Jobless plead for help from lawmakers

Posted April 27, 2011

Jobless North Carolinians lined up this afternoon to ask lawmakers to break their political impasse with Gov. Bev Perdue and restore federal unemployment benefits to more than 37,000 would-be workers.  

Senate Democrats hosted the public hearing, but there were just as many House Republicans in the room, including House Speaker Thom Tillis. Senate Leader Phil Berger was not in attendance.

One speaker after another told stories of empty pantries and gas tanks, late mortgage payments, education disrupted.

Greg Smith from Castalia said after a year and a half of searching for a new job, he finally has some interviews next week. But after two weeks with no federal unemployment help, he has no money for gas. “Now I’ve got to figure out how I’m going to get to the interviews I’ve been waiting a year for.”

Wilson resident Ken Williams said he lost his health-care job more than a year ago. There were tears in his eyes as he talked about having to ask his daughter for gas money to get to Raleigh. “I’ve worked hard all my life,” Williams said. “I never thought I’d have to ask my children for the first penny of help.”

Williams says he’s two months away from retirement. But if the legislature doesn't act soon to correct the formula that would restore federal benefits, he’ll lose his apartment. He said he's a lifelong Republican, but “I’m very upset that the Republicans have chosen to lead this way.”

“You folks are holding my future in your hands,” Williams told lawmakers. “And you’re holding hostage federal money.”

Williams’ emotional story touched Rep. Bill Brawley (R-Mecklenburg), who quietly followed him to the back of the committee room and offered him a twenty-dollar bill. “For gas, if you’ll accept it,” Brawley said. Williams, choked up, nodded his thanks as Brawley patted him on the back.

Later, Brawley said he didn’t mean to be part of the story. “Guys like him are caught up in this war,” he said. “And if any of the people in this room were half as willing to act in a bipartisan way as they are to talk about it, we could solve this.”

But, Brawley added, “Bipartisan doesn’t mean Republicans doing what the Democrats say.”

That was the same position taken by House Speaker Thom Tillis, who blamed “bad leadership” by the governor for the delay in benefits. He insisted that linking the benefit extension to a 13% budget cut was simply an attempt to guarantee stability for state employees in case the budget isn’t finalized by June 30th.

Still, he said, Republicans are open to suggestions for a way around the impasse. “We’d like the governor to tell us what we need to do,” Tillis said. “We do want to find a way, but it requires the governor to take a step in our direction as well. Politics is about compromise.”

As for Williams’ accusation that his party is holding federal money hostage, Tillis replied, “We all need to realize that those federal dollars flow from the pockets of taxpaying families.”

Later in the day, Perdue spokesman Mark Johnson issued the following response via email:

“The Governor is eager to work with the legislature on the budget – and will. But right now we have to deal with restoring a financial lifeline to 37,000 North Carolinians. The Governor’s veto message asked the legislature to send her a bill to restore the unemployment benefits without attaching any political games. The ball is in the legislature’s court.”


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  • 1 awesome Dad May 3, 2011

    2 interviews no gas to get there and without power this is getting rather old quick. House will be gone in a matter of weeks.

  • iluvjunk May 2, 2011

    I am 1 of the 37,000 people affected by the veto of this bill. Thank God I have a job interview on Friday. Maybe I will be lucky and get an offer this time. In the meantime, I have been on the phone with my creditors trying to make arrangements to pay my bills. Without the UI income I stand to lose everything I have worked so hard for and so do the others wearing my shoes. Please put politics aside and pass the bill.

  • jonathangonia May 1, 2011

    I just watched "On the Record".. Republicans take this from a registered republican.. Just separate the bill and let the governor sign it.. There are 37,000 people that are depending on feeding their families and stimulating the economy with this money. That does not sound like alot but it will be plenty next year at the polls and I don't think people will forget this. This money doesnt come out of the state's money so just split the bill and let it get signed.. I don't think NC needs this money people also going and giving any more burden on social services for help with their family. Please just get on your game and do something for these people.

  • PurlsOfWisdom Apr 29, 2011

    re: jonathangonia "How is someone gonna take a job out of their profession making minimum wage and lose everything that have worked hard for just to be "self-sufficient..."

    A good point, and I'd like to add that folks who hold out as long as they can in their search for a lifestyle-sustaining job will be able to recoup at least some of their losses and maintain a more prosperous household, and that will contribute to keeping America stable as we try to recover from the damage done by the greed and irresponsibility of others. (Do you think the Wall Street or Big Oil guys are worrying about how to scrape together gas money? H-no!)

    Stop thinking of jobless people as lazy bums mooching off the largesse of those of you who are lucky enough to still have jobs. Lazy bums *are* out there, have always been, may always be. But today's job-hunters are trying to restore the life they WORKED for all their lives, and in doing so they are doing much more for America than anyone seems to give them c

  • jonathangonia Apr 28, 2011

    I think this is ridiculous.. First of all the ones at the bottom shouldnt be in this fight... Second, anyone who thinks these people havent been looking for jobs is crazy.. How is someone gonna take a job out of their profession making minimum wage and lose everything that have worked hard for just to be "self-sufficient.. joseph that makes no sense.. Third this money isnt coming out of the states pocket so why should it be with our state budget.. bad call.. Fourth Governor Purdue shouldnt play games with people like this she needs to remember the people put her in office and most of the people on unemployment are registred to vote.. same for the republicans.. remember the saying "for the people" and not against the people..Just pass the bill already before 37,000 people starve or lose their belongings.. and remember lawmakers everyone has a judgement day.. It makes no sense not too pass this because you are hurting taxes and the economy.. Think about it...

  • cspringsjr Apr 28, 2011

    House Speaker Thom Tillis states that politics are about compromise? The budget talks are just getting well under way and the Republicans serve up the unemployed as hostages in an attempt to get a 13% budget cut as a starting point in case they can't come to a compromise by June 30th?

    If the unemployment extention had a direct impact on the NC budget then it should be on the table but it has nothing to do with it.

    Yes, those federal dollars flow from the pockets of tax paying families like I've been for the majority of my life.

    Tillis may also want to remember that this is not free money because it's also taxed.

  • stanmak Apr 28, 2011

    the house can override if the gov releases 4 of her minions

  • Come On_Seriously Apr 28, 2011

    Regardless of whose fault you think it is or who is playing the bigger game, it is indeed on the Repub legislature to act if any action is coming. The gov can't un-veto the bill. If the legislature is concerned, they'll bring an override vote on the veto or present a new one.

  • stanmak Apr 28, 2011

    where's the compromise? bev has proved if things arent exactly as she wants them she will veto. meanwhile laura leslie mounts an attack on the republicans becuase they wont "pass a clean bill." either way you look at it, the gov vetoed the bill. this is on the governor not the republican majority.

  • josephlawrence43 Apr 27, 2011

    Republicans don't get it??? How about cutting off the Democratically established and controlled governmental dependency rolls? Make people dependent on the government for their sustenance--and remove any individual responsibility. Wonder how many of these people have actually been looking for work over the past 99 or so weeks.? I've been unemployed--for 6 months. I hold two Bachelors degrees, several credits toward my Masters, and I"m a veteran. I had bills to pay--so I took what was available--packing chickens in 75 lbs boxes in a chicken processing plant. It was a "job"--not a "position"--no one unemployed out there now is so much "better" that they can demand a "position"...Jobs are there--if they are seriously interested in being selfreliant and not a dependent of the government..