@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Changes to NC unemployment benefits could be delayed

Posted January 16, 2013

— State lawmakers might have to delay the effective date or make other changes to a planned overhaul of North Carolina's unemployment program due to restrictions handed down as part of a recently passed federal law, Republican leaders said Wednesday. 

A legislative committee last week forwarded a bill to the General Assembly that would slash the maximum weekly unemployment benefit from $535 to $350. Under the proposal, the state also would replace its 26 weeks of benefits with a sliding cap of 12 to 20 weeks, based on the health of North Carolina's economy, and would raise unemployment insurance taxes slightly on employers.

Analysts said the changes would help the state repay $2.5 billion to the federal government three years faster than leaving the system unchanged. North Carolina borrowed the money to pay jobless benefits during the recession.

Republican legislative leaders planned for the overhaul to take effect this summer, but a spokesman for House Speaker Thom Tillis said the effective date could be delayed until January 2014 because of provisions in the American Taxpayer Relief Act, which Congress passed on New Year's Day to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff." The spokesman later clarified that a delay was only one of many options being considered by lawmakers in response to restrictions contained in the fiscal cliff bill.  

The federal law offers an extension of federal unemployment benefits, but only for states that don't make changes to their state benefit systems. Reforms right now would cost jobless North Carolinians as much as $350 million in federal benefits.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger blasted Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan for not seeking an exemption for North Carolina's unemployment program. 

"That failure is actually going to end up costing businesses in North Carolina about $200 million – and maybe as much as $400 million," he said.

Federal unemployment insurance taxes will continue to rise on North Carolina businesses to help repay the debt.

Senate Finance Committee Co-Chairman Bob Rucho said the lost money isn't guaranteed, but rather a potential loss. He also said that the General Assembly could still enact the changes in July.

"We've got to figure out the best way to put a solvent (unemployment) system in place," said Rucho, R-Mecklenburg.

"This just smacks of partisan gamesmanship, and North Carolina's unemployed workers shouldn't be used as a political pawn," Hagan spokeswoman Sadie Weiner said in a statement. "Sen. Hagan is focused every single day on working with industry and small businesses to create jobs in North Carolina so that we can reduce the number of unemployed people in our state."

Although lawmakers also asked other members of North Carolina's congressional delegation to support an exemption, Berger, R-Rockingham, said he singled out Hagan for criticism since the unemployment changes in the fiscal cliff bill originated in the U.S. Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.

32 Comments

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  • oleguy Jan 18, 8:46 a.m.

    I know 3 or more that have been drawing 498.00 bucks a week for over a year,,, They just got another 26 weeks,They were making 12.00 / hour at their job with lots of over time,,, Now why would they want to work for 8 to 10 bucks an hour at a job today?? They do not even look work, why should they,,, The system is broke,, the group running the ESC could care less, unemployed people need them so they can have a job.. The system is broke,, we need less Govt....

  • goldenosprey Jan 17, 11:35 a.m.

    "I see. The democrats have controlled the NC Legislature for the past 100 plus years....Republicans just got control in 2011." - btneast

    Not too current on national events, I see. Clinton got us a surplus despite Reagans' effort to explode the deficit into the stratosphere. It only took GWB and his master, Dick "deficits don't matter" Cheney a few years to blow it back up and leave us with scarce revenue coming in.

    Sorry for the misfire

  • goldenosprey Jan 17, 11:06 a.m.

    The worst mass shooting in US history was VA Tech. He used 2 pistols. One had 10 round magazine, and the other had a 15 round magazine. He just carried a backpack ful of extra mags for about 400 rounds total. He then walked unfettered through a Gun Free Zone killing at will. That is how well gun laws protect people.- btneast

    Not too current on national events, I see. Clinton got us a surplus despite Reagans' effort to explode the deficit into the stratosphere. It only took GWB and his master, Dick "deficits don't matter" Cheney a few years to blow it back up and leave us with scarce revenue coming in.

  • btneast Jan 17, 10:58 a.m.

    I don't think it's fair that some people have had full benefits for an extended time and I would receive less in both length and amount

    Personally, I think the word "fair" should be stricken from the English language. Life isn't fair, and never will be. It's up to the individual to stay ahead of the steamroller called "life".If you sit in the middle of the street crying " it's not fair", the steamroller will run over you, and keep right on going.

  • btneast Jan 17, 10:51 a.m.

    They have never ever cared about the citizens of this state nor any debt in the past. The party of "spend regardless of whether we can pay for it or not" just keeps on spending

    RadioDJ....not too current on NC political history, I see. The democrats have controlled the NC Legislature for the past 100 plus years....Republicans just got control in 2011.

  • goldenosprey Jan 17, 10:23 a.m.

    Bravo, Senator Hagan.

    NC owes all this $ to the feds because the business community got what it whined for in the 90s - SUTA slashed so that, in the event the bankers and deregulators trashed the economy and folks lost their jobs, there would not be enough in the trust fund. I blame dems in the GA for capitulating to the Art Popes of NC.
    Interesting to see the republican honorables are afraid to turn down the fed $ despite their huffin & puffin. Looks like NC, like most red states, will continue to mooch more off Washington than we contribute.

  • Uhavenoclu Jan 17, 9:44 a.m.

    why are we so many of us lazy and just want everything handed to us? i think a real good educated guess is that over half of people on unemployment want to be on it. they're not looking for work. registering their fake job looking so they can collect till it runs out.

    They are the Queit time generation..The ones who were told everything will be ok and to look the other way....The soccer mommies who gave them everything they wanted..Spoiled them silly.
    The hard working generations are no longer the leaders as you can see with the economy and the unemployment and the state of the country.

  • autismawareness Jan 17, 9:04 a.m.

    why are we so many of us lazy and just want everything handed to us? i think a real good educated guess is that over half of people on unemployment want to be on it. they're not looking for work. registering their fake job looking so they can collect till it runs out.

  • xylem01 Jan 17, 8:20 a.m.

    Deficits don't matter!

  • tnowen Jan 16, 10:18 p.m.

    My company laid off a few employees for 4 weeks then called them back to work. Several of the employees refused the call back because they preferred to stay on unemployment. I attempted to notify the NC Employment Security office who told me there was nothing they could do, if the employee doesn't report the work offer they will continue to draw unemployment. Unemployment should help you until you can find work not become a way of life that encourages you not to work.

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