1,000 Plus Rocklanders Lose Long-Term Unemployment Benefits

Mark Heppner and Omar Dawson are looking for work.
Mark Heppner and Omar Dawson are looking for work.

About 1,060 Rockland County residents lost extended unemployment benefits after Congress failed to act last month. Two individuals directly affected spoke about the impact on them and their difficulty finding construction work despite a reportedly improving economy. Mark Heppner and Omar Dawson talked about their situations with Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Westchester/Rockland) and local labor leaders on Monday. 

Heppner, a former longtime West Nyack resident, said he has been out of work for five weeks. The concern of the now Monroe, Orange County resident is that in the past he has been unable to find a job for 17 months.

“I haven’t worked a full year for over 10 years,” said Heppner, a trades worker. “I’ve traveled to Albany two and a half hours to work. My wife’s home with a stroke.” 

 The 58-year-old said if he cannot find work and unemployment benefits are not extended, his financial situation could worsen rapidly.

Omar Dawson of Suffern is training to be an electrical apprentice. The 33 year old just started with the union in 2013 and hoping his new career will put him on the path to economic stability although he is currently unemployed. Dawson said he has held minimum wage jobs and had to rely on food pantries and other charitable organizations to get by.

The leaders of Local 363 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Hudson Valley Labor Council, Rockland County Labor Council, and Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation told Lowey at the roundtable session that up to 40 percent of their trade union members cannot find steady work. Emergency federal unemployment benefits expired on December 29th affecting more than 5,000 job seekers in Rockland and Westchester counties. 

IBEW Business Manager Sam Fratto said people want to work and he estimated between 1,000 and 1,500 local tradesmen are looking for work. 

“The bottom line is American people need help,” he said.

Bob Milone of the Rockland County Labor Council said a jobs stimulus is needed because companies are unwilling to invest in expansion. Lowey agreed with him and noted that funding repairs of the nation’s infrastructure would provide jobs and benefit entire communities because wage-earning residents would have more money to spend.

Lowey said her Republican counterparts should vote to extend unemployment benefits.

“In my judgment, there is no rational reason not to extend unemployment benefits,” she said, adding that people do not want a hand out they want a hand up so they can help themselves.

Editor's Note: Listen to some of the comments made by Heppner, Dawson and Fratto.



Pat January 15, 2014 at 01:02 PM
FYI Brian, the Democrats had the house from 2006-2010. From 2006 to present the deficit has almost doubled from 9 to over $17 Trillion. A much better place? How so?
Brian January 15, 2014 at 03:16 PM
That's a great talking point Pat, but it doesn't address my question of why Republicans aren't concerned about the nation's finances when they control the White House and both houses of Congress. Ever.
Pat January 15, 2014 at 07:04 PM
Does mean old Ted Cruz shutting down the government because the Democrats needed to raise the Debt Ceiling again ring a bell? Probably not. I know, I know, it's Bush's fault. Forever.
John R. Fugazzie January 16, 2014 at 11:03 AM
Make the Call http://www.neighbors-helping-neighbors.com/jobs-advocate---congress-wake-up-call.html
Rob T January 17, 2014 at 12:47 PM
Just a hint... it all about supply and demand, if there are 5000 tradesman and only jobs for 500 a month ? Plenty of people work outside their field. 17 months sitting on his rear ?


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