Published On: Thu, Mar 19th, 2009

Nuestra Comunidad: 10 Things to Do If You Lose a Job in the 2008-2009 Economic Downturn


We all know that the countries economic situation is tough right now. Many of our readers (and Radio Capicu listeners) experiencing loss of jobs due to downsizing and layoffs. We are currently recruiting several prominent financial experts to share information with our community via both the website and radio show.

Responding to one of my many Facebook status updates, my friend (and lawyer) Libby Vazquez send me this great resource that is published by the City Bar Justice Center.

I hope that you share this with anyone and everyone that needs to weather this storm after losing their job. remember we are all in this together….This is an issuethat touches all communities regardless of race and/or ethnicity.

Thanks Libby!!!!!

Buen Provecho!

As I am,
George Torres
The Urban Jibaro

Follow me on Twitter!

About Urban Jibaro

Poet, writer & creator of Sofrito For Your Soul Online Magazine, co-founder of Capicu Poetry & Cultural Showcase and host of the first live Latino talk show on the web, Radio Capicu (Blog Talk Radio).



10 Things to Do If You Lose a Job in the 2008-2009 Economic Downturn

  1. 1. Apply for Unemployment Insuranceas soon as possible as there is a one week waiting period. There is an online application and you need to choose whether you were laid off, fired or quit. You will not get benefits if you quit or were fired for misconduct. See for further information. You can also call 1-888-209-8124 to apply over the telephone.

  2. Review severance package with a lawyer. Your employer doesn’t have to offer you a severance package unless it is required by an employee handbook or you have an employment contract that requires it. However, some employers will offer one week of severance for each year worked and you may be able to negotiate certain improvements. If you are over 40, your dismissal notice will tell you to review it with an attorney. You can call the LRS at (212)626-7373 to get a referral for an expert employment law attorney who can review your severance offer and advise you on how to respond.

  3. Elect COBRA to keep your health insurance. If you have health insurance through your employer and your employer has at least 20 employees, you can elect COBRA and you should receive a notice when you are laid off informing you of your right to COBRA. It allows you to pay the premium each month and maintain your group health coverage. Hopefully you will not be out of work for long and thus COBRA will be short term however you can keep it for up to 18 months. If you are disabled, you may have an additional 11 months. Further information is available at

  4. Avoid credit card debt. Avoid running up credit card debt which can carry interest rates of 19% or higher. If you do have credit card debt try to make the minimum payments each month to avoid additional fees.

  5. Rental housing: If you are unable to pay your rent, your landlord has to take you to court to evict you. First you will receive a 10 day demand for rent. If you fail to pay, your lease is terminated and the landlord must start a summary nonpayment proceeding. Don’t trust the landlord if he or she tells you that you don’t need to go to court You need to go to court to answer the court papers and file what is called a “general denial.” See the NYC Housing Court website for further information You may be able to negotiate a payout plan with your landlord. Make sure it is in writing and gets filed with the court as a “settlement” that is signed by the judge. If you can no longer afford the apartment, you need to negotiate with the landlord to let you out of your lease obligations. You should do this in writing so you will have a written response letting you out of the lease. If the landlord doesn’t agree in writing to let you out of the lease, you remain liable on the rent due through the end of the lease unless someone is willing, with the landlord’s permission, to take over your lease which is called an assignment of the lease. If you need legal help call LRS at (212) 626-7373.

  6. Owner occupied housing: If you fall behind on your mortgage payments, or know you will soon fall behind, contact your lender’s Loss Mitigation Department and make a hardship application. Call 311 and ask for a referral to a HUD-certified Housing Counselor for assistance in negotiating a loan modification with the lender. If you are served with a foreclosure summons and complaint, be sure to answer the complaint, and make a request for a settlement conference. Consider selling the property if you have equity in the home and are unlikely to be able to afford it in the future. The City Bar Justice Center Lawyers’ Foreclosure Intervention Network (212) 382-6648 may be able to find you a pro bono attorney to help you negotiate with the lender or represent you in a foreclosure case if one is brought against you. Do not respond to anyone offering to rescue you from foreclosure – these offers are, for the most part, scams.

  7. If you find yourself falling behind on paying bills due to lost income, prepare a family budget of all income and expenses. Determine which bills must be paid first. Always pay family necessities such as rent, mortgage, food and utilities first. Other debts such as credit cards and loans can go at the end of the list.

  8. When determining how to pay the bills use your income and savings first. If at all possible do not take loans against pension plans or make withdrawals from retirement plans such as 401(k)s. These are protected assets that creditors cannot reach. An early withdrawal of such funds can lead to income tax penalties.

  9. If debt problems become overwhelming you can consider personal bankruptcy as an option to get an economic fresh start (See the guide “ Personal Bankruptcy: Is It Right For You?” at www., under Reports / Publications). Bankruptcy can help lift a wage garnishment, remove a restraint on a frozen bank account or stop the loss of other property.

  10. If you have any questions about debt collection or bankruptcy issues please call the City Bar Justice Center Hotline at 212-626-7383.

  11. If you have no income and no more than $2000 (or $3000 if you are over 62 years old) in resources, you may be eligible for public assistance. You can apply at one of the City’s “Job Centers”. To find one near you, call 877-HRA-8411. If you have no money or food, you may be eligible for immediate emergency aid.

  12. You may be eligible for food stamps if you have little or no income and no more than $2000 (or $3000 if a member of your household is disabled or at least 60 years old) in resources. You can find out if you are eligible by going to the Food Stamp Outreach Project’s website at You can also call the Community Food Resource Center at 212-894-8094 or call 311 to find a Food Stamp Office.

  13. LawHelp. A terrific resource to find free legal assistance in your community and online information on your legal rights is

Nuestra Comunidad: 10 Things to Do If You Lose a Job in the 2008-2009 Economic Downturn