WASHINGTON, DC–Offering unemployment aid with "a huge potential upside" to the approximately 100,000 Americans who lost their jobs in the New Economy collapse, the government's new eBenefits stock-option plan is proving wildly popular among dot-commers.
"Instead of settling for a little cash to help them through rough times, victims of the Internet crash have the option of receiving valuable stock in a number of fast-growing U.S. companies," Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao said Monday. "In place of a traditional unemployment check for a few hundred dollars a week, laid-off dot-commers can receive stock options valued at five, ten, even twenty thousand dollars."
In lieu of traditional unemployment benefits, out-of-work dot-commers have the option of receiving stock in their former company, if still existent, or a mutual fund drawing from a diverse pool of Internet companies. Among the companies offered are getupandgo.com, "the world's largest online razor-scooter-accessory retailer," and naturalpet.com, "an oasis of information and communication for informed and enlightened pet owners."
Chao said 80 percent of unemployed tech-industry workers are choosing the stock option, jumping at the chance to "double, triple, or even quadruple the value of their unemployment checks."
"This is an extremely exciting, innovative form of unemployment," said Justin Reed, 27, one of 1,000 workers recently laid off at eToys. "It's going to totally revolutionize the way people think about government checks."
Susan Reyes, director of development for the now-defunct online sporting-goods retailer eZoomaboom!, agreed.
"This is a radical re-imagining of unemployment and, frankly, I'd be a fool not to get in on the ground floor of it," said Reyes, leaning on the mailbox outside her San Jose, CA, home while waiting for her monthly unemployment portfolio to arrive. "The future of unemployment benefits is bright–really bright."
While eBenefits recipients are not permitted to cash in or trade their stock for at least a year, Reyes spends much of her ample free time calculating her projected earnings at local coffee shops.
"Before I signed up for eBenefits, I was living check-to-check, stretching out my pitiful unemployment funds while looking for a new job," Reyes said. "Now, my situation has completely changed. I've got nearly unlimited future earning potential."
The unemployment package has proven so popular that a cottage industry of eBenefits-related web sites has sprung up in its wake.
"Governmentcheck.com is the first company to offer a full range of online services in tracking, trading, and projecting the growth potential of state unemployment checks," recently re-employed webmaster Sunil Parekh said at the site's launch party, held Saturday night at the Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco. "This is going to be big."
While a few laid-off dot-commers have sworn off the Internet sector altogether, most say their experience has not deterred them from trying again.
"Excuse me, but haven't you ever heard of the concept 'buy low, sell high'?" laid-off Dr.Koop.com employee Shawn Bennett asked. "Well, the market is at its lowest point in years."
Bennett went on to note that today's tech companies are "leaner" than ever.
"Companies like perfumewarehouse.com and crosswords.com have literally cut their budgets and payrolls by 90 percent in the last year," Bennett said. "They're primed for profit after reining in overspending and eliminating tons of dead weight by firing people like myself."
According to Chao, eBenefits was "a natural" under current economic conditions.
"While tech companies had no cash to pay into the unemployment system, they did have ample stock," Chao said. "That put the government in a unique position to offer this stock to the workers themselves. Bingo. A New Economy way of looking at the old problem of massive layoffs."
Fans of eBenefits also point out that owning thousands of dollars in stock has given laid-off tech workers the collateral needed to procure additional loans to cover their day-to-day expenses.
"At DotComCasualties.com, we specialize in providing pre-approved, no-questions-asked loans to recently unemployed programmers, network administrators, and outsourced content providers," company president and CEO Rodney Woods said. "Best of all, you can apply online."