Working at home…using the computer…the dream of single moms and stay-at-home dads, may be more difficult than you think, if you want to do it legally!
I live in a small town [pop. -2,700] in the rural south. My wife and I have been here for almost 10 months, and job opportunities are few and far between. I’m 60-going-on-61, and my wife will be 58 in two months. Yes, we tried the traditional options, such as the classifieds and the local state job service. Unfortunately, those options are not viable in this environment.
The wife has 12 years experience as a cashier, but even a convenience store job is not an option. Every application requires her to verify she can lift 50 lbs, and she only weighs 90 lbs. I’ve looked for factory and warehouse jobs, but they invariably require 12-hour shifts in non-air conditioned facilities, where the temperature can easily reach 100 degrees in the summer months. That’s not exactly the ideal environment for a man of my age with high blood pressure.
To add to those woes, all of our job histories and references are from “up north,” and I can’t help but believe local employers would rather “hire their own.” There is nothing illegal about that, but there’s also no way to fight the local mores’. It is what it is. The next issue is the “buyer’s market” that most employers enjoy today. They would rather hire through a temp agency than take on the costs and responsibilities of a full-time, direct employee, and this particular state’s laws allows for the agency fees to be deducted from the employee’s paycheck! As a result, a $10 per hour job may only net the temp employee $5 per hour.
So, I determined the next best alternative was to work from home. My ideas included acting as an on-line consignment shop and working on commission, doing web site design, and other possibilities. Always being one who wished to act within the law, and “render unto Caesar what is his,” I went to the local town hall and asked about licensing permits and fees. What a shock that was!
At first, I was told I would have to pay two fees – one of $15 and another of $25 – which didn’t sound too bad; however, I got the disclaimer from the town official that it would require further “research” of the local ordinances, and thus came the proverbial slap in the face. Realistically, personal computers have been commonplace for twenty years. Working from home, using your personal computer, should not be an “alien concept.” Unfortunately, I was thrown back at least thirty years.
To my stunned amazement, I was informed that town regulations, while addressing work-at-home businesses, had no “category” for using a computer to conduct said business. This would require a $150 application fee to have it included in the local codes. After paying said fee, I would then have to attend a meeting of the town board of directors, and “petition” them for a zoning variance, just to allow me to use my computer to make money. As if that wasn’t enough of a hassle, the town board of directors would then have to send a letter to everyone in my neighborhood, asking if they would mind me running a computer business from my bedroom! And that would cost me $7 for every letter they sent out. To add insult to injury, after paying all those fees, there was no guarantee I would be “allowed” to use my computer to conduct business.
You can call me a Conspiracy Theorist, but I can’t help but wonder if the town board would shoot down my applications, while a nephew named Bubba, Dean, or Earl turned my idea into a reality with the full backing of the board.
I don’t want this to be taken as an indictment of local government – though I have my doubts – but it certainly fits in with a huge election year issue, which is Job Creation. Add to that the issue of cash-strapped municipalities that need to increase revenue without raising taxes.
Before we accuse our State and Federal politicians of job-killing, revenue-killing activities, perhaps we should look in our own back yards. I know I won’t be generating local revenue any time soon.