By Amy Daybert Herald Writer
MARYSVILLE — Randy Heslop didn’t expect a response when he wrote an email to Sen. Patty Murray about his struggles with finding a job.
He wrote it in answer to an email from the senator’s office asking for personal stories about how the loss of unemployment benefits would affect people.
“I did it as an outlet to let go of some of the emotion,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve reached out to the senator. I didn’t see it as something that would mean anything.”
A little more than three weeks after sending off his email, Heslop received a response from Murray. She was interested in meeting him and holding a discussion about issues that are facing the unemployed, particularly the extension of unemployment benefits. She asked if the meeting could be held at Heslop’s home.
Heslop was surprised but happy to host a meeting planned Wednesday at his home.
“I was really touched that she’d be willing to do something like that,” he said.
Heslop started a job over a year ago as a director of materials management at Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle but was laid off in October after the company was sold. He’s now more than halfway through his unemployment benefits and worries about how his family will fare if he cannot find another job before the benefits end.
In the letter, Heslop wrote about his three daughters and his wife, Debbie, who is the executive director of Washington Home on Your Own, a nonprofit that helps people find housing. He wrote about how his wife’s work, while important, brings in little money and about his concern that his family may not be able to keep up on house payments if he is unable to find steady employment.
“In general, I wrote her about what would be the worst possible scenario for my family if we were to lose our unemployment extension benefits,” he said.
Heslop wants Murray to take his concerns and the concerns of others who collect unemployment benefits to Washington, D.C., to make sure cuts don’t happen.
Stories like Heslop’s are examples of what’s on the line in the debate to support laid-off workers, Murray said in a statement.
“This is about everyday Snohomish County workers who never thought they’d need unemployment insurance, but who have utilized this lifeline to support themselves and their families through very difficult times,” she said.
Heslop’s wife and others, including Marc Lampson, executive director of The Unemployment Law Project, and Deborah Purdom, an unemployed construction worker, also plan to join the discussion set around his kitchen table.
Up to 13,000 Snohomish County residents by July could be cut off from receiving emergency unemployment benefits if Congress doesn’t act to maintain them, according to Murray’s office.
Heslop said he looks for employment for hours every day and sends out anywhere from five to 10 resumes daily.
“It’s been painful,” he said. “Once in a while I get contacted by a recruiter. The clock is ticking and it’s important that we get those extensions.”
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; firstname.lastname@example.org.