Dear Senator Sinema and Senator McSally,
I left a voicemail a few hours ago, but I didn’t have time to explain myself properly. I’m going to do that now.
First, I’m asking that you help the Senate to pass legislation that will keep the President from sending unidentified federal agents into cities in unmarked vans to kidnap protesters from the street. This behavior is the beginning of fascism. The officers refuse to identify themselves. They have no badges. They can’t be identified. The protesters are not told for what they are being arrested. They are not being read their Miranda rights.
We must act to keep the President from violating our civil liberties. This isn’t a matter of inconvenience. This is about the right peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances. BLM is protesting about the unreasonable police brutality we have all witnessed repeatedly. They are advocating for change. This isn’t simply their right. It’s their moral duty.
Please support Bill S. 220.
While you’re at it, I need to ask you to help your constituents, in general, and then this constituent, specifically.
First, between 30 and 40 million Americans are now unemployed. This is not our fault. The pandemic has made many of our jobs impossible to do. We are not lazy. We are not wealthy. We need your help.
With the provisions of the CARES Act expiring soon, many of us will be facing eviction because we can’t pay rent. Before I go any further, I want to be clear that I am not threatened with eviction, myself, but only because my landlord is my best friend’s boyfriend. I’m safe from homelessness, but I haven’t been able to pay them all my roommates and I owe them for months. I’m living off of their charity.
We are also about to be unable to buy even the most basic groceries. When the Unemployment some of us (but, by no means all of us, particularly in Arizona) are getting runs out in the coming days, we will be unable to survive. Whether we ought to or not, we live in a world in which money is essential to survival. We have set up a system in which one is forced to work by the threat of homelessness and starvation. While a permanent Universal Basic Income that frees us from these chains would be ideal, I would be satisfied with granting the American people… ALL of the American people… an income until the end of the pandemic. Then we can go back to work and earn money again.
It’s unreasonable to assert that we should all have been better prepared. 40% of us can’t afford a $400 emergency. Here is a link to support my claim.
There’s no way we had 3 months of savings. I’m among those who don’t even make it paycheck to paycheck. I’ve eaten more than my share of ramen.
Please support legislation that will bring real relief to Americans, and concern yourself less with the corporations who have the money to buy their will. I promise American Airlines won’t need a GoFundMe to pay rent next month. I’ve had to do 4 in the last 3 years. I will never do another. It’s too humiliating.
And, now, for a personal request.
My name is Fred Eder. I taught elementary school for 29 years, the last 12 of which were here in Arizona. I quit my job in 2016 because I couldn’t do it anymore. My health was shot. What I loved about teaching was gone. My efforts needed to concern tracking data that proved absolutely nothing of value about my students or their abilities, filling in information and uploading “artifacts” (don’t ask what they are… no one knows) on a website to prove that I could teach, and creating bulletin boards of nonsense about our Plan, Do, Study, Act curriculum. I couldn’t have 4th Graders perform Hamlet anymore. In fact, I couldn’t even have them read any real literature anymore.
I wasn’t allowed to show them that reading is the most exciting and rewarding experience a human being could have anymore. Instead, they learned Reading is something you do to pass a mind numbing test on a computer that may or may not work on any given day.
No more Sherlock Holmes mysteries to grab their attention, stretch their vocabulary, and engage all of their critical thinking skills to figure out what happened to Helen Stoner’s sister, Julia, who died alone in her own bedroom, with no evidence of violence or poison. No more watching the gears begin to turn in their heads when we learn that Helen is now being forced by her stepfather to move into the same room in which her sister died. The stares of wonder when they read that Julia heard strange low whistles for a few nights before she died were confirmation that I was getting through. The terror they felt in watching Julia stumble from her room, dying, gasping about “… the band… The Speckled Band…” showed me they were experiencing catharsis. The fact that many of them went home to download and read the rest of the story before we could finish it in class because they were desperate to find out why Helen is now hearing the same low whistles in the middle of the night in the very bed in which her sister died, told me they were becoming readers. I felt great.
I’m sorry those days are passed. I will always miss them.
I pulled what was left of my retirement, lived on it for a while, and then got a job selling DirecTV for a few months before I returned to teaching Defensive Driving. I wasn’t getting wealthy, but as long as I had roommates and food stamps, I could survive.
Then came the pandemic. I haven’t worked since March 15. My company can no longer do classes safely. They hoped to open again in August, meaning I might have a paycheck as early as September 15. With the pandemic spiking in Arizona, that’s incredibly unlikely.
I applied for Unemployment once some time ago. The website and the letter I got told me I didn’t make enough to qualify. I let it go. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t earn any more money. I begged my friends for charity.
Then, for reasons passing understanding, I received a check for roughly $2500 from the state for unemployment. I was ecstatic. I received only one check. The ecstasy soon turned to intense frustration I began sharing to my Facebook page.
I reapplied. And this is where it gets interesting. I wrote this on July 16 as a Facebook post:
Aside from the fact that my brain is shutting down at a frightening rate, I am a reasonably intelligent man. I have a Bachelor’s Degree, and people let me teach Elementary School for 29 years. I’m at least as intelligent as the average person.
The Unemployment Office and the hoops through which I am required to jump are beyond my ability to comprehend.
I filed a claim several months ago. They told me I didn’t make enough money to qualify. Several weeks later, for reasons passing understanding, they sent me a big check. Yay!
Then they didn’t send anything else.
I got on the computer with both of my roommates to file another claim. I had them help me make sure I did it right. It took quite a while, but the site said I could have Unemployment. Yay! They sent me a letter telling me I’m going to get Unemployment. They sent me a card they would fill with some money. How awesome.
I’ve had the card for a week. Every morning, I call to see if there is any money on it. There’s not.
Today we tried calling Unemployment to ask what’s happening. Yes, I know that was a waste of time. I’m more likely to talk to Valerie Bertinelli than to a human being at the Unemployment Office.
They did have numbers to Press to give you information about your claim, though, so instead of throwing my phone across the back porch, I pressed the numbers.
The computer says there is no claim.
We got back on the site today and did it all again.
Here’s my point:
If I can’t figure it out, and my college educated roommates, one of whom is young enough to understand computers properly, can’t figure it out, how do they expect those with less intelligence than ours to be able to get help?
If we’re going to defund the police, perhaps we could direct some of the budget to hiring sufficient staff to make the system work properly.
But, this wasn’t all. It was far from it.
This is a second Facebook post from last Sunday:
Adventures in Arizona Unemployment
Sunday is the day you have to return to the Unemployment site to beg to get back some of the money you have been paying in for 4 decades.
This week it decided I needed to have a new PIN. They have a tab for that. Click.
Now it says you have to use the site you’re actually using and start over. Click back.
You’re not allowed to click back. You have to start over. Close Chrome. Start again.
Click File Weekly Claim. Enter SSN. Done. Enter PIN. Done. Need to reset PIN.
Click reset PIN.
You can’t reset PIN online. You must call. Obviously they aren’t open on Sundays.
I call that number 3 times a day. I can’t even get into the queue to begin waiting countless hours. Due to the Pandemic, we have no space left in the queue. Please try another time.
If this were just for customer service because my phone or computer isn’t working, I would blow it off. This isn’t that. This is the only money I can get.
How many thousands of others are going through this? I make almost 300 a month from my podcast now. I’m incredibly proud of that.
I’m working on getting a voice over company to hire me for a project. It won’t be much, but if I land the gig, it’s a little more.
None of the people desperately trying to make the website work caused the Pandemic. None of them collapsed the economy. By definition, none of them just decided to quit working. And yet…
None of us can pay rent. None of us can buy groceries.
Well, I suppose I could go down to the Unemployment Office. Oh, no, sorry. That’s closed.
You can’t do it online because the software doesn’t work.
You can’t call because there aren’t enough people to answer all the calls.
You can’t go to the office because they want you to do it online.
I would be homeless right now if my landlord wasn’t my best friend’s boyfriend.
I would be starving if not for the little bit I get in food stamps.
I would be roasting if not for my roommates who help keep the electricity on.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I just have basically 0 financial value.
How is this okay?
I’m told by several people I should have a donate button on my page. First, I don’t know how to do that. Second, what have I done that means I should become a beggar? How does that make me look in the eyes of those I love? And most people are worse off than I am.
Something needs to change. Immediately.
I had quite a few responses from that post. People offered advice. Among the ideas my friends suggested was writing to my elected representatives. That’s why you’re getting this letter.
A few days later, that post was followed by a third one:
The Further Adventures of Arizona Unemployment
I had to reset my PIN. This can be done, the website says, only on the phone. I called.
The first time I was only on hold half an hour. A human being actually spoke to me. She took my SSN and said I could establish a new PIN. I asked her to wait while I ran inside to try it.
She asked me to do a survey. I said I would after I managed to make my PIN work. I also asked if I was ever getting any Unemployment. She said they are just very behind, but I would.
I arrived at my computer. I typed in the azui.com address. She sent me to the survey. I gave it a 3 out of 5. The call disconnected.
I went to the Establish PIN tab.
I entered the information.
What I entered didn’t match their information. I can’t do my PIN on the internet. I have to call.
I used language I won’t use on the internet. (Or in an email to a Senator)
I came back outside to call. I pressed all the right buttons. I waited for 35 minutes. A recorded voice told me they were full and to call back tomorrow.
I’m writing to all of my elected representatives today. I hope to receive at least a form letter in return.
Meanwhile… I live off of almost $300 a month between Anchor and Patreon. My podcast is paying me, but not providing enough even to pay rent.
And I’m one of the lucky ones.
Arizona Unemployment doesn’t work.
Then, and this is really the infuriating part, one of my friends made this comment:
It looks like You’re on the wrong site . You need to be on the new one https://pua.azdes.gov/vosnet/Default.aspx Once you get your login figured out, use this link… not the old des one
Seriously? I was on the site I was supposed to use. It was the site to which I was sent by Arizona’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Portal who sent me the email saying I was qualified. There are two different websites, and only one of them actually works? How is anyone supposed to get the money we need to survive the pandemic?
I’m asking now for your help. My Social Security Number is ### – ## – ####. I would like for you, please, to see if you can expedite my Unemployment Claim. I am living in abject poverty. I believe you can help. I’m asking for you to do that.