37,000? Could be more like 45,400 jobless hostages as stalemate lingers (with update)

The number of unemployed North Carolinians who had their benefits suddenly cut off when their  federally-funded benefits were held up by GOP state legislators has grown.

As many as 45,400 may be affected, according to rough estimates provided by N.C. Employment Security Commission spokesman Larry Parker

The ESC believes that 2,100 people exhaust their existing unemployment benefits each week in the state, and almost all would have been eligible for the extended benefits if the impasse at the state Legislature wasn’t blocking payments, Parker said.

(The N&O had a good explainer yesterday about how the situation came to be at the hands of GOP legislators, for those that need a refresher.)

So, on top of the initial estimate of 37,000 that lost their benefits on April 16, the four weeks that have gone by have potentially added up to 8,400 more people to the ranks of those being affected, bringing the sum total to 45,400, according to ESC estimates.

That’s enough to populate a small city. Kannapolis, in Western North Carolina, had a population of 43,404 in a 2009 estimate by the U.S. Census.

If the stalemate holds on to this summer, the maximum number of affected people could be 60,100 on July 1. That’s 11 weeks after the showdown began and the speculated date to have the benefits start back up if a fix is slipped in the state budget that’s mandated to go into effect that day.

Not all of the people caught up in this situation would be getting weekly checks, if the state legislature restored the benefits, Parker said. Some of the 37,000 were at the end of their extended benefits, and would have rolled off them by now. Others may be getting jobs and are back in the workforce.

The ESC will have to re-examine all claims before sending out checks if and when the state Legislature opts to restore the unemployment benefits, Parker said.

It’s also not clear if those people that have gone without benefits will get those back retroactively. That’s all up to how the legislature wants to act, Parker said.

“It depends on how the bill is written,” he said.

For those keeping a close eye on this, House and Senate Democrats are holding another press conference at 1:30 p.m. today to talk about the plight of the 37,000 – or 45,400 – jobless workers at the N.C. General Assembly.

They’ve been trying to push a clean bill, which Gov. Bev Perdue has said she’ll sign, but have yet to get the Republican support they’ll need to get it passed.

WRAL will be live-streaming the press conference, or you can listen in to the audio by going to the N.C. Legislature’s website and clicking on the link to the Press Conference Room.

UPDATE (3:41 p.m.) Two things. First, Democrats at today’s press conference continued to say they want to convince their Republican colleagues to support a measure that would restore the unemployment benefits, and leave the fight over the state budget to another time. There’s not much change in the breakdown, and they’re hoping that some GOP members will be willing to break away from leadership.

Second point: N.C. Policy Watch launched a webpage today that gathers all of our content about the jobless workers. We’ll update it daily, and it offers a place for affected people to share the realities of their sitation. Go to www.ncpolicywatch.com/jobless.

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