Funding cuts: what does this mean for me
January 4, 2017 12:57 PM   Subscribe

My mom was unemployed in California receiving unemployment insurance. She has a new job. The offer letter says that funding cuts are possible and her job might be eliminated in the future. The fact that this is directly in the offer letter is freaking me out. What does this mean for us?

She does not have the option of turning down this job. It's a good one, in her field, and if she turns it down, she won't have UI. We have no other responsible family and I cannot support her, so it's in my best interest that she continue to be employed. Here's what the letter says:

"As with other programs, this position is contingent upon continued program funding. In this regard, please be advised that Federal, State and local funding for social services continues to be discussed including anticipated cuts to funding for the services that the Clinics provides. The level of prospective budget cuts have not been determined or communicated yet. However, based on our receipt of information, and the correlate reductions to funding, this position may be subject to reduction or elimination."

Job is full-time, exempt, in California, and requires a binding arbitration clause to be signed off on. Googling the company seems to indicate that they typically require 20+ hours of unpaid overtime (typical for field) and will have a lot of pressure to bill hours or get fired (also typical for field) but there are no recent news reports relating to this company being in financial trouble, budget cuts, etc. Yes, there are things about the job that suck; no, we can't change this; advice to get a different job is not helpful (she's be trying on that account for six months.)

I don't really know what to think, but I need to be able to offer realistic, measured advice about the job, so I need to ask for a reality check from people who can be objective about the whole thing.

I am too stressed out by this whole thing to figure it out on my own, so:

My understanding is that you must be employed for a year before you get UI. If she is laid off before that time due to funding cuts, what will happen? After a year?

What's the best practice for keeping track of unpaid overtime in the event of needing to document good-cause for quitting? That's a thing, right?

Salary is just over the line for the mandatory overtime rule from Dec. 1st, if it were still going into effect. Is there anything I should know about that in regards to California overtime or exempt status?

What resources are there for a 63-year-old widow in Riverside County other than Social Security? (The answer is NOT "late husband's military pension"; the VA was not helpful and the website would seem to indicate that she is not eligible for anything. That's all I got, though.)

What is our best strategy? How do I help my mom not be homeless if she loses her job, car, etc?

(I have a therapist who I talk about this with, but it's an ongoing problem. I need more objective facts and action items than I do emotional processing right now. But if you were thinking "get yourself emotional help" then I appreciate your concern.)
posted by blnkfrnk to Work & Money (10 answers total)
That sounds like boilerplate information for a grant-funded position. If the position is cut, you treat it like a layoff.

Unemployment insurance varies a lot by state. In VT if you got a new job which ended relatively quickly, you would still be eligible for UI from your previous job for some time period. Don't know specifics, but the point is to make it possible for you to take other jobs, not worry that losing UI means an iffy job is a worse bet than no job.

There's no best practice for keeping track of hours, just keep track of hours. Going into a job planning to quit is not really a "set up for success" recipe. I'd frame it more like "My mom has X number of hours free to do this job and if the job is asking her to do Y hours she can not. The end." If she gets fired as a result of that, then yes, that's a good position to start a fight from.

Can't speak to CA and overtime rules. This page might be useful for you.

As far as resources some of this will depend on what skills she has and her availability for retraining, that sort of thing. I assume you've worked with UI to see if there are classes she is eligible for as a job retraining thing if this one doesn't pan out? These folks have resources for seniors in Riverside County which covers some other stuff she might be able to get assistance with (rides, etc). They also just might be able to be some people your mom could contact to be another person to share some of the burden of her being unemployed. I definitely feel your stress and so some of this may be unpacking why it's your job and not her job to wade into this and whether any of that is adjustable. Family stuff if tough. I wish you the best working through this.
posted by jessamyn at 1:24 PM on January 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's really hard for any group that depends on federal funding to predict what's going to happen in the next few years. Most people I know whose work is federally funded science are concerned about the future and they're already employed.

It's kind of nice of them to give her a warning that it's a position that will be early on the chopping block (and per jessamyn, it does sound pretty boilerplate). There's a reasonably good chance that any cuts would be in the next fiscal year, so hopefully if there are reductions and California can't pick up the shortfall, she'll at least be eligible for UI again.

What's the best practice for keeping track of unpaid overtime in the event of needing to document good-cause for quitting? That's a thing, right?

I've not really heard of such a thing. If you're quitting a job that typically requires lots of unpaid overtime to go someplace that doesn't, they're generally aware that work/life balance is part of the reason for leaving the current position.
posted by Candleman at 1:31 PM on January 4, 2017

And good-cause for unemployment usually requires some level of change or deceit from the point you took the job. If your mother goes in knowing that there's going to be lots of overtime, it probably won't help her to document that it.
posted by Candleman at 1:33 PM on January 4, 2017

My sympathies for your situation. This must be really tough for both of you.

I don't really have any answers for the questions regarding the overtime and best strategies for handling this. But I can't help but make the observation that you have already gone in your mind to her having lost the job. In other words, the situation you fear the most hasn't happened yet. And I know with myself that if I allow my mind to go to down that road where the worst possible thing is going to happen and I catastrophize the outcome, that way lies madness.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that your mom could take the job and the funding could stay there for her to keep the job too. This could turn out to be a good opportunity for her. Who knows?

Maybe this helps, maybe not. Just another opinion from the green.
posted by strelitzia at 1:35 PM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

IANYL, this is not legal advice, and I'm definitely not in CA.

Where I am, I'd suggest asking when the position is funded through, and what the sources of funding are. Federal? State? Annual grant funded by annual appropriations at the state level? Medicaid or Medicare? Are they on year 2 of a multi-year contract to provide services?

Next question is to ask about the history of that funding -- like, is this something that has been appropriated to them for the last 15 years in a row, and it's a pet cause of the state rep whose district the employer is in? Or is this a trial program funded by HUD that might vaporize when HUD shifts priorities?

Getting answers to those questions should give you a much better idea of what to expect, when to expect funding cuts, and whether you need to be as worried as you are.
posted by joyceanmachine at 1:46 PM on January 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

Are you sure about the "you can't get UI unless you've been employed for one year" rule in CA? I am in CA, and because Reasons, I have personally watched someone get UI multiple times after jobs that did not last anywhere near a year. These were situations where the person's position was eliminated -- the entire job went away -- similar to what you are describing. The last time I saw this take place was literally 3-4 weeks ago.

Also, if anything this employment seems like it would be beneficial re: resetting her UI clock of eligibility, even if it ends in a layoff. There are some issues re: if you rather quickly become unemployed again does it mean you're reopening your same old UI claim or is it a new claim. I don't know the details, alas.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:56 PM on January 4, 2017

I'm in a grant funded position that had a similar message in the position description. After two years with no changes, I'm told that next year the position hours will be reduced. The nice thing about grants, is that they are announced pretty far in advance and (if her workplace is well organized) she should have plenty of notice to plan accordingly.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 2:40 PM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

IANAL, etc, but I have collected unemploymenbt in California, and you do not need to be employed for a full year to collect. You can find more info on the California EDD site, but basically, your benefit is based on your earnings in a trailing quarter -- for example, if you lose your job in Q3 (July-Sept) your benefit is based on your earnings in Q1 (Jan-March)

Note also that California unemployment only lasts for a limited time (I think it's currently 26 weeks, though there sometimes are extensions)
posted by zombiedance at 2:44 PM on January 4, 2017

She does not have the option of turning down this job.
So, there is no decision to be made. She is going to take the job. She has been told layoffs are a possibility. (In same jobs, such as schools, employers are required to give employees advance notice, therefore even if they aren't sure, they give notice anyway so they aren't stuck paying employees that they don't have the funding to pay.) There may be layoffs in the future, or not. (This should not be a surprise on the nonprofit setting) Since she needs to take the job anyway, this notice does not change anything about her decision.

I understand it would be nice to know what is going to happen and to be prepared for the worst but you really need to take a deep breath and realize that (a) your mother now has a job offer (yay!) and (b) nothing bad has happened yet.
posted by metahawk at 2:47 PM on January 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'd suggest keeping track of overtime hours. Exempt status isn't just for people over a certain income level, but people with specific types of job responsibilities. Exempt vs non-Exempt Employees from the California Chamber of Commerce - basically, 50% of her workday needs to be tasks related to one of the five exempt classifications. "Discretion and independent judgment" is the key phrase - only decision-makers are allowed to be exempt.

If she's being hired to head a department, she's exempt. If she's managing payroll records, no matter how much she's being paid, she's not.

Even if the job firmly qualifies as exempt now, keeping track of the hours allows for action in case (1) the laws change or (2) she discovers some level of favoritism or discrimination in the company - like, some exempt employees are expected to do 20 hours a week of overtime, and others are expected to do 5.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:59 AM on January 5, 2017

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