Countdown to the Unemployment Cliff: What about those eligibility changes and “suitable work” requirements?
On July 1, the federal emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) program will end in North Carolina and 70,000 out of work North Carolinians will lose access to this modest support (unless our state leaders take action).
In addition to creating the loss of EUC, HB 4 drastically cuts benefits. And that’s not all – HB4 eliminates several small, but crucial eligibility provisions and revises the “suitable work” requirements.
After July 1, 2013, North Carolinians will no longer be eligible for UI under:
- the family hardship provision, which allowed a worker to remain eligible for UI benefits if she lost a job solely because she was unable to accept work during a particular shift because of the inability to secure child care, eldercare, or care for a disabled family member.
- the disability and health provision, which allowed a worker to remain eligible for UI benefits if he left his job solely because he or his minor child, aged or disabled parent or other immediate family member have a disability or health condition that justifies leaving.
And HB4 redefines the types of jobs an unemployed worker would have to take to keep from being cut off from unemployment benefits. After the 10th week of unemployment, “suitable work” will now be defined as any employment offer paying 120 percent of the weekly benefit amount.
While other states similarly restrict the consideration of suitability, North Carolina’s definition of “suitable work” is among the more severe on the spectrum. A job paying 120 percent of the current average weekly benefit amount, for example, would pay $8.70 an hour. Already, the state’s average replacement rate of prior wages is 50.8 percent and under these changes that is likely to further drop. Requiring a worker to accept a job that pays a fraction of prior wages or risk losing temporary benefits, hurts not only that worker’s financial stability but depresses labor standards for all workers.