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Perdue: Jobless benefits extension bill 'extortion'

Posted April 13, 2011

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— The debate over the state budget has complicated efforts to pass a bill to extend unemployment benefits for about 37,000 North Carolinians facing the loss of their financial lifeline on Saturday.

The Senate voted along party lines Wednesday to tentatively approve House Bill 383, and a final vote is expected Thursday.

House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said the proposal would keep the jobless benefits in place through the end of this year. Funds for the benefits would come from the federal government.

Democrats have objected to a measure added to the bill. The continuing resolution would fund state government at 87 percent of Gov. Beverly Perdue's proposed budget if a budget isn't approved by June 30.

Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said the 87 percent level is about even with the $18.3 billion spending targets Republican lawmakers set for the budget.

"Ideally, what (Perdue) will do is take seriously our budget proposal, which will come to her the first week of June, and sign it. And then this becomes moot," he said.

Perdue called the proposal "extortion" and accused Republican lawmakers of being derelict in their duties.

"These are real people. You can't do this. It just makes me sick for North Carolina," she said.

Kim Nether, who is unemployed, said she needs her weekly benefit check to pay her bills, and she doesn't like the showdown between the governor and Republican lawmakers.

"I don't think it's fair, but what can I do at this point?" Nether said.

The budget plan unveiled Tuesday by House Republicans decimates public education in North Carolina, Perdue said, and they expect it to be vetoed as proposed.

"They're taking the easy way out. This is not going to happen," she said. "It's tough being a leader, and I guess sometimes they feel overwhelmed."

Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt said the GOP is responsible for producing a balanced budget.

"When we had Republican governors, we had to work with them. It wasn't the most fun thing we've ever done, but we did it. They need to do the same thing," said Nesbitt, D-Buncombe.

NC Sales Tax Jobless benefits caught in budget debate

The U.S. Department of Labor notified the state Employment Security Commission on April 1 that North Carolina no longer meets requirements for the extended benefits program because the statewide unemployment rate has declined in recent months.

The state unemployment rate was 9.7 percent in February, down from 11.4 percent a year earlier.

Regular unemployment benefits last 26 weeks, and the federal government has added four tiers of extensions during the recession to give people an extra 53 weeks of benefits. The extended benefits program kicks in after a person has exhausted the 79 weeks of benefits, and it lasts for 20 weeks.

Berger, R-Rockingham, said the ESC didn't notify lawmakers of the issue until a letter sent on Friday, and he called that delay "incompetent."

States set the bar for when extended benefits kick in, so any changes to the requirements must be done by state lawmakers. At least eight other states have managed to avoid a cutoff by changing the calculations used to determine when the money can be paid out.

For extended benefits to be paid, North Carolina's three-month average unemployment rate must equal or surpass 110 percent of three-month averages from 2010 or 2009.

The proposed bill would raise that to 120 percent.

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  • 6079 SMITH W Apr 14, 2011

    Yes, it is unfair. But the stereotyping of the unemployed as worthless, free-government money-grabbers appeals to the self-righteous right-wing dung-heaps that parrot whatever hard-line propaganda their masters use to herd them into submission. These miserable, sub-human wasters of oxygen and space are tickled when they have an opportunity to grind their boot-heels on someone's face who is down on their luck. It makes then feel superior, not because of what they have, but rather what someone else doesn't. Typical of their "ILK". ;)

  • cupioni Apr 14, 2011

    The extension of benefits does not have any impact on the state budget or employer UI Insurance premiums. The extension is clearly supported by both parties and is not a partisan issue. What is partisan is putting a measure that would pass instantly and without veto with a bill that is highly partisan which waives her lawful authority and responsibility to negotiate on the budget. To stop a measure that she must stop, she is forced to veto something with provisions she wants badly. The partisan politics is in putting her in that position at the expense of 37,000 families. What is next. The same offensive political rider attached to a bill to honor wounded war veterans would be no less honorable of offensive.
    The stereo-typing of those who are desperate and unemployed as as some modern day welfare queen is wrong and to the extent some might believe you, grossly unfair.

  • chenliliu3 Apr 14, 2011

    We have 3 neighbors in our neighborhhoood alobe ( one is losing her house too) who have had to deal with ageism when trying to get hired, with being told they are overqualified, and, being discriminated against becuse they have been out of work too long. May not be the case for everyone, but these people and others I know have worked their whole lives and are trying.

    And, for those who say the economy is picking up- how do you like those rises in gas and food prices?

    Doesn't sound like a strong economy to me. Where I work, they have frozen 3 positions for 2 years now and they show no sign of opening back up.

  • chenliliu3 Apr 14, 2011

    It does not help to attack people who have worked hard their whole lives and are now unemployed through no fault of their own. Period.

  • WooHoo2You Apr 14, 2011

    We in NC need a new governor like yesterday. She cares nothing for the unemployed. What a shame!-wildcat

    A week ago she was 'feeding entitlements to the lazy freeloaders' and 'sucking the tax payers dry paying 99 weeks of unemployment.' (Not your words however of the Right in general) Now she "cares nothing for the unemployed."

    Can't have it both ways... What side should she be on?

  • wildcat Apr 14, 2011

    We in NC need a new governor like yesterday. She cares nothing for the unemployed. What a shame!

  • 6079 SMITH W Apr 14, 2011

    Indeed. No Brainee, No Commentee wouldn't hurt either..........;)

  • Garnerwolf1 Apr 14, 2011

    I will never forget going into the ESC office in Raleigh and this guy being in there literally shouting, 'I don't want no blankity-blank job, I want my blankity check!' Granted, this was probably 20 years ago, but I'm sure some still have the same sentiment. No workee, no checkee should be the standard.

  • nighttrain2010 Apr 14, 2011

    >>I know a few people who are receiving benefits and they say why should they find a job when they can collect "free" money.

    I know a few like that myself. Unfortunately when you pay people a good chunk of their income to do nothing and they have few bills, it's quite hard to make a case that one needs to be looking for work immediately

    >>Time to shut off the faucet and have people man up.

    If only. I lost my job in late 2009 but through God's grace and hard work and planning, I was back at it within 3 months. Without filing for unemployment.

  • chenliliu3 Apr 14, 2011

    I think now is not the time for philosophical arguments when people are getting cut off without notice. Some people never got any notice from ESC, and others received just 3 days' of notice. All of our legislators said they had no idea this was even happening until last Friday - so, less than a week.

    Pretty poor planning by the ESC. Had they bothered to notify legislators in advance, this 11th hour situation would not have happened.

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