Trying to stay upbeat as money runs out

Keith Parker was laid off in November from his $10-an-hour job at the State Ports Authority's Wando Terminal.

With every tick of the clock, time is running out for Keith Parker to find another job. He has unemployment benefits until April. But he is also using his savings to make ends meet.

"I can't make it off unemployment and the $47 per month in food stamps," Parker said.

He receives $852 per month in jobless benefits. He cashed in a $1,000 certificate of deposit that matured Dec. 19. It was the last of his cash reserves. His rent is $550. Cable TV and phone service are $92 per month, lights and water average $95. Gasoline and the laundromat are about $70 per month, and food costs about $80. He pays $100 per month in car insurance. It's high because of three speeding tickets he received going to and from work on Interstate 526. "What's left over I use on cigarettes," he said.

He has been looking for a job since being laid off in November from his $10 an hour job loading and unloading trucks at the State Ports Authority Wando Terminal. He has skills as a forklift operator that he would like to use, and remains upbeat about his prospects. "It's going pretty good. I'm out there. I'm getting some positive feedback," he said.

A cousin in Orangeburg who is a minister loaned him $3,000 for motor and transmission work on his 1999 Pontiac Grand Am. He splurges on basic cable TV. "I live alone. That's the only company I got," he said.

Parker, 51, said he looks for work several times a week. He's had some offers for day work but he's told the pay would be deducted from his unemployment check. He wants to find something full time. He has a credit card with a $2,000 line of credit. It is paid up and has a zero balance.

He tries to keep a regular schedule even though he is not working. At first, he set his alarm for 7 a.m. but then decided getting out of bed that early just burns electricity. Now the alarm goes off at 8:30 a.m. A next-door neighbor on Buist Avenue is also laid off.

The basics

Unemployment insurance benefits help bridge the gap between jobs by replacing part of a worker's lost income. Workers who had a job and became unemployed through no fault of their own may be eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits while seeking a new job.

The Employment Security Commission is where you apply for jobless benefits. The ESC has offices on Lockwood Boulevard in Charleston and on East Main Street in Moncks Corner. The ESC also offers extensive job search services. The Charleston number is 843-953-8400. The Moncks Corner number is 843-761-8514.

You must have earned sufficient wages in order to establish an entitlement to benefits. And you must be able to work and available for work and be actively seeking full-time employment in order to receive benefits.

An application for unemployment benefits may be made online at sces.org, where job search services are offered.