Mom came to rescue until new work found

Chad Birnbaum found work after a layoff, but at a salary of a little more than half of the $60,000 he was making.

When computer network engineer Chad Birnbaum lost his job, his mother helped him get caught up on bills during the six weeks he was unemployed.

"She's helped a lot, but it's really put a hurt on her too. Without her, I definitely wouldn't have made it," he said. She is a nurse practitioner at the Veterans Administration Medical Center.

Birnbaum, 28, graduated from Michigan State University and is from the Flint, Mich., area. "People like me don't starve to death. I have a marketable skill. I knew I would be OK. I just didn't know how much I would suffer," he said.

Monthly state unemployment benefits of $1,060 weren't nearly enough to cover expenses such as mortgage, Internet, electricity and water totaling $1,700 per month, he said.

On Monday Birnbaum started a new job at PChelp.com. It has comparable benefits, but the salary is a little more than half of his previous pay of about $60,000, he said. Birnbaum said he lost his job at a Berkeley County firm because of the recession.

Shortly before things turned around for him, Birnbaum was contemplating selling a prized possession — his $20,000, 2001 Jaguar XJR. His mother mentioned the possibility of his giving the car to her to sell, and in return she would pay his mortgage for six months.

"It never really went past any kind of discussion. We talked about putting it in the paper. We weren't sure that we would be able to sell it. I was really holding off as long as I could.

"What really prevented me from having to sell it was finding a job," he said. These days, he mostly drives another car, his Chevy Impala, for the better mileage.

Although he kept the Jaguar, his days of eating out in restaurants are over, and he doesn't spend on entertainment outside the home. No more high-end food for his Siberian Husky and Labrador retriever either, who now get a bargain brand.

The heat stays off in his two-story home unless it's really cold, and he operates his high-end computers at about half-speed to save electricity. "Just what's needed to run the e-mail server and web server," he said.

Before he got his new job, he was weighing a part-time offer from a hospital. "That's what I was going to take until this came along," he said. And he was considering returning home to Michigan for a county job in Kalamazoo. But the problem with that plan was what to do with his house in the Peninsula subdivision off Clements Ferry Road in Berkeley County.

"I'm fairly well settled here in Charleston. I like the company I'm going to work for. I'm in a lot better position than a lot of other folks. I should be OK as long as I don't do anything extravagant," he said.

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.