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Senator Malcolm Graham appealed to his colleagues again on Wednesday to pass a clean bill extending federal jobless benefits to 46,000 long-term unemployed North Carolinians.

The Mecklenburg County Democrat told the Senate the federal benefits extension had no place in the state budget bill.

Senator Tom Apodaca responded that the quickest way for Democrats to “do the right thing” would be to pass the Republican’s budget. Read More

Rep. Stephen LaRoque, a Kinston Republican, was the subject of this Huffington Post story earlier this afternoon, where it reported he paid one of the 46,000 jobless workers without unemployment benefits $8-an-hour to do yard work at his house.

The Huffington Post story gave mention to a testy email exchange Treadway and LaRoque had on Thursday. Scroll down this post to read the content of that email.

Kathryn “Cinnamon” Treadway spoke to N.C. Policy Watch as well today, and said she only did an hour’s worth of work because LaRoque wanted her to haul away large tree limbs and other heavy manual labor that she didn’t think she could physically do on such a hot day.

“He did give me $8 for the hour I was there, and that covered the gas to get there and back,” she said. “It was embarrassing; I was embarrassed to go to this man’s house who was obviously wealthy. I was the valedictorian of my high school and here I am, sitting here picking weeds out of his yard for $8 an hour.”

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It looks like legislators will wait until after the Memorial Day holiday to take further action on legislation that would extend federal jobless benefits to some 45,000 North Carolinians who lost their benefits in mid-April.

The House Rules Committee voted Wednesday along party lines for a measure that would restore benefits for the long-term jobless workers, but the extension remains tied to the passage of the state budget.

Rep. Paul Luebke, who voted against that measure in committee, says it is simply “illogical” to try to force the Governor to support the state budget by withholding federal benefits for thousands of unemployed workers. Read More

The number of people being affected by a standoff in the state legislature over unemployment benefits has ticked upwards again, now at 43,000 and 46,000 people.

The new estimate was released by the N.C. Employment Security Commission. Today marks the 40th day since April 16, when the benefits stopped for an estimated 37,000 people.

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The  42,000 to 45,000 North Carolinians cut off from  their extended unemployment benefits since April 16 will have to wait longer, if GOP Senate Leader Phil Berger’s move to fix the stalemate is hinged to the state budget process.

Berger, in a press conference this morning, said the restoring the benefits (which are funded solely through federal sources) would have to wait and become part of the new state budget, which is supposed to take effect on July 1 if it manages to pass it time.

“Whenever it is approved, it will be retroactive,” he said.

But that comes as thousands of the jobless are juggling the sudden lack of money coming in, and are facing evictions, foreclosures or going without food, medicine and electricity. (Go here to see an update on a Charlotte woman who is facing eviction, or go to www.ncpolicywatch.com/jobless for all of our coverage on the standoff.)

The state legislature initially had to approve a formula change in April in order to keep the benefits continuing to flow to workers, a routine measure that would normally take up a day’s time and many states passed without any problems.  But instead of doing that, GOP leaders in the legislator linked the approval to the state budget and would have forced Gov. Bev Perdue to agree to a budget with deep cuts to education and other state agencies. Perdue vetoed the measure, saying that it irresponsibly put the lives of the jobless in the middle of a political fight over the state budget.

Today, Berger again tried to shift blame to Perdue, a Democrat, when he responded to questions from reporters about why GOP legislators had worked out a recent compromise on the State Health Plan, and not done the same with  restoring the unemployment benefits.

“It’s different because we were able to engage in some level of dialogue in terms of a compromise and we just don’t see where that’s materialized on this issue,” Berger said.

Perdue has repeatedly said she’ll sign a clean bill if she’s given one. Her office is expected to respond to Berger’s comments later today.

Democrats in both the House and Senate have tried to move forward clean bills, but haven’t been able to convince enough Republicans to join them.