House OKs unemployment changes

Posted June 5, 2014

Unemployed worker, jobless

— State House lawmakers on Thursday tentatively approved a package of changes to their 2013 overhaul of the unemployment insurance system.

House Bill 1061 requires job seekers to show proof they've sought five jobs per week, instead of two. It also codifies the agency's new requirement that benefit recipients show photo identification in a face-to-face meeting at a local unemployment office within four weeks of receiving their first check. 

The legislation also clarifies that the state does not have to release records of contested unemployment cases to attorneys every day.

Employment attorney Monica Wilson sued the state earlier this year after Division of Employment Security director Dale Folwell announced he would end the 10-year practice of handing out paper copies of upcoming case notices to lawyers every morning. Folwell said it was unfair to more distant law firms.

The issue led to a legal standoff. A Wake County judge ordered the state to continue the daily release of records, while the U.S. Department of Labor ordered the state to stop the release, saying it violates federal law.

Bill sponsor Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, said the federal agency asked the state to make the change.

House Democrats used the vote as an opportunity to criticize the 2013 unemployment overhaul. 

Rep. Ken Waddell, D-Columbus, tried unsuccessfully to amend the measure to change the formula the state uses to compute the maximum number of weeks of benefits. It's based on the statewide unemployment rate.

Because the statewide rate has dropped to 6.2 percent as of April, the maximum length of benefits is scheduled to drop again July 6. The new maximum will be 14 weeks – one of the shortest durations of any state in the country.

Waddell said his rural county. where the jobless rate is higher, hasn't yet seen the "Carolina Comeback" that Republican leaders have been touting.

"These folks are hurting. They really are,"  he said.

Howard spoke against the change, saying it would delay by a year the payoff of state employers' $2.7 billion debt to the federal government for jobless benefits during the recent recession. 

Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, said the average weekly jobless benefit in North Carolina has dropped from $301 before the 2013 overhaul to $227 now. 

"Friends, you are hurting the working people of this state. You're also hurting your local economy," Luebke said. 

"We’ve made it more difficult for people to qualify, we’ve reduced the amount they can receive, and we changed the way we count the numbers, so unemployment appears to be lower," said House Minority Leader Larry Hall.

But Republicans defended the changes. Rep. John Blust , R-Guilford, cited the rapid decline in the state's unemployment rate over the past year.

"There have been tens of thousands of new jobs. North Carolina is one of the leading states in the nation for job creation. So, the approach the majority is taking appears to be working," Blust said. "The plan is working. This is just fine-tuning it."

The vote was 77-39, along party lines. House lawmakers will take a final vote on the measure next week. It then goes to the Senate.


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  • Rebelyell55 Jun 9, 2014

    I reallly don't understand the changes. When I was laid off, I had to show proof job search, and they were way more than required since I was looking every day. I also had to show my ID when I first when up there back in 2008 to apply. While I far exceeded the number of job search required, the funny part was many were Web site searches, because a lot of company requested you apply on line. The lady at the agency asked me did I have permission to do this? I looked at her and told her lady , most of these places require you to apply on line. You kidding me right? She didn't have a clue. No wonder so many get very little help from them.

  • goldenosprey Jun 9, 2014

    "There's a difference between being "fortunate" and "saving money for a rainy day". 50S child

    You were fortunate if you were not living hand-to-mouth like many wage earners, and could actually save money after paying the rent, buying the food, buying the clothes, and if you're really flashy, seeing a doctor. If you make under $30K a year that's almost impossible.

  • icdumbpeople Jun 9, 2014

    You have to show a photo id? What?

  • NYtoNC81 Jun 9, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Couldn't have said it better myself. Absolutely correct. If you settle for a job you are overqualified for it not only hurts you, but hurts the little man who is trying to hack out a living the best he can for his family by taking a job he would actually be qualified for.

  • goldenosprey Jun 9, 2014

    View quoted thread

    If that is the case, they lose eligibility for benefits. Turning down "suitable work" is an automatic DQ. And "suitable work" has been redefined as anything paying close to your UI check after ten weeks even if you are an accountant. If you can flip burgers for $8 an hour and burden our EBT and medicaid system, start flipping, So spare us the dead-beat hate.

  • Alan Baker Jun 9, 2014
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    View quoted thread

    Look up "straw man argument" and then come back. You should be commended for planning and it's nice that everything worked out such that that planning made it possible for you to get by. However, there are many many reasons why someone might have problems living without income for nine months or more besides the dog whistles you list. ("oh, those poor people wtih their cell phones and sneakers! If only they were smart and only invested in America and Norman Rockwell commemorative plates like you and me!")

    You *were lucky*; you're only dumb if you fail to recognize just how lucky you were.

  • 50s Child Jun 6, 2014

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    There's a difference between being "fortunate" and "saving money for a rainy day". I was laid off, never did find work though I wanted it badly, and now I'm retired anyway. How "fortunate" I was to have thought ahead and planned all those years, right? I sure was lucky not to have bought a new car every three years, new cell phone every six months, closet full of clothes and shoes, 3 or 4 kids with no husband. Yep, that's me, just dumb and lucky.

  • Alan Baker Jun 6, 2014
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    I'm not sure I understand your point. In all your cases you'd have been without income for literally months, regardless of how hard you were looking. Yes, you found a job and it's lovely you had the savings to live completely without income for almost 9 months. Others may not be so fortunate, even if they're looking every bit as hard as you did.

  • lasm Jun 6, 2014

    I lost a job of 10 years during the "decline". I applied for 425 jobs in 13 months-an average of over 1 job per day-counting weekends. The jobs are listed on more than one website. But, you have to put in the time; and when you aren't working-and NEED to work-what else should you be doing than LOOKING & APPLYING. The computer age makes it a lot easier & a lot cheaper to apply. And don't say that everyone does not have a computer-use of computers at the library is free. After 15 months, that job ended. After 8 months of searching, I found another job. This time, during those 8 months, I applied for over 225 jobs-average of 1 per day, counting weekends. Both of these jobs were steps DOWN. It you need to work, if you want to work, you CAN find work. You may have to work your way back up-that's called "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. By the way, the 2nd time I was on unemployment it was for less wks by 1/2; AND the amount was 1/2. Stop whining-get to work applying.

  • tgiv Jun 6, 2014

    I don't have a problem requiring people to prove they are actively looking. The idea that unemployment before was cushy is laughable. What we have now is nothing more than a roadmap to welfare and foodstamps for people who aren't blessed with finding work quickly.