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martedì 25 gennaio 2022

Elaine Simons, a 61-year-old substitute art teacher in the Seattle, Washington area, was on a 10-month contract and hoping to settle into a more permanent role at the school where she was teaching when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the US in March 2020..........


Nevin Overmiller, 78, examines an order of KFC while delivering the meal for Uber Eats on 5 January 2021 in Palm Harbor, Florida to supplement his retirement income.
Nevin Overmiller, 78, examines an order of KFC while delivering the meal for Uber Eats on 5 January 2021 in Palm Harbor, Florida to supplement his retirement income. Photograph: Douglas R Clifford/AP

Elaine Simons, a 61-year-old substitute art teacher in the Seattle, Washington area, was on a 10-month contract and hoping to settle into a more permanent role at the school where she was teaching when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the US in March 2020.

Her school shut down for the remainder of the school year, with Simons having to pack up her classroom and learn to navigate the technology necessary to teach remotely. In June 2020, Simons was informed her teaching contract would not be renewed.

Some 5.7 million workers ages 55 or older lost their jobs in the US in March and April 2020, 15% of workers in an age demographic that has also experienced the vast majority of Covid-19 deaths. The unemployment rate for workers ages 65 and older hit a record rate of 7.5% in 2020.

Simons was able to find a summer teaching position but had to file for unemployment assistance before the fall 2020 school year began. Since then, she has switched back and forth between taking periods of substitute teaching jobs whenever they’re available, and reverting to unemployment during periods where she’s been unable to find work.

She found, despite claims of substitute teacher shortages, that longer term substitute contract positions weren’t being offered, and older workers at higher risk for Covid-19 like herself aren’t willing to take substitute gigs day by day, at various different schools without any compensation for quarantine if they catch or are exposed to Covid-19. Simons is fully vaccinated and boosted, but still worried about catching Covid-19 and exposing her elderly mother, whom she helps care for.

“Some like myself are too young to retire, so I’m still looking for that dream job, I want my permanent job. I want to be fully set for my pension and my social security,” said Simons, who cannot afford to retire early because the social security benefits would be far too low to live on.

Even with unemployment, Simons has had to rely on food banks, food donations, and mutual aid with neighbors. She has tried to get ahead on bills in anticipation of receiving no income if her unemployment benefits expire and she’s unable to obtain a new substitute contracting position, which has been more difficult as many employment resources offered to the unemployed, such as job counseling and training, have been limited during the pandemic.

“I’m sad that at almost 62 years old, I don’t see the likelihood of getting employment at this point,” added Simons. “It’s really hard for people in my age bracket. I think that we’re feeling undervalued. We’re feeling missed. Nobody seems to care that we’re also part of the high risk community.”

The unemployment rate has tumbled dramatically since the height of the pandemic but older workers are still struggling to find work despite all the reports of worker shortages.

Jerry Jenkins, 63, of Lehigh Acres, Florida, lost his job at a manufacturing plant in 2021, where he had worked for seven years. With Florida’s maximum unemployment benefits among the lowest in the US, at $275 a week, Jenkins was forced to cash in part of his retirement savings as he is still trying to find another job.

“I’m losing my retirement because no one will hire me. I can’t even get anybody to answer my resumes,” said Jenkins. “I’ve even tried to go back to some of the jobs I’ve had in my past to get rehired, but no one seems to be interested because I only have two or three years before retirement.”

He expressed frustrations with the touting of falling unemployment rates, given he and millions of other workers aren’t classified as '“in the labor force” in part due to expired unemployment benefits.

A June 2021 analysis by economists at the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at The New School found at least 1.7 million more older workers than expected retired due to the pandemic. The analysis encouraged policy solutions such as expanding Medicare eligibility to the age of 50, expanding social security benefits, and creating a department dedicated to older workers at the US Department of Labor.

Monique Morrisey, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, explained there are differences among affected older workers, with 55 to 64 year olds who are not eligible for Medicare and in most cases are not yet receiving social security, and workers 65 and older who left the workforce. The issues facing late middle age workers are more worrisome, given their economic demographics.

“Among this younger group, the job losses are concentrated among non-college educated workers in lower paid jobs and are disproportionately also jobs that have high contact with the public,” said Morrissey. “It’s a lot harder to get another job when you’re an older worker.”

A survey published by AARP in May 2021 found 78% of workers ages 40 to 65 reported either seeing or experiencing age discrimination in the workplace, the highest level found by AARP since they began surveying the question in 2003. More than half of jobseekers over the age of 55 were classified as unemployed for longer than 27 weeks in early 2021.

As of October 2021, older workers were the furthest behind in employment recovery among age demographics.

Beverly Matozzo of Deptford, New Jersey, worked about 12 hours a week at a school cafeteria for seven years, but was laid off once the school year ended last summer and she hasn’t been able to return as she is recovering from a knee injury and from Covid-19.

Matozzo, 73, filed for unemployment, but has yet to receive any compensation because the office that assisted in filing her claim made an error with her working dates and she hasn’t been able to get the state unemployment agency to fix the problem and get her claim paid out. She has also been locked out of her account and still trying to resolve that issue.

“I have been told a thousand different things. All I want is my 17 weeks of unemployment, which is what I am owed,” said Matozzo. “I’ve had to have three shots in my knee, walked with crutches for several weeks, and now I’ve just gotten over Covid. I just want to be with people. I enjoyed being around the kids, they make you feel alive and fun, so as soon as I can, I’m going back.”

57-year-old Dawn Leeson of Springhill, Florida, ran a nonprofit after-school program before Covid-19 forced her to shut down the program in March 2020, and she contracted Covid around the same time as her son was hospitalized in New Orleans. She receives social security disability benefits, which aren’t enough to survive on, and limits her options for new work.

“My job is still not available. I’ve looked a little bit even though I’m not ready to go into the workforce because of my fears of Covid. I’m high risk and so is my partner,” said Leeson. “I know at this point I don’t have a lot of options. Who is going to want someone who is disabled and 57?”

Leeson’s unemployment benefits were cut off in September 2021 when federal extended unemployment benefits ended without any further extensions, after it took her months to start receiving benefits due to long delays and backlogs. She has gone from having zero debt to accumulating about $10,000 in credit card debt in order to make ends meet over the past several months.

“I barely leave my home, so I don’t have gas and car expenses. We eat cheaply. I’ve lost 5lbs mainly by eating just a sandwich for dinner most nights,” added Leeson. “I made it through the holidays, but I’m really scared about what comes next.”

di  per "theguardian.com"

US president Joe Biden has insisted there was “total” unity among western powers after crisis talks with European leaders on how to deter Russia from an attack against Ukraine, as Downing Street warned of “unprecedented sanctions” against Moscow should an invasion take place. ..........


US President Joe Biden said the US and Europe were in step
US President Joe Biden said the US and Europe were in step Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

US president Joe Biden has insisted there was “total” unity among western powers after crisis talks with European leaders on how to deter Russia from an attack against Ukraine, as Downing Street warned of “unprecedented sanctions” against Moscow should an invasion take place. .

“I had a very, very, very good meeting – total unanimity with all the European leaders,” Biden told reporters shortly after finishing a one hour and 20 minute video conference on Monday with allied leaders from Europe and Nato.

The US has put 8,500 troops on high alert to deploy to Europe as Nato reinforced its eastern borders amid growing tensions over Ukraine.

In London, prime minister Boris Johnson’s office also said “the leaders agreed on the importance of international unity in the face of growing Russian hostility.”

Downing Street said the group stressed that diplomatic discussions with Russia remain the first priority, but said the nation would be hit with “swift retributive responses” if a “further Russian incursion into Ukraine” takes place.

“The leaders agreed that, should a further Russian incursion into Ukraine happen, allies must enact swift retributive responses including an unprecedented package of sanctions,” Downing Street said following the discussions lasting over an hour.

Washington is trying to maintain transatlantic and Nato unity against Russia, which supplies about 40% of the European Union’s natural gas.

The meeting came days after Biden revealed behind-the-scenes divisionsamong the Nato allies on how severe the response would be and as Germany faces criticism from Kyiv over its refusal to send defensive weapons to Ukraine.

Under efforts to deter Russian “aggression”, Biden said the leaders discussed preparations to “impose severe economic costs” against Moscow while seeking to “reinforce security on the eastern flank”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said “it is up to Russia to undertake visible de-escalation,” while Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg warned of “severe costs” if there is “any further aggression” by Moscow against Ukraine.

Also on the call were the leaders of France, Italy, Poland and the European Union.

The French government has announced that Russian and Ukrainian officials would meet, along with French and German counterparts, in Paris on Wednesday to try to find a way out of the impasse.

Despite insisting he has no intention of attacking, president Vladimir Putin has deployed more than 100,000 troops close to Ukraine, where Russia already seized Crimea in 2014 and backs a separatist army in the east.

Moscow is demanding a guarantee that Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, never be allowed to join Nato, as well as other concessions by the United States in return for a decrease in tension.

The United States and Nato have rejected the Russian demands and told Putin to withdraw from Ukraine’s borders, warning that a Russian attack will trigger damaging economic sanctions, as well as a beefed-up Nato presence in eastern Europe.

On Monday the US placed 8,500 troops on heightened alert to deploy to Europe as Nato reinforced its eastern borders with warships and fighter jets, amid growing fears of a possible “lightning” attack by Russia to seize the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said the troops, all of them currently stationed in the US, would be on standby to take part in Nato’s Response Force (NRF) if it is activated, but would also be available “if other situations develop”.

The alert order issued by the defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, reduces the number of days it would take to deploy but it is not itself an order to deploy.

The USS Harry S Truman aircraft carrier, along with its strike group and air wing, joined patrolling activities across the Mediterranean Sea on Monday, the first time since the cold war that a full US carrier group has come under Nato command.

Kirby said: “In the event of Nato’s activation of the NRF or a deteriorating security environment, the United States would be in a position to rapidly deploy additional brigade combat teams, logistics, medical, aviation, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, transportation and additional capabilities into Europe.”

Any deployment in Europe, he said, “is really about reassuring the eastern flank of Nato” of the US readiness to come to the defence of alliance members. The force would not be deployed in Ukraine, which is not a Nato member. There are currently about 150 US military advisers in the country, and Kirby said there were no plans at present to withdraw them.

Jen Psaki, the White House spokesperson, said the US had “a sacred obligation to support the security of our eastern flank countries”.

“We are talking to them about what their needs are and what security concerns they have. So I wouldn’t say it’s a response to an abrupt moment. It’s a part of an ongoing contingency planning process and discussion,” Psaki said.

Earlier on Monday, Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary general, said the “deteriorating security situation” had driven the military alliance to bolster its “collective defence”.

The Kremlin pointed to the new deployments as evidence of Nato aggressive posturing, blaming Nato for the rise in tensions. Its spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: “We see statements by the North Atlantic Alliance about reinforcement, pulling forces and resources to the eastern flank. All this leads to the fact that tensions are growing. This is not happening because of what we, Russia, are doing. This is all happening because of what Nato and the US are doing and due to the information they are spreading.”

In recent months Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s border and it is planning extensive military exercises in neighbouring Belarus and in the Mediterranean.

The Belarusian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, said on Monday he would deploy a “whole contingent of the army” to the border with Ukraine, alleging: “Ukrainians have begun to gather troops [there]. I don’t understand why.”

Boris Johnson warns Russia invading Ukraine would be 'painful, violent and bloody' – video
Boris Johnson warns Russia invading Ukraine would be 'painful, violent and bloody' – video

Russia continued preparations for sweeping naval exercises on Monday as the Baltic fleet announced that two corvettes had set sail to join in the military drills. The Kremlin has also dispatched six amphibious landing ships to the Mediterranean as part of the exercises, which will include 140 ships and more than 10,000 Russian troops.

The tensions have helped fuel instability in global markets, while Russia’s main stock index plunged and the central bank suspended foreign currency purchasing after the ruble slumped.

Washington is trying to maintain transatlantic unity to build a credible threat of sanctions as a deterrence against Moscow.

However, members of the 27-nation European Union have starkly differing approaches and ties to Russia.

The new government in EU economic powerhouse Germany in particular has faced anger from Kyiv over its refusal to send weapons to Ukraine, as well as hesitating over one of the harshest economic sanctions under discussion – cutting Moscow from the global SWIFT payments system.

Echoing other US warnings, Kirby said on Monday that intelligence shows “it’s very clear that the Russians have no intention right now of de-escalating.” However, some European leaders are signalling less alarm.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after talks with US top diplomat Antony Blinken that there was nothing to suggest an “immediate” Russian attack.

“You have to stay calm doing what you have to do, and avoid a nervous breakdown,” he said.

On Sunday and Monday the White House and Downing Street said they had started withdrawing diplomats’ families from Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government has criticised the withdrawals as “premature”. Ukrainian security experts said that Russia has not yet made the preparations necessary for a large-scale invasion, such as the deployment of combat units and establishment of medical facilities.

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of the national security and defence council, said he did not expect an imminent invasion and did not share the “panic” which he connected to “geopolitical and domestic” processes in the west.

“The buildup of Russian troops isn’t as rapid as some claim,” Danilov told the BBC’s Ukrainian service.

di  ,  ,  e  per "theguardian.com"