Monday, March 25, 2013

The Situation (Day 15)

Some positive news in the job search today. I have one phone message back and one e-mail back asking to set up phone interviews.

Today was supposed to be my first day to certify with MARVIN, to verify that I've been unemployed and looking for the past two weeks and that I'm eligible for unemployment compensation for those two weeks. I was planning to certify online instead of using the phone system during my designated time window. The phone system is frequently overwhelmed with calls. But I discovered that to certify online I need to log in to a particular system with a password that was mailed to me but which I haven't gotten yet. My temporary password is now expired. So I guess I wait to see if it is in today's mail. If all else fails I can call the phone system on the open days, Thursday or Friday, and camp on the line until I get through.

Grace was out this morning applying for food benefits to help things. It so far has been a complicated but not too onerous process. I have to generate some bank statements and similar documents. I don't get any of that stuff in paper form any more but there are some online statements I can print out.

They want a mortgage statement, and I'm confused because we've never gotten anything I'd call a "statement" for our mortgage, either in paper or electronic form. Maybe we need to request one. Since the first few years' worth of payments pay primarily interest, I doubt we have accumulated much equity at all. We've only been paying for about 3 years on a 30-year mortgage. And whatever equity we've accumulated on paper might be imaginary, given that it could be impossible to sell the house for what we agreed to pay for it three years ago.

Which brings us to the question of our strategy: if I need to move for work, how do we get out of the house? The housing market here is, I think, still declining. We tried, three years ago, to imagine the job loss scenario and plan for it. That included asking ourselves whether unemployment would cover our mortgage payment for a while (it will) and involved trying to predict how far the local real estate market might fall. It seems to be still falling.

There are a couple of other things distracting me today. First, I need to finish our 2012 taxes so my oldest son can use the numbers to file some financial aid forms. That involves some phone calls to request some documents. That shouldn't take too long.

Second, a physician suggested we have all our young children tested for lead exposure. We thought their levels had all been OK, because we got letters to that effect, but then we got a second set of letters indicating that two of our children had high enough lead levels, measured in venous blood samples, to rate concern from the state, and a third is just below the level of concern. That "level of concern" used to be ten μg/dL. The CDC has recently lowered it to five. The four young children come in at 7, 4, 5, and 1, ranked from youngest to oldest. The rest of us have not been tested yet, although I think we should be.

We don't know the source. This is an old house, and presumably had lead paint, but to the best of my knowledge any lead paint "hot spots" have been covered over, maybe repeatedly. There are other possible sources -- lead water pipes, and lead from leaded gasoline in the soil. Whatever the source, this is a big concern for us. In very young children lead can cause intellectual and behavioral impairment even at low levels. We moved here to bring the kids closer to their grandmother. Damaging their brains was not actually any part of our intent.

We need to get our home thoroughly tested, and our water and soil as well. If the source of their lead exposure is this house, a place we thought was safe -- that's... potentially a big problem. If there is remediation that needs to be done here, that might involve the release of more lead particles, we will have to get Grace and the kids out of the house. They are a lot more vulnerable to lead exposure than I am. In that scenario I would probably stay here and just get my blood levels checked periodically. There's a small bright spot, in that we are might be eligible for assistance paying for any needed lead remediation -- at least, if they base it on my current income.

Lots to think about!

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