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Jobless mother is encouraged

Obama’s speech offers some hope

Elizabeth Phillips, 29, said she President Obama a “10 out of 10’’ in his speech last night. Elizabeth Phillips, 29, said she President Obama a “10 out of 10’’ in his speech last night. (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff)
By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / September 9, 2011

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Elizabeth Phillips has had little to cheer about since she lost her job more than three years ago.

But the 29-year-old single mother, who lives in a Dorchester three-decker, was encouraged after watching President Obama last night unveil a $450 billion proposal to revive the economy and create jobs for people just like her.

“I give it a 10,’’ she said after Obama’s address, while her son Jakyius, 8, changed the laces in his sneakers in the next room.

Phillips said Obama’s call for extending unemployment benefits could help people who find themselves in the predicament she encountered last October. That’s when her benefits expired, after she fought for nearly a year to get them in the first place.

Now, Phillips said, she relies on just over $500 a month in government assistance while she recovers from an injury that took her out of the workforce in February 2008.

She slipped on a patch of black ice and hurt her back, making it impossible to stand or sit for long stretches of time. She had worked at a telemarketing company.

“It was a horrible job, but I needed the money’’ to take care of Jakyius, Phillips said.

After two years on the job, she said she was earning at least $1,400 a month, including commissions, selling phone equipment and plans.

Since then, there has been no job, only disappointment.

Now, she and her son face possible eviction after she fell behind on her rent.

Phillips is applying for disability benefits while she continues to recuperate from her injury.

“It makes you feel defeated when you have to go back to government assistance,’’ she said.

But the president’s pledge last night to help the unemployed develop new skills resonated with Phillips. In November 2010, she completed a job training certification program run by Goodwill, with help from Action for Boston Community Development, an advocacy group.

That agency also helped her apply for fuel assistance and placed Jakyius in an after-school program.

She hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree en route to a new career in counseling, perhaps as a grief counselor or at a rape crisis center.

As Obama finished his speech, Phillips said she agreed with many of his proposals for job growth.

She was, however, keenly aware of the partisan gridlock on display last night that may impede passage of a jobs bill, as Democrats often rose to applaud while Republicans remained seated.

Phillips smiled when the entire chamber erupted in enthusiastic cheers after Obama said the country could not wait until the next election cycle to get to work on job growth.

“Everybody’s standing on that,’’ she said. “If they can find bin Laden, they should be able to find jobs for people.’

Travis Andersen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.