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.

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