I went back and forth in my head quite a bit on whether or not to write about this, but since I like to be as transparent as possible about what this life looks like, I felt it was important to talk about this experience. Let me start off by saying I am by no means an expert in this. As my post title says I have never in my life filed unemployment before. Add to that the fact that the rules and procedures for every state are different, please keep in mind that my experience is simply my own and your mileage may definitely vary. Despite those differences the main reason I wanted to share this is that for several years it never even occurred to me that this was a possibility. It wasn’t until some good friends I met at a job hesitantly mentioned it to me one day that I even thought about it. And then after talking to them I talked to others and realized that this was more common for working RVers than I previously thought.
I am not sure why I never thought of it, other than the fact that I get tunnel vision sometimes. My entire goal with the lifestyle (from a financial perspective) was to find jobs that we could do that would cover our costs and allow for short breaks a couple times a year. In the past we have either used the extra we made in season or our savings to cover our costs, and mostly been successful. Getting from point A to point B however can be costly ($1K in gas to get from Portland to Texas for example) and there is almost always a break between when one seasonal job stops and the next one starts. For those people who are using work-kamping jobs to supplement other income, it may be not such a big deal, but those of us who are fully funding ourselves by working, any break in income can be difficult to cover without dipping into savings. It was in a discussion about this very thing, when I learned that some people collect unemployment between jobs and I was intrigued enough that I decided I owed it to ourselves to at least look into it.
Just checking it out was a pretty big deal for me because I really didn’t want to collect unemployment at all. In my head, there is a “stigma” attached to doing that, even though I am completely aware that I and my previous employers have paid many thousands of dollars into these funds over the years. And the logical part of me understood that there was absolutely nothing wrong with applying (that is what it is there for after all), but the Midwestern “work until you die” ethic really didn’t like the idea at all. It’s amazing how often my choices are influenced by that upbringing. I was able to push through that and at least create the claim, and this is where it gets a little complicated.
Because we worked in multiple states in the last 18 months we could actually have filed in Oregon or Kentucky. Our work in Texas gate guarding is 1099 work, so it turns out we couldn’t file there, but when I talked to someone from the Oregon unemployment office she ran the numbers and it turns out my weekly claim would have been slightly more if I filed in Kentucky than in Oregon. Since all of this is online now, I could have filed in either place, but since I worked the most in Oregon (five months versus two) I went ahead and set up the claim in Oregon. Just because it’s online the initial setup wasn’t easy. I needed last year’s W9 information and final pay stubs for this year, which I had to scramble a bit to get. And in our case since part of our money is 1099, I had to be careful not to go down the small business owner path because that is a totally separate thing. The worst part of the website is once you make a mistake, there was no way to go back and I must have restarted four different times before I finally figured it out. Online is certainly better than going into an office somewhere but they still don’t make it easy.
They also asked lots and lots and lots of question along the way and I was VERY careful in how I answered those. The system isn’t really set up for those of us who work seasonally in different states, although it can’t be that uncommon because the woman I talked to was aware of the concept of mobile workers. I filled it all out and then let it sit there, until it was time to make my first weekly report for benefits Oregon at least will keep the claim open for 30 days and it’s available to reopen for several months after the initial setup. Once we left Oregon, I thought about filing a weekly report, but even though I was actively looking for a job at that time I chose not to. And I am not 100% sure why. Partly because we hadn’t landed in Texas (our new home base) yet. Partly because I was with my Mom, although she was very clear that she thought I should file, mainly I guess because I just didn’t like the way it made me feel. Ultimately I just couldn’t pull the trigger on it, and since we had the funds to cover the month of October, I just let it be.
Fast forward a bit to now though, and I was regretting that decision. In the past we have only had to wait a few days to get a gate, but we hit things at exactly the wrong time down here. We have never tried to get a gate in November before and were running into hunting season (some ranch owners shut drilling down for hunting in November) or the holidays (new projects don’t start until after the holidays) and time was ticking away. It’s not like we have been complacent though. Lee signed us up with seven different companies and we are on their waiting lists and we have expanded our search to pipeline guarding which is a little different than gate guarding and seems to have more opportunity. We even spent several hours with one company this week filling out paperwork and getting drug tested so we are ready when the next position opens up, and have stayed in contact with several others. In my mind all of that definitely constitutes actively looking for employment, so with a healthy push from my Mom, I went back to look at filing unemployment.
It would be fair to say here, that if I had just done it when I was supposed to I could have been collecting all along, but to Lee’s credit he didn’t give me a hard time about that at all. Instead, he just accepted that now I was ready and last week I went in and reopened the claim and filed the first report. The first week is a waiting period (that hasn’t changed), but as of this writing I just went in and filed for the second week, so we will see if we actually start receiving benefits. Filing the weekly report is pretty easy, but you need the names of two employers you contacted and three other job search activities (checking listings, updating resumes etc) that you do every week. Not a problem for us since we are actively looking, and you can use the same company week after week as well.
So it’s done, and like most “firsts” in my life that I get nervous about it was fine after I completed it. I’m not going to beat myself up because I waited so long to file, because I know me and understand exactly where that hesitation came from. And I want to be clear there is no judgement here on what anyone else decides to do. It’s a personal decision, and every circumstance is completely unique. The two reasons I am writing about this at all are that some people may not know it is an option, and second we are very transparent about our finances, and if we do start receiving checks I wanted to be open about where that money was coming from. I’ll update this post with the final resolution if we actually get a check and will talk about it in the November financials as well.
And just to lighten things up here is a picture of Jack helping Lee look for a job. He’s very handy that way!
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I have wondered about this myself and although all of the workamping we have done so far has been volunteer, we will certainly need to find pay work soon. We will be in AZ this spring, workamping at a 55+ resort where we will be paid, so this intrigues me. We are also midwesterners with the same work ethic, so I also hesitate, but your explanation makes sense. Keep us posted as to how it goes! Love your transparent blog posts!