The unemployed in North Carolina are in limbo once again, with the extended benefits for some of the long-term unemployment expected to dry up on Jan. 28 – less than three weeks from today.
The N.C. Division of Employment Security  estimates 25,000 North Carolinians will be kicked off of their extended benefits by the end of the month, unless state officials take action in coming days to extend the federally-funded benefits past that date.
The anticipated Jan. 28 cut-off comes despite a two-month extension passed by the U.S. Congress on Dec. 23 that many thought would keep money flowing to the jobless to the end of February.
The state employment agency, known as the N.C. Employment Security Commission before being folded under the state’s commerce department, has posted a notice with limited information on its website about the cut-off .
As of December 23, Congress and the President authorized a two-month extension of emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) benefits and extended benefits. In North Carolina, the last payable week for extended benefits (EB) is expected to be January 28.
Each state handles its unemployment benefits differently and in North Carolina, where the 10 percent unemployment rate is higher than the nation’s 8.5 percent , the state needs to change the formula that takes into account past unemployment rates in the state in order to have the federal money flow through to the long-term unemployed, according to Larry Parker, the spokesman for the state agency.
Up until recently, North Carolina had a formula based on three years of economic data that made it eligible for the federal funds for longterm unemployed workers. But the state, at the end of 2011, reverted back to a formula based on two years worth of unemployment data and makes North Carolina ineligible for the federal funds, Parker said.
If this sounds like a familiar situation, it’s because it is.
The extended benefits for unemployed workers were held up in an impasse this spring when the N.C. General Assembly refused to okay the formula change that would have allowed federal benefits to flow through to workers. N.C. Gov Bev Perdue eventually issued an executive order that reinstated the benefits, but that formula change needs to be approved again.
The possibility of the benefits suddenly stopping will be added stress for those that have unemployed a year or more. For some, the average weekly benefit of $278.33 are lifelines to get by in a state with two-digit unemployment.
Parker said the employment division is “evaluating the possibilities of extending the three-year look back so those that are affected won’t lose benefits at the end of the month.”
But Parker didn’t say what those possibilities were nor answer questions asking what they were.
But one possibility would be another executive order from Perdue, similar to what she did last spring.
Perdue’s office did not have immediate comment about the situation and whether she’d be issuing an order.
It’s unlikely the change would come from the GOP-led legislature, where legislators have also taken issue with the $2.6 billion the state borrowed from the federal government to pay past unemployment insurance to workers.
They’re not scheduled to be back in session until mid-February and didn’t jump at the chance to fix the situation last spring, when more than 46,000 state residents were left in limbo without unemployment benefits.
Could you be affected by this? Reporter Sarah Ovaska wants to hear your story, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (919) 861-1463.