North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, in an interview aired yesterday on a Charlotte radio station, downplayed cuts to unemployment benefits caused by made this year to the state’ s unemployment insurance system.
“We didn’t take away unemployment benefits,” McCrory said on WFAE’s “Charlotte Talks” program in response to a question about cuts to the unemployment insurance system. “We didn’t extend them. We were following the existing policy.”
The state, through legislation signed into law in February by McCrory, did cut both the length of time a person can collect unemployment (reduced from six months to a sliding scale of 12 to 20 weeks) and also cut the maximum weekly benefit from $535 to $350 a week. The cuts were part of an extensive plan to repay more than $2.6 billion the state unemployment insurance system borrowed during the height of the recession.
The July 1 effective date of those reductions, in turn, made North Carolina the only state to turn down federal extended unemployment benefits, which the federal labor department estimated would have provided more than $700 million in help through the end of the year to 170,000 long-term unemployed workers.
“To say we didn’t reduce our core benefits, that’s not true,” said John Quinterno of the Chapel Hill-based South by North Strategies, which studies labor market issues, about McCrory’s comments. “There are cuts all over the place.”
McCrory spoke about the changes made in a law he signed earlier this year in an hour-long interview Monday with Mike Collins, the host of WFAE’s “Charlotte Talks” program. (Click here to listen to the entire interview). McCrory also discussed the decision to not expand Medicaid, a potential raise for teachers next year and his rocky relationship with the capital press corps, among other topics.
When asked by Collins about whether, his July delivery of a plate of cookies to abortion rights protestors outside the Governor’s Mansion was a good idea in hindsight, McCrory remarked he didn’t care.
“I don’t care, I felt like doing it,” he said. “Who cares?”
Calls to McCrory’s press office for clarification about his statements on the radio program were not immediately returned. This post will be updated when we hear back.
In the interview, McCrory also characterized the unemployment changes as a decision to not extend benefits beyond 90 weeks, a benefit that the state system never provided. The state system previously allowed for up to 26 weeks, or six months, with federal funds extending that amount of time during the recent economic recession.
“I made a decision, a very difficult decision with my colleagues to say we’re not going to extend unemployment beyond 90 weeks,” McCrory said. “We’re going to start paying off the principal of the loan.”
WFAE also noted in a post Monday afternoon that McCrory was wrong in Monday’s interview when he said that IBM and his former employer Duke Energy are no longer offering their employees health insurance because of the federal Affordable Care Act. Both companies are still providing health insurance to staff, but have changed the way retirees’ health insurance is handled.