Albemarle Co. Woman Joins President's Push for Unemployment Benefits

January 7, 2014

It has been less than two weeks since more than a million Americans were cut from their federal unemployment benefits.

President Obama spent Tuesday pushing for Congress to support an extension.

Albemarle County resident Ann Friend Clark joined the president on stage at the White House. She was part of a small group of people there in support of or directly impacted by the loss of benefits.

It's been more than a year since Clark has been in a classroom for more than a few hours a week. The art teacher has been out of a full-time job, and her unemployment benefits were cut right around Christmas.

"It's a lifeline," said Clark.

She is one of 1.3 million unemployed Americans who lost federal benefits last month. Another 1.9 million could stand to lose theirs by the end of June.

"This is not an abstraction. These are not statistics. These are your neighbors, your friends, your family members. It could at some point could be any of us," Obama said Tuesday.

Clark was just feet from Obama as he addressed the crowd.

"It's very poignant and very personal to be in the group of people that he's talking to and that he's believing in and he really feels your pain and is trying really hard to do something about it, and inspiring me to try to do something about it," she said.

Clark says she has been applying to about three jobs a week and taking classes to make herself more marketable. However, she says it has been hard without the benefits that have helped her keep a roof over her head and gas in her car. Despite the new difficulties, Clark says she is feeling optimistic after her trip to the White House.

"I mean, I still have to go home and pay a heating bill that I have no idea how I'm going to pay, but I just feel so thrilled that I was asked to go, and you know, who knows -- maybe I'll get that job," said Clark.

On Tuesday, the Senate Senate voted to advance the debate on unemployment insurance extension. The bill being considered would temporarily restore unemployment benefits to Americans out of work for more than six months.

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