House Republicans rebuffed half a dozen amendments by Democrats Monday evening to revise House Bill 4, approving legislation to overhaul the state’s unemployment insurance system.
Rep. Julia Howard said the bill is needed to repay $2.5 billion to the federal government borrowed to pay jobless claims during the Great Recession. Howard told her colleagues the fact that the debt is still outstanding is making North Carolina competitively disadvantaged in attracting new jobs.
As written, the bill would replace 26 weeks of state-paid jobless benefits with a sliding cap of 12 to 20 weeks. The maximum weekly unemployment benefit would drop to $350 under this proposal. And unemployment insurance taxes paid by employers would rise for the next three years, until the debt is paid.
Rep. Winkie Wilkins said the bill, which would take effect July 1st, would jeopardize federal emergency unemployment benefits, cutting off 80,000 families prematurely and removing $25 million from the state’s economy each week.
But such appeals failed to persuade the majority party.
Rep. Robert Brawley told the chamber:
“Nobody can stay on permanent unemployment. The reason they’ve been unemployed 3 1/2 years is because the federal government has done absolutely nothing but criticize people that try to succeed.”
One more vote in the state House on Tuesday and the bill heads to the Senate. To watch a portion of Monday’s debate, click below: