Gov. Cooper vetoes GOP bill cutting off federal unemployment benefits

Governor Roy Cooper

Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday vetoed a bill that would have ended the extra $300-a-week in federal money that unemployed people in the state receive.

Republicans pushed the bill, saying the federal unemployment insurance supplement s contributing to a labor shortage because it keeps people from looking for work.

Others argue that it’s a lack of childcare, worry about contracting COVID, or people seeking jobs better than the ones they had that’s contributing to the struggles employers are having filling vacancies.

More than 20 Republican-led states have opted out of the federal unemployment supplement.

All North Carolina Senate Democrats voted against the bill, making it unlikely that the legislature will be able to override Cooper’s veto. The federal unemployment supplement is set to expire September 6 of this year. Three House Democrats joined Republicans in passing the bill by a vote of 66-44.

Senate bill 116 also directed $250 million from this year’s federal rescue plan be used for subsidized childcare.

Senate Republicans initially proposed offering signing bonuses to people who took jobs, anticipating Cooper would veto a measure cutting off the federal supplement.

Cooper, a Democrat, said in his veto message that ending the supplemental benefit would hurt the state.

“Unemployment is declining with more people getting vaccinated and into the workforce as North Carolina has strengthened work search requirements for those receiving benefits,” Cooper said in a statement.

“The federal help that this bill cuts off will only last a few more weeks and it supplements North Carolina’s state benefits, which are among the stingiest in the country. Prematurely stopping these benefits hurts our state by sending back money that could be injected into our economy with people using it for things like food and rent. I support strong efforts to make more quality childcare available and to provide businesses with funds for hiring bonuses and the bill falls short on both of these.”

ProPublica last year called North Carolina the worst state to be unemployed. Republicans beginning in 2013 restricted eligibility and cut maximum benefits and the duration of benefits.

A working paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco published in May posited that the federal unemployment supplement contributed slightly to job-finding rates.

The estimated impact of the extra $300 is “that each month in early 2021, about seven out of 28 unemployed individuals receive job offers that they would normally accept, but one of the seven decides to decline the offer due to the availability of the extra $300 per week in UI payments,” they wrote.

Senate leader Phil Berger’s office did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. In a statement on Medium, Berger said manufacturers will end up sending jobs to other countries.

“It’s a shame to see Gov. Cooper incentivize people not to work instead of addressing our state’s severe labor shortage,” Berger wrote.

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