Patty in the News

MARYSVILLE -- Sen. Patty Murray sat down Wednesday afternoon at Randy Heslop's dining room table and told him she was delighted to meet him.

The Marysville resident recently wrote an email to the senator to tell his personal stories about being unemployed and about needing unemployment insurance.

"Your letter really touched me," Murray said.

Murray shared coffee and heard the stories of Heslop and his wife Debbie Buse Heslop, and Everett resident Deborah Purdom, who is also unemployed. Earlier Wednesday, Murray went to another home in Seattle and met with others who are unemployed.

Purdom is a painter who has been unemployed since July after walking off a job for health reasons. She teared up as she told Murray she was denied unemployment benefits at first and how she is a single parent of an 18-year-old son and a 23-year-old daughter who cannot find work either.

"I don't have savings, I don't have anything to fall back on," she said. "It's just a downhill spiral."

Murray was using the dining room chats to talk about an issue she's working on in Congress: whether to extend emergency unemployment insurance when the session begins in two weeks. A two-month extension approved before the end of last year is set to expire by early March, Murray added. She is a proponent of approving an extension that would last through the end of this year. Murray sent out a letter asking for stories from people who are unemployed.

"I thought rather than just talking about statistics and numbers I really wanted to be able to tell a story that was personalized," she said.

Heslop responded in an email and expected to receive a form letter in return. Instead, Heslop received a reply from Murray about three weeks after he sent his email. She asked him if he would be willing to talk about his experience with others at his home.

Heslop said he has been searching for a job since late 2010. He got a job more than a year ago as a director of materials management at Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle but lost the job in October after the company was sold. Heslop told Murray he is concerned about not being able to find a job before his unemployment runs out.

He is worried about how a potential cut to unemployment insurance would affect his ability to pay his mortgage on his home and take care of his three daughters. His wife is the director of a nonprofit that helps people find housing. He's concerned that families like his who volunteer and try to help nonprofit organizations will no longer be able to afford to do so and those who are helped by nonprofits will hurt more.

Purdom and Heslop each told Murray they are looking for work every day.

"I'm out there every day putting my name out," Purdom said. "I would scrub somebody's toilet if they said they would pay me."

Purdom worked on her unemployment with the Unemployment Law Project, a nonprofit law firm that helps people who have been denied unemployment benefits. The nonprofit's executive director, Marc Lampson, showed up at the house Wednesday. He said that unemployment benefits should be extended to help keep existing businesses open and people employed.

"It's an ironic thing that when the unemployed worker goes to the grocery store or to the health clinic or to the gas station that they're actually helping to save those jobs," he said.

Heslop gave Murray a manila envelope containing his resume before she left his home. She thanked him for his letter and for sharing his story with her and said she would take it back to Washington, D.C.

"There have been a lot of folks who have said to me exactly what you said in your letter that you never thought this would be about you," Murray said. "Anyone can put up charts and graphs, but when you have someone who you are talking to about their livelihood, their neighborhood, and the businesses that they shop at that are being affected, it makes a difference."

Heslop said he appreciated Murray's visit.

"The senator, Deborah, and I were talking just briefly before she left about how connected we all are," he said. "I can't afford to have (Deborah) paint my house if I wanted her to and that's her job. Hopefully some of the things that came out of this she'll take back to Washington, D.C, and she'll be able to speak to this in a way that's more humanized."

- The Everett Herald