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.


This blog post is closed for comments.

Newest First
View all
  • randall0123a Jun 5, 2014

    Perfect. If you can't find a job after 14 weeks then either you are not trying or you need a new skill set.

  • European American Jun 5, 2014

    View quoted thread

    And how long do you think it takes to acquire a new skill set?

  • Derek Fisher Jun 5, 2014
    user avatar

    Goes to show if you don't pay people to sit at home they will find a job. It might not be job you want but you will find a job.

  • Dean Logan Jun 5, 2014
    user avatar

    5 jobs per week? Not in this economy, no matter the field.

  • Kenny Dunn Jun 5, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Perhaps you will find yourself unemployed at some point. It might affect your perspective. I was, but due to good fortune and friends did not need government assistance. Many are not so fortunate.

  • Alan Baker Jun 5, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    You might. Of course that low-paying job with zero advancement and long hours may well mean you'll never find your way back to doing the job you're trained and qualified for. Yes, the world will always need ditches dug but forcing someone into that position (particularly when their previous job was supposed to be paying unemployment insurance against just this eventuality) is incredibly short-sighted. It allows the small and mean-spirited to feel momentarily good about sticking it to those deadbeats they keep hearing about, but that's about it.

  • sanford1259 Jun 5, 2014

    I hope all the unemployed and underemployed citizens of NC remember who our legislature was really working for over the past two years. Apparently to our legislature, you only matter if you are wealthy or you are a corporation.

  • MarkNC Jun 5, 2014

    If you make a mistake with UI benefits you can be accused of fraud. You have already received the benefits when your UI weekly forms are reviewed. With a 5 jobs per week rule, the number of fraud cases will increase due to technical mistakes.

  • teleman60 Jun 6, 2014

    I'm curious? Where and who created these "THOUSANDS OF JOBS??" I think republicans have been smoking Oregon Green too much.

    As WRAL has reported in the last 2 years unemployment numbers have dropped BECAUSE PEOPLE HAVE STOPPED BEING PART OF THE UI SYSTEM!

    Just because they kicked people off UI doesn't mean they have a jobs!


    - How about the 600 jobs lost in Ashboro at medical device Co last week? How about layoffs at Cisco, Merck, Perdue Pharma,
    - chicken plants being shutdown? -

    - Smithfield Foods was sold to China and the firings are to begin!

    Where are the thousands of jobs Blust is talking about? In his dreams, that's where all gop accomplishments live.

  • Confucius say Jun 6, 2014

    "As WRAL has reported in the last 2 years unemployment numbers have dropped BECAUSE PEOPLE HAVE STOPPED BEING PART OF THE UI SYSTEM!" - TELEMAN60

    That's the same thing that the Federal Gov't does when calclulating federal unemployment numbers. But you have no problem with that since it comes from the liberals, right? When the NC House uses the same method it's a conspiracy, right?