A year with no job; now dad’s benefit checks expire

Daniel Stark is an unemployed single father of 6-year-old Isaiah. They live in Clifton, and Stark’s unemployment benefits have run out after a year without work. He has training as a heavy equipment mechanic but says he may “have to go cook in a restaurant somewhere.” But, Stark says, he won’t make enough “to cover me, my son and all our bills.”

Daniel Stark didn’t have the best Fourth of July weekend of his life.

That’s because the Clifton resident is worried about the immediate future for him and his 6-year-old son, Isaiah.

Stark has been unemployed for more than a year and is about to see his unemployment benefits run out. He’s angry not only because he can’t find a new job, but also because Congress hasn’t extended those benefits.

A bill to do that has stalled in the U.S. Senate several times.

“I’ve talked to everyone, my senators, my congressman,” he said. “They need to know that they’re impacting people who are really hurting. A lot of people are scared to tell them that, but I’m not. I just want this to be over so I can find work.”

Stark, a heavy-equipment mechanic by training, is among the 1.3 million workers whose benefits expired by the July 4 weekend. Hundreds of thousands more nationwide are expected to join him in the next few weeks.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 270-153 to extend additional benefits to those who have been laid off the longest, but the measure has stalled in the Senate for three weeks primarily, because of a disagreement over how the federal government will pay for it.

As a result, Republican senators have successfully filibustered the measure each time it has come up.

Tara Trujillo, spokesman for U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, said it is difficult to tell when the Senate will take up the matter again. She said the matter has been further complicated by last week’s death of U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.

“We’re not going to know about how we’re going to move forward until we know how they’re doing with Byrd’s seat,” Trujillo said. “We thought we had the votes, but then Byrd died, so everything’s on hold.”

Bill Thoennes, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said thousands of Coloradans will be hit hard if the extension isn’t approved soon.

There are about 4,000 Coloradans whose benefits will end in the next two weeks, about 7,000 over the next three months, and another 67,000 are expected to drop off the rolls by this fall, he said.

“By the year’s end, that number’s expected to increase to 81,000 in Colorado,” Thoennes said. “Unfortunately, there are no more options for these folks. Our workforce centers will be able to provide them with some information on a variety of services, including such things as the Department of Human Services, if they truly have no money on which to draw.”

Beyond that, the only places for people such as Stark to turn are charity groups, something he’s already done when he got into the mobile home he’s now sharing with his son.

“We already spent some time in the homeless shelter. That’s how we got hooked up with the people who helped us get the trailer,” he said. “If I have to go cook in a restaurant somewhere, I’ll do it, but it won’t be enough to cover me, my son and all our bills. This is a pretty scary situation for a lot of people out there who are on unemployment. I’ve talked to a few people down there at the unemployment office who say, ‘Man, I can’t believe I can’t find work.’ ”


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