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Friday, January 11, 2008

I'm wanted by Homeland Security (and so is my money).

This is a letter I sent to my congressional representatives earlier this evening:

Dear (congressional representative),

I am writing this in response to a wrong that was done to me earlier this week by the Employment Development Department, and through them, the Department of Homeland Security. As an Assistant Editor working in the television industry, it can happen that I will find myself unemployed for a few weeks every now and then between jobs. During these times, I depend on my unemployment check to offset my costs of living.

A few weeks ago, after a job had ended, I went to the EDD's website to register for my insurance, as I've done previously in the last three years. In the past, this action has been followed up quickly by a reply letter from EDD in the mail, confirming my information and containing the paperwork I need to fill out bi-weekly in order to get my check. This time, I received the paperwork, but also another letter, asking me for photocopies of proof of identity verification. I sent this proof out, and a couple days later, received another letter, this time requiring me to attend an interview at my local job center.

As much of a waste of time as this was, it didn't bother me as much as what happened next: My first pay stub arrived in the mail, sans check. On the pay stub was a big fat "$0." My unemployment check had been withheld, AFTER I had provided the proof they asked for!

At my job center interview (which ironically occurred on the same day I had started a new job), I was once again asked to prove who I was, and that I had been actively seeking work. No mention was made of my check being withheld until I brought it up.

The reason I was given, and the entire reason I'm writing this letter, was as follows: "It'll take 10-15 days to get your check to you once Homeland Security has screened your information."

WHY IS HOMELAND SECURITY INTERFERING WITH MY UNEMPLOYMENT CHECK?

I was born in this country, I'm a registered voter, I'm a taxpayer. The only blemish on my record is a DUI misdemeanor, an offense that both our President and Vice-President have been convicted of, as well as quite a few other government representatives. I have no political party or religious affiliations. I have no connections to any group or person that could even slightly be considered a security risk; a Google of my name brings up a few resume credits, and the website of my aunt, a school teacher in Japan. I was a Boy Scout, for Christ's sakes!

But because Homeland Security decided I was worth screening, I'm suddenly behind on my rent payment, and just barely paying my other bills. My entire budget has broken down, and I'm forced to watch every penny until the first paycheck from my new job arrives, as I can't count on my unemployment check, something I am supposedly guaranteed from meeting specific eligibility requirements, to be there.

Why is Homeland Security interfering with the EDD? I can't imagine I'm the only everyday citizen this has happened to. Exactly what kind of terrorist network do they think can be sustained on a maximum of $450 a week?

And how much money is being wasted on fruitless ventures like this that could be used towards important things, such as checking imported cargo containers at our ports, or funding the troops that are in Afghanistan, trying to root out and destroy actual terrorist threats?

As an American citizen and taxpayer, and as a human being, I am appalled that this kind of thing is happening. I can only be thankful that I earn enough money in my line of work, to have just enough savings to keep my head above water. I can only pray for the poor soul who doesn't; that unlucky American who, as a result of Homeland Security withholding their check, misses that one car payment which brings in the repo men. Or even worse, misses that final notice mortgage payment, and ends up on the street.

Considering the amount of people who are currently unemployed in LA County as a result of the WGA strike, I truly hope this isn't a common occurrence.

Please note that I will be sending this letter to all my representatives in Congress.

Thank you for your time.

The above actually happened. What a country, huh?