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The 8th Moral Monday protest brought an estimated 2,000 demonstrators to N.C. General Assembly. Many in this week’s crowd questioned the wisdom of state lawmakers to reject extended federal unemployment benefits, allowing 70,000 North Carolinians to fall off an unemployment cliff July 1st.

Click below to hear from some of the protesters in their own words:

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As Sarah Ovaska details in the post below, in less than a week and a half, more than 70,000 North Carolinians will see their extended federal unemployment benefits dry-up as major changes take effect with the state’s employment security law.

Lawmakers, who fast-tracked this legislation earlier in the session, believe it will improve the state’s business outlook to repay the federal government more quickly the $2.5 billion borrowed at the height of the Great Recession.

But Bill Rowe with the NC Justice Center points out that the federal emergency extension of benefits is already drawing to an end for states at the end of the year. By prematurely making these changes to the state system now, North Carolina is rejecting $600 million to $700 million dollars in federal money over the next six-months that would be pumped directly into local communities:

“When unemployed folks get those dollars, they are going to pay their landlords, they are going to pay their banks, they are going to pay their utility companies, they are going to buy the necessities for their families. And in some communities that are really hard hit by unemployment,those dollars are going to make a big difference for those small businesses,” explains Rowe. “It’s a two hit here, we’re going to hurt some families, but we’re also going to hurt some families that run some businesses.”

Rowe believes legislative leaders with the political will could add a provision to the state budget changing the effective date of the new law from July 1 to January 1, 2014 and allow the emergency benefits to remain in effect through December.

So far, neither budget negotiators nor Gov. Pat McCrory have expressed an interest in doing that.

For a preview of Rowe’s weekend radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon, click below. Also be sure to read Friday’s Fitzsimon File, which has more on the unemployment cliff.

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House of RaefordMaking good on predictions issued earlier this year, House of Raeford Farms has given notice to the state Department of Commerce under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act (aka the “WARN Act”) that it will be closing its slaughter plant and two support facilities in Raeford as early as July 13. The closures will result in the loss of 1,060 jobs in the small Hoke County community (population 4,600). Click here to read the letter sent by House of Raeford on May 10 as well as a May 13 memo from Commerce Assistant Secretary Roger Shackleford on the subject.   Read More

In today’s “Friday Follies” edition of his column Chris Fitzsimon reminds us of how remarkably prescient House Speaker Thom Tillis was in his October 2011 speech to Madison County Republicans in which spelled out his plan for dividing and conquering people “on assistance” in our state. Now, as Chris notes, the dividing and conquering has moved on to outright punishment.

In case you’ve forgotten the specifics of Tillis’ offensive remarks, we’re happy to offer an encore presentation below. 

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The North Carolina Bar Association’s Labor & Employment Law Council — a group whose members represent both employees and employers delivered a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger this morning asking him to slow down the legislation that would slash the state’s unemployment insurance system. According to the letter:

“We understand that these changes will result in a loss of approximately $225,000,000 in unemployment benefits from July 1, 2013 through December 1, 2013 and an additional loss of $350,000,000 in federal funds that would otherwise flow into the State for extended benefits during the same period.

We are concerned that the loss of these funds will not only seriously impact the families of workers who remain unemployed through no fault of their own, but also the local businesses that would inevitably suffer as citizens fail to pay their mortgage/rent, utilities, and transportation costs, and are unable to purchase food and other necessaries for themselves and their families.

We believe that there has not been adequate time for public comment or study of the full (and possibly unintended) consequences of these changes.”     

Click here to view the letter in its original format.