Dear Annie: I am writing you in hopes of getting, well, a little shred of hope. I come from a lower-middle-class family that has always been short on money, high on stress and full of love despite that. Growing up, I always admired the fact that my parents served a healthy, comforting meal every night, despite having multiple jobs, and waited until they thought we were asleep before they tearfully whispered about the mortgage. I recently graduated from college, and my parents didn't want me to stress financially and drown in debt the same way my mother did, so I moved back home to pay off my loans, with the understanding that I would establish my professional career and pull my own weight. And, I've got to admit, it's nice to feel like a kid back at Mom and Dad's again.
But recently, a bomb dropped: My dad got laid off. He worked all day, every day, and my mom has had two jobs since the recession hit just to keep us afloat. The reality is that machines can do what people were once hired to do, and with the toy industry being replaced with computer games, well, that's strike two. Annie, my father has worked since before he could drive. He knows machines, but he doesn't have a high school diploma. One day he's upset about reaching 60 and fearing heart failure, and the next he's told he has to start over. It's just devastating. He loves providing for his family and has been so proud to do so. Now he is a deflated shell of a person who doesn't know what to do, and I have no idea what to tell him -- or what to do that might help. Do you have any advice for a girl who just wants the best for her dad? -- Still Daddy's Little Girl
Dear Still Daddy's Little Girl: The love and emotional support you offer your dad is priceless. He might not feel like opening up and being vulnerable to you, but know that just your being there no doubt offers comfort.
There are some practical steps you could take to help, too.
First, you mentioned you're living at home with the understanding that you'll pull your own weight. If you haven't been paying rent so far, I'd encourage you to start chipping in what you can. Try to work out a budget that allows you to do so while also repaying your student loans.
Next, research with your dad the employee rights in your state to be sure he is, at the very least, getting everything the law requires. For example, some states mandate that laid-off employees receive their last paycheck immediately and that it include payment for all accrued vacation time. And in some instances, if an employee has been receiving benefits through his employer, he is entitled to continue doing so for 18 months. According to legal resource guide Nolo, a federal law called the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act "gives employees (and their dependents) the right to continue their health insurance coverage for a period of time after losing their jobs." Nolo does note that employees are responsible for paying the full premium cost, but at the group rate the former employer negotiated. Visit the Employment and Training Administration's website (https://www.doleta.gov) to find Rapid Response resources for laid-off workers in your state.
Lastly, though being laid off is a devastating experience, realizing that you're not alone can make it less so. That's why people all over the country have formed support groups for those experiencing unemployment. Many are facilitating these groups through Meetup. If there's not a group in your area yet, you can make one.
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