Despite their years of Capitol Hill experience, half of the staff of lameduck Sen. Clifford P. Case (R-N.J.) say they can't find work and will be forced to live off unemployment checks beginning next month.
The Capitol Hill jobs scramble between congressional terms is not unusual, but Case's staff seems particularly hard hit. At least 14 employes making between $12,000 and $24,000 annually have been unsuccessfully job hunting since Case was beaten in the June 6 Republican primary by conservative Jeffrey Bell.
Their last day on the Senate payroll is Jan. 3. They plan to file en masse for unemployment benefits at the District of Columbia's Department of Labor on Jan 11, one week after they're out of work.
"Of course I'd rather work. But I've got three children in college so I can't afford to be proud," remarked one well-paid Case aide as she handed her resume to a reporter last week.
"Here, take this," she continued. "You never know what may come along."
Case's aides knew six months ago they would lose their jobs, but several said they're hitting the welfare line because it's difficult just getting an interview in their line of work.
"There isn't much else we can do right now," and legislative aide Mike Maloof. "We just have to accept this for a while. But the disturbing thing is that we have experienced and capable people on this staff. They shouldn't be out of work."
Aide Nancy Talmont said. "We're competing against 5,000 other resumes. There are a lost of qualified people looking for work in Washington. I know something will come along; it's just going to take time."
There is one cheery note: the D.C. labor department is sympathetic.
The department, which handles unemployment claims, has agreed to set aside special workers to handle the forms the Case staffers must file.
"I've arranged for a couple of people from the office to handle this," said one department official. "Rather than clutter up our office downstairs, we'll take care of them as a mass filing. It's a mutual thing because it helps us move them through quickly and it prevents them from having to wait three or four hours."
William Wilkerson, acting associate director of the department, said, "This is a normal thing when a group of people from one place are out of work. We sometimes do a group filing."
Wilkerson noted that most of the Case aides will be eligible for maximum benefits, which go up to $172 a week beginning Jan. 1, since they have drawn the minimum $15,000 a year salary required for top payments. They can collect those benefits for up to 34 weeks, although some could receive less, Wilkerson added.
Case should not be reached for comment, but his administrative aide, Frances Henderson, who is retiring, said, "The senator is aware of the situation but there isn't much he can do."
Most aides agreed and said they have not expected Case, despite his senatorial clout, to find them jobs. "We don't feel he should do much more than give recommendations," one staffer said.