment case worker what you’re eligible for.

Cut back your budget to all but the necessities
When it comes right down to it, things like cable, cell phones, and Internet can probably all be eliminated. Look for free sources of family entertainment such as free DVD rentals from Redbox. You might be surprised at what you can do without when it really matters.

Start looking for a new job immediately
Take advantage of any outplacement resources offered by your former employer. In most cases you will be required to report on your job search regularly to your unemployment caseworker, so you’ll want to maintain a log of companies you apply with and any responses you receive.

Speaking from several years of experience with repeated layoffs, I can honestly say that these tips have helped our family continue to make ends meet through the difficult times.  No, it still wasn’t easy, but we still were able to maintain the necessities without driving ourselves deep into debt.

Have you experienced a major loss of income in your family? Do you have any additional tips that would help others in the same situation?