Insitutionalised Indifference at the EDD

Posted: November 22, 2012 in The Road to Skid Row

“How can I help you today?” The lady behind the desk smiled big and broad. She was a pretty woman in her late twenties with the calm demeanour you find in psychiatrists and flight attendants.

“We’re here to look for jobs. Maybe get some advice from somebody. Is there anyone we can speak to?” My sister and I did our best to look helpless.

“Okay, well if you take this paperwork here and fill it out for me. When you’re done you can use the computers to search the database for jobs, but there is a one hour time limit. Okay?”

Ten minutes later were sitting in front of a computer screen using Internet Explorer to search for work on the CalJobs website.

“We could have done this at home,” Kate whispered to me.

I nodded in reply. What a pointless trip. If I’d known that the job of the EDD was to sit people in front of computer screens and tell them to surf the web I would have stayed home.

Of course the EDD also hand out unemployment benefits, but we weren’t eligible for those. In order to claim unemployment insurance you need to have already worked in the US. The whole thing is damn complicated, but basically you must have earned a certain amount over a 12-month period before you can file a claim.

On top of that you need to be unemployed through “no fault of your own”. If you were fired or you quit your job (like I did), then you have to do a telephone interview with somebody from the EDD. An investigation is carried out with the employer and the EDD decides whether you are eligible for benefits. Seeing as I didn’t have “good cause” to quit my job, I was definitely ineligible. Unless you consider restlessness a “good cause”, which I happen to but the EDD does not.

Unemployment insurance, scroungers allowance, masturbation pay – whatever you want to call it, it sucks. You’re made to feel like a criminal when you apply for it. The whole set up – the interview, “investigation”, shit loads of paperwork – it’s all geared to be difficult, like you’re asking for something you shouldn’t really have. The process is either institutionalised hatred for the unemployed or monumental indifference. Maybe if poor people listed themselves on the stock exchange and asked the government for a “bailout” instead of a “hand out” they’d get a better response?

I looked around the room and noticed we were in a minority – most people here were black or Hispanic. Inglewood has a white population of merely 2.9%, which explains the relative poverty. It follows the usual trend in the USA – a majority black/Hispanic population equals a poor city. Some people here may be lazy, as Tea Party Congressman Blake Farenthold believes, but I bet he wouldn’t trade his life on Capitol Hill for the challenge of living the American Dream in a neighbourhood like this. With a per capita income of $14,776, Inglewood is ranked 776 on the league table of Californian locations by income. Could be worse – there’s 1076 in total.

Charles Bukowski observed that poor blacks and poor whites almost always hate each other. “It was only when blacks got money and whites got money that they mixed.” Half way through my internet surfing session a black woman, probably in her forties, started talking to me. Within a few minutes she showed me photos of her daughter and then, just before leaving, invited me to a local grill for lunch. Maybe LA had changed since Bukowski wrote Hollywood? A little less hate would be a good thing.

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