Local News

Loss of jobless benefits hurts more with passing weeks

Posted August 21, 2013
Updated August 22, 2013

— The strain of losing unemployment benefits continues to grow for thousands of North Carolina families with each passing week.

About 65,000 people who have been out of work for months lost their federal jobless benefits on July 1 because of state lawmakers' decision to overhaul North Carolina's unemployment system. The maximum weekly benefit and the length of benefits were slashed to help repay more quickly $2.5 billion owed to the federal government for its assistance with benefits during the recession.

Lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory say the changes are for the greater good and will eventually boost North Carolina's economy. In the short term, however, people who counted on their weekly unemployment check to get by say they are struggling.

"I just have a savings account, and there's $1 in the savings account," Sydney Houston said Wednesday.

The Lumberton woman was eligible to receive unemployment through the end of the year, but the state changes meant the end of all federal long-term benefits.

"It's been excruciating," she said, noting that her electricity was recently turned off because she was months behind in her bills.

"I was here ironing my clothes so that I could go to a job interview, and all I heard was 'zooop,'" she said. "To get them to turn it back on, it's $488.74."

As Houston empties her freezer and refrigerator to salvage what little food she has left, she knows that a visit from the landlord means the apartment is next.

"He even told me, if I could come up with just one month's rent, $400, that he would let me stay and work with me," she said.

Sydney Houston, out of work in Lumberton Jobless struggle to maintain lives without unemployment benefits

She's reached out to friends, family, county organizations and nonprofits for help.

"Nobody has any funds," she said. "Even my own church, the benevolent fund they set up to help people, it's dry," she said.

Houston, who worked for the state prison system for 14 years before losing her job, is trying to become a teacher. She hopes to take the certification test in October, but it costs $115.

She also faces an uphill climb in Robeson County, where the unemployment rate was 13 percent in July. Statewide, the unemployment rate is 8.9 percent.

"I pray that somebody will see this (story) and help me, but I want them to help all the people of North Carolina," she said. "Every day, there's a sadder story than mine."


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  • Bob3425 Aug 23, 2013

    They are NOT losing benefit, they use the benefit they earned and the state isn't going to borrow more and give them something they have not got. This country is in debt between giving aid to other countries (trying to buy friendship) and giving unearned benefit to illegal. The money gone and people need to start becoming self sufficient and stop relying on the government to solve their problems.

  • IPayYouPay Aug 23, 2013

    Thank your Republican-controlled congress for that. They'll say, "You're so welcome". Unfortunately.

  • Sherlock Aug 23, 2013

    There are job out there even if it is part time, work of them...Get rid of the TV, cell phone and other items.

  • editor8 Aug 23, 2013

    You people standing on your heads about this woman's predicament don't know the realities of Robeson County or you might hold back a little bit of your righteous indignation. Or maybe not. Life there is not like it is in the Triangle or surrounding areas.

  • lopo Aug 23, 2013

    Maybe one should have been looking for a job during the 99 weeks she was collecting benefits.

  • Justic4All Aug 22, 2013

    The story is old news. WRAL should help Houston find a job.

  • teleman60 Aug 22, 2013

    There's going to be 170,000 people out there who, for whatever reason, will be in this lady's shoes shortly.
    (100,000 additional jobless benefits ending in Dec by McCrory)

    170,000 people without shelter
    170,000 people without transportation
    170,000 people without food
    170,000 people without healthcare 170,000 people losing their homes,cars,electricity, telephone

    All because businesses got tax breaks starting back in the 1980's on their unemployment taxes. Instead of the multi-billion dollar industries in NC stepping up to the plate after 30 years of profits -- NAAAAA! Like Glaxo getting fined here $1 BILLION for tax evasion and then half the Glaxo China operation arrested for $457 million in bribes - remember, GREED IS GOOD!

    If you were looking for fairness and the American spirit of working together in bad times - FORGETABOUTIT!

    The current moto is "I got mine, you're outta luck..." That is until the 'too big to fail, never gonna fail" failures bring the wealthy with hands out

  • jaydosse Aug 22, 2013

    "Loss of jobless benefits hurts more with passing weeks"


    Explain the above byline to our incompetent, indifferent, plutocratic "governor"......He seems to feel that his cabinet members could not afford to live in Raleigh without large pay increases. He is also ( in a very condescending arrogant manner ) still defending huge pay increases given to DHHS "children" with no direct education or experience in the fields they have been "promoted into" ( one will oversee a 20 billion dollar fund ). Their only real experience is that they may have been connected to McCrory's campaign. He offended 40 to 50 year olds by implying there aren't any in that age group more qualified than his recent choices. Are the unwarranted pay increases for your pals for " the greater good"?????Get lost McCrory...stop trying to intimidate the people of this great state!!! You are a failure whose inexplicable recent actions only can leave voters perplexed!

  • GOPtakersSociety Aug 22, 2013

    Every day the liberal media has another "feel bad for me" story. There are jobs in the market, if these people would stop whining and go find anything to do, their lives would be much better. But oh no, much better to whine and blame anyone but themselves for their situation.


    Seems the Progressives ran out of the Jimmy Swaggerts, and Tammy Faye Bakers of the world, give them time, Trump will be Bankrupt before long and will need a bailout

  • cbuckyoung Aug 22, 2013

    After 99 weeks of unemployment insurance at my expense, if you can't get a job you are either not trying, have a terrible job history, or have absolutely no employable skills. So, more unemployment insurance will not help you transition back into the work force which is the purpose of the taxpayer paid benefit. So, the only purpose of running this story is to spread the liberal lie that conservatives have "no heart." No conservatives are the ONLY ones who really care about poor and minority people as we know that by continuing unlimited unemployment insurance, the presently constructed welfare system, et al you are enslaving people to the Democratic Socialist state and spitting on their self reliance.