Berger: Benefits for 37,000 jobless still in limbo (with updates)

Senate GOP Leader Phil Berger said at his weekly press conference this morning that he has no immediate plan for dealing with the 37,000 unemployed workers whose benefits were cut off on April 16.

“No movement on that, for now,” Berger said, in response to a reporter’s question.

The long-term unemployed workers, who have been looking for jobs for well over a year, had their extended benefits cut off April 16 when a bill that would have allowed the federal funds to flow through to the workers was derailed. GOP members had attached a rider that would have forced Gov. Bev Perdue agree to major budget cuts.

Perdue, a Democrat, vetoed the unemployment bill, saying it irresponsibly put the worker’s lives in the middle of a state budget dispute.

She’s said she’ll sign a clean bill, and Democrats in both the House and Senate are trying to move a clean bill forward in hopes that some of the GOP-majority will cross party lines and support the bill.

Berger said he’s waiting for the governor to propose a compromise before taking action to restore the benefits.

“I’d like to hear back from her,” Berger said. (UPDATE: Perdue will sign a clean bill to extend the benefits, and only a clean bill, a spokeswoman said this afternoon. See below for more.)

We wrote last week about a Charlotte woman who is facing eviction now that her extended benefits have stopped.

But we still want to hear from others, and the situations they’re facing.

So if you’re one of the 37,000, please feel free to leave your comments and thoughts about what’s happening below. You can also email reporter Sarah Ovaska at [email protected]

UPDATE, 12:30 p.m.: Sen. Martin Nesbitt, the Senate Minority leader, said he’s continuing to try to get around the impasse set up over the unemployment benefits.

All 19 Senate Democrats have signed onto a measure that would allow the benefits to be restored, and separate the issue from the budget fight, Nesbitt said at a press conference he held late this morning.  So far, no Republicans have signed on, Nesbitt said.

They’ll need at least 15 of the GOP members to come aboard, with 2/3 of the 50 Senate members needed to move the measure forward.

Nesbitt did say that all Republican members have been emailed about the effort, and that he or others will be personally approaching them in the next week to see if they’re in favor of restoring the benefits or not.

The predicament of the 37,000 jobless highlights an emerging unemployable class of people, mostly older, that want to work but can’t find jobs, Nesbitt said.

“We’re going to have to help these people survive and are going to need to figure out how to re-employ them,” he said.

But, if Senate and House GOP leaders wanted to put forward a clean bill themselves, Nesbitt said it could be passed and benefits restored within a day.

Also, we’re waiting a call back from Perdue’s office to see what, if any, compromise she’d consider.

UPDATE No. 2, 2 p.m.: Perdue doesn’t have a compromise to offer Berger, other than to have the Legislature simply restore benefits, according to a statement from Chris Mackey, a Perdue spokeswoman.

Essentially, the ball’s in the Legislature’s court in Perdue’s eyes.

Here’s the statement from Mackey:

“The Governor has been clear, and this issue is not complicated. The Governor supports extended unemployment benefits. The legislature claims to support extended unemployment benefits. When the legislature sends a clean bill that extends unemployment benefits to her desk, she will sign it. No further discussion should be necessary.”

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