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Friends, family help Rifle woman get by

Heidi RiceSpecial to the Post IndependentGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GARFIELD COUNTY, Colorado – Renelle Apodaca of Rifle stood in line to receive her first-ever LIFT-UP holiday food basket this year with tears in her eyes.”The tears just rolled down my face,” she said. “I was so grateful. That basket helped me get through the week.”Apodaca was laid off from her job in February 2009, and like 2 million other people in this country, she is living on unemployment insurance and faces expiring benefits at the end of the year.But a tax cut bill, which includes extending unemployment insurance benefits for another 13 months through 2011, passed in Congress late Thursday night. However, Apodaca is one of the “99ers” who have received the maximum amount of 99 weeks of unemployment benefits allowed in Colorado and is unsure of whether or not she will be able to receive any additional benefits.Since being laid off, Apodaca has done her best to work when she can and has actively sought employment. However, the jobs just aren’t there and her age, 61, seems to make it a little tougher.”The first couple of months [of being unemployed] I wasn’t too concerned,” Apodaca admitted candidly. “I’ve been working since I was 13 or 14 years old and I’ve never had a problem getting a job.”Married and divorced twice with three grown children, Apodaca has supported herself for years.”I’ve never had to ask for help before,” she said.Her career has always been in office and clerical work, and she worked for a long time for the housing authority in Denver. She has been in this area since 1997.”I love this area,” Apodaca said. “My kids and my grandkids live here.”When she was laid off, Apodaca immediately filed for unemployment insurance, although she had to wait 30 days before she could collect any money. And unemployment only pays a portion of a person’s prior paycheck.”But it’s been enough for me to pay the bills,” Apodaca said.Between unemployment insurance and Section 8 housing help through the county, which helps to pay the rent on her apartment, Apodaca has been able to squeak by. She has taken some temporary work when she can get it and enrolled in classes through the Colorado Workforce Center to upgrade her computer skills, hoping to make herself more marketable to potential employers.”I’m applying for jobs right now that only pay $8 an hour,” Apodaca said. “I’m not young, but I’m dependable. I don’t have small children and I have experience and a strong work ethic.”Apodaca estimates she can live on $10 an hour and is willing to take a job that may not be in her chosen field. She is also grateful for the help she gets from her children and her church.

Aside from the obvious monetary troubles that go along with unemployment, there are emotional stumbling blocks as well.Once a productive and contributing member of society, an unemployed person is often left feeling helpless and hopeless and unsure of what will happen in the future.”The longer you’re on unemployment, the more you think you’re never going to get out,” Apodaca said honestly.As of right now, Apodaca has gone through the 26 weeks of regular unemployment insurance that is allowed in Colorado and three tiers of Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC). And even with the passage of the Congressional bill that will extend the benefits, Apodaca is still unsure of how many, if any, weeks of unemployment benefits she will have left – a question that is facing many of those who have been jobless for a long time.”I think I might have seven more weeks,” she said.And then what?”I don’t know,” Apodaca said with a shrug. “I believe God has a plan for me. I have faith that as long as I don’t make wrong choices or mistakes, I’ll survive. I just hope and pray that something will happen. The right employer is out there.”No matter how desperate her situation may be at this time, it is clear that Apodaca has one thing working for her – hope.”I’m not in this by myself,” she says sincerely. “There are a lot of people that are worse off than I am. I’m blessed with a loving and giving church and the help from my friends and family.”


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