How I Lost Money on Unemployment

The title of this blog post is absurd, I know. But it’s something that happened to me, so I thought I’d share my unfortunate tale.

We had three months to transition our work after a group of us learned we were being laid off from contracted positions with HP. For the most part I felt excited to move on, but I was also feeling lost as far as what type of job I wanted next. Working at a large corporation in a position I wasn’t excited about left me feeling unfulfilled.

I followed the advice of a career coach whose blog I followed and spent time thinking on the question, “What do I want to do?” The simple answer I found was, “I want to help,” so I started looking into work in the nonprofit sector.

I had been volunteering with a local animal shelter for a few years and decided to set up a meeting with an employee there who had a similar educational background. She and I talked over coffee about what she liked and disliked about working at a nonprofit. The meeting ended with her telling me about a temporary position the shelter was opening in her department.

I decided to jump on this opportunity, so I did a little extra networking and expressed my interest in the role. The position started while I was still expected to be working at HP, but my supervisor allowed me to adjust my hours and take the part-time gig. Score.

So far so good, right? Look at how responsible I was. I had one and a half jobs and was getting myself poised for a career change before I was even out the door at HP. And I even NETWORKED! Something which makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable.

When the end date of my full-time position came, I still had my part-time job at the animal shelter. Although I was working, I was still eligible for unemployment since I was earning less at the shelter than what I would have earned through unemployment. So I was being paid by the shelter, and unemployment made up the difference by sending me checks that, when added to the amount the shelter was paying, totaled the full amount of unemployment I was eligible for.

If you are about to go on unemployment, calculators are available to learn how much money you are eligible to receive. For example, this is the link to the Colorado calculator:

During this time, I was also following my unemployment due diligence of applying to five jobs each week and recording the processes. Applying to five jobs per week might not sound like a lot, but when the job market in your area is slim it’s kind of a challenge. I applied to many jobs in Denver (which is partially how I ended up commuting to Denver in the next chapter of my career saga) and many jobs I wasn’t fully qualified for or interested in to meet this requirement.

Despite my best efforts to follow the rules of the system, there was one major thorn that ultimately led to my demise: I was working for a temp agency.

Yes, my part-time position was technically being run through a local temp agency. Although I did the legwork to get the job and never once used the temp agency’s service, they were still technically my employer, not the animal shelter. When my time was up on that position, I made no effort to continue working with the agency. And that totally screwed me over.

Not seeking more temp work, in the eyes of unemployment, was the same as me quitting a job. And that is a huge no-no.

When I received a letter stating that I needed to repay the money I had earned through unemployment services (plus an extra $70, somehow), I was shocked. I explained the situation. No dice. I then said that according to my records, I had received less money than I was being asked to repay, and was basically told that it would probably work itself out on my next tax return.

So, kids, extremely long story short, don’t work for a temp agency while on unemployment unless you plan to continue with that agency until your unemployment is up. Or at least check to see what your state’s policy is before making such a bold move. It could end up costing you during a time in your life when you don’t have much money to spare.

Thanks for stopping by! Check out my latest project, Cairn Free, to see what I’m up to now.



2 thoughts on “How I Lost Money on Unemployment

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