Timothy Miller, 56, who made roof trusses at a Weyerhaeuser plant, had his family's health-insurance premium cut from $838 a month to about $400 when the program took effect. He desperately needs health insurance because his wife has a pituitary gland tumor and extensive diagnostic tests are needed.
Canaris, the quality-control engineer, is paying $400 of his family's $1,300 monthly premium while he looks for employment.
However, the health-insurance subsidy is an imperfect solution to the men's worries.
The health-insurance subsidy lasts only nine months and covers only workers laid off between September 2008 and the end of this year. It doesn't cover workers whose employer goes out of business, ending the health care plan altogether.
Green, the technology executive, has been getting by on his wife's health insurance from her $10-an-hour day care job. But she was recently told the day care center, subsidized by a bank for employees, would close Sept. 30.
"Thank God I'm almost old enough to get Medicare," Green says.
Reinvention at 55
Amid the sudden downward financial turn in their lives, theseunemployed men are seeking ways to reinvent themselves, personally and professionally.
They report unemployment has forced them to live healthier — less fast food and more homegrown vegetables.
Canaris is growing beets, potatoes and other vegetables that he never had time for before.
Miller has a garden, too, and the big, burly, blue-collar worker is riding a bicycle — an activity that surprises even him. He has lost 5 pounds.
Miller regrets he fell for easy credit to buy a nice truck during his high-paying days at Weyerhaeuser. "What was I thinking?" he wonders.
Today, he's thinking about becoming an electrician's apprentice, perhaps even an electrician. "The world's changing. I need to adapt."
Nearly all of these unemployed men have a plan — and a touch of optimism.
Canaris plans to get certification in performance excellence and statistical methods. That will make his quality-control skills more transferrable between industries.
He has leads on jobs in New Hampshire, West Virginia and Ohio. He may end up working for a defense contractor or a truck manufacturer. He has two interviews scheduled.
"All I know is I'm optimistic. I have skills and I'm opening up my range to new possibilities," he says.