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Unemployment cliff could be reversed, if state Leg wills it

Though unlikely to happen, the North Carolina legislature could reverse an unemployment insurance cutoff that affected 70,000 people earlier this month.

An estimated $780 million in federal money set aside to pay extended benefits for long-term unemployed workers was rejected by North Carolina lawmakers earlier this year when the state opted to overhaul its unemployment system. The changes sought in the initial legislation included reductions in how long and how much people as well as a modest increase in what businesses are required to pay into the system.

Those changes and a July 1 start date for the new system made the state ineligible to receive the federal funds, the only state to turn down the funds.

To restore the federal money, state leaders would need to reach out the federal Department of Labor and renew an agreement about the extended benefits, according to Michael A’quino, a federal labor department spokesman.

“The Department would be open to talking through options with the state that restores the EUC program for their residents,” A’quino wrote in a statement.

But that doesn’t seem likely with no apparent support from Republicans in legislative leadership roles.

On Tuesday night, the Senate approved several technical changes to the the new unemployment system but rejected proposals made by several Democratic senators last night to  push back the changes to Jan. 1 and allow the federal benefits to flow through to unemployed workers (Video of last night’s debate is up over at Raleigh television station WRAL, discussion begins around the 19 minute mark.)

“We are the only state in the country that has put ourselves in a position that we don’t qualify for those benefits,” said state Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat pushing to reinstate the benefits.

But supporters of the changes argued that the unemployment system was in desperate need of reform and delaying the implementation of the new system would harm businesses owners and offer too much of a cushion to jobless workers.

Tuesday's Senate vote breakdown to make technical changes to unemployment bill but not restore benefits.  Source: WRAL steaming video.

Tuesday’s Senate vote breakdown to make technical changes to unemployment bill but not restore benefits.
Source: WRAL steaming video.

“You have people that want to ride the system out until it ends,” said state Sen. Harry Brown, a Republican from Jacksonville. “They’d rather just live off the system than get a job.”

Several Democrats joined their Republican colleagues in voting (37 to 11) to move forward with technical changes to the unemployment bill without extending the federal benefits.

Robin Hewitt, an unemployed woman from Fuquay-Varina, rejects the notion that she milked the system and said she’s been left destitute since her benefits stopped on July 1.

Hewitt lost a $50,000 annual salary job in a company’s accounts payable department in April 2012 and has been unable to find replacement work. Since then, she and  her 77-year-old mother have moved out of a Fuquay-Varina rental home and lived out of their cars for several days this month before moving in with a relative in South Carolina.

Hewitt expects her car to be repossessed any day, after falling behind on car payments.

While living out of their cars, the mother and daughter showered in outdoor showers and used library restrooms to keep themselves presentable, Hewitt said. Nights were spent in Wal-Mart parking lots.

She said she’s applied for hundreds of jobs in both Carolinas, but without any offers.

“At this point, it’s not even about recouping my old life,” Hewitt said. “It’s just about making a life again and having something to fall back on.”

Hewitt said she tries to remain optimistic that she’ll be able to rebuild her life once she finds a job. But she’s been unable so far to find anyone to hire her.

“There’s no one else to help us,” she said.

7 Comments

  1. yvette

    July 24, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    This is terrible that this woman and her mom are living in a car. She has applied to many jobs like myself and no one is hiring, esp if you are older and unemployed. The NC leaders do not want to do anything about it, that means they would have to admit they made a mistake and their ego’s can’t allow that. How shameful this entire event is. I am sickened by this whole thing.

  2. Doug

    July 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Yeah….lets add another billion or so to that $2,400,000,000 that we already are struggling to pay back. Your amount above would make the total $3,180,000,000 that we cannot afford and struggle to pay back. Then when the next deadline rolls around you guys would advocate for another hundreds of millions on top of that. I guess progressivism skipped the course on economics and fiscal responsibility.

  3. david esmay

    July 25, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Oh look, Doog is trying to portray the Rubepublicans as the party of fiscal responsibility, the same party who destroyed the world’s economy and exploded debt and deficits.

  4. Doug

    July 25, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    Oh, and may-may, you need to go back to the Clinton administration promoting the CRA and loans to people who could not pay back as the basis for your destruction of the economy. That was a liberal boondoggle if there ever was one.

  5. Janet

    July 26, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Those who have never walked a mile in the shoes of the unemployed have no idea of just how really awful it is. I, like yvette, had a good job with a company with whom I had hoped to reach retirement. I lost my job at age 59 and have been unable to find employment. It’s been two and a half years and I can tell you, just as anyone else who has been through something similar can tell you, older workers are not wanted in the workforce. We’re not moochers who are riding out the system. I’m sure there are some unemployed people who do that but for most of us, that isn’t the case. What this state has done to its hurting residents is shameful.

  6. Doug

    July 26, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    Woo hoo. May-may stopped taking his meds agian. Welcome back….I missed trolling you.

  7. Gee

    July 27, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Doug, you do realize the EUC is federally funded right?

    I’m originally from Connecticut and had to find out the hard way that the grass is not always greener, even if it is visually. North Carolina has taught me a valuable lesson about the South. NC job market is horrendous. Many corporate companies try to squeeze every cent they could out of a honest, hard-working individual. I witnessed first-hand a company let go 3 of their own employees and never replace them. Instead, they tried dividing their responsibilities amongst the 2 contracted employees, who where making significantly less and not covered by their benefits. This has now become the American way of business.

    No longer is it what you know nor education status… it’s who you know. NC unemployed are not receiving calls because companies are looking to underpay while stockpiling the responsibilities and the republican party is okay with that. How could you seriously tell an individual who is barely making a living to accept underemployment because they are unemployed by no fault of their own? Also plenty of false advertisement going on with these job posts. No one is really hiring because the current state of the state has been strategically planned by those heavily right-winged puppeteers.

    Pattie Mac and the NC republican party could care less about the people and more about creating more of a gab between the rich and poor… or what ever classifications you want to call it.

    I left NC July 14th to return to a struggling CT, yet I’ve already had 4 interviews (4 times as many as I’ve had in NC in the past 1.5 years) and have landed a job in Stamford, CT. So to conclude, I believe everything being pushed through in Raleigh makes one huge statement:

    The southerners in power want their state back… this term will be their version of “The Purge”. Rich finding legal ways to exile or even kill off the poor.