NC jobless take on Perdue jobless benefits veto

Posted April 19, 2011

— Some of the 37,000 out-of-work people who just lost their extended unemployment benefits came to the state capitol Tuesday to protest the political face-off between Republican legislators and Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue that caused their loss.

Perdue on Saturday vetoed legislation that would have kept benefit checks flowing, but only at the cost of her accepting a double-digit budget cut that Republican leaders wanted. She called that "extortion." GOP leaders said they combined the two issues to ensure that schools, state agencies and contractors know how much state spending they could count on if budget negotiations drag beyond the start of the new budget year in July.

Jobless workers whose payments were stopped could recover the money later if legislators and Perdue can agree to change an eligibility formula.

Tracy Whitman of Burlington said he understands what both sides in the political tussle wanted to accomplish, but he risks losing everything unless his benefits are restored.

"Both the House and Senate and the governor are all wrong," he said at a news conference organized by North Carolina's AFL-CIO and the North Carolina Justice Center, a liberal think tank. "It's third-grade posturing — you either do it my way or else. ... Thirty-seven thousand people are out here watching this tennis match between our legislature and the governor. Nobody's winning."

The 50-year-old was laid off by a road construction company in September 2009 and started studies this year at a Durham community college in health information technology. He said he's continued looking for work while attending school. Without a job or the restored benefits, he said he'll have no choice but to move in with his 78-year-old mother in Florida.

"I stand to lose my house, my car, everything. If I can't have a car to go back and forth to school, I'll have to drop school, so I lose that," he said.

Concord resident Keith Fountain, who lost his telecom job two years ago, said he's tired of being treated like a political toy.

"This is more than just a game of politics or a game of chicken between the political parties. They're affecting real lives and families, and you know, we deserve better than that from these guys," Fountain said.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis indicated Tuesday they had no immediate plans to revisit what they wanted in return for extending benefits.

"We sent a bill to the governor that extended the unemployment benefits. We need to remember that we're talking about the extension for folks who have already received benefits" for a year and a half, said Berger, R-Rockingham.

The $494 a week Gary Price of Salisbury was collecting paid the bills for his wife and three children, as well as paying the loan his grandfather took out to buy Price's home and land to keep from losing it to repossession.

"Family has stepped in to help, but now they can't help no more," said Price, 43, who's been jobless since March 2009. "What benefits I had coming in, every penny went to the bills, groceries, or clothing or something for the kids. It's been five years since I bought the kids Christmas."

He spent two decades driving and then manufacturing trucks, but the available jobs for truck drivers are closed off because employers want to see two recent years of experience, he said.

North Carolina is one of about three dozen states in which an extended benefits program of up to 20 weeks of compensation was created as a way to lessen the pain for the long-term unemployed caught in the recession's massive job losses.

The U.S. Labor Department notified North Carolina officials two weeks ago that the extended benefits program had to stop paying out after Saturday because the state's recent three-month average unemployment rate had improved from 2010 and 2009. South Carolina and 13 other states have passed legislation to revise their formulas and keep the extended benefits flowing, the state's Employment Security Commission said.

While North Carolina has seen its unemployment rate drop slightly from double digits last recorded in September, no one expects the thousands of jobs lost in manufacturing, construction, banking and other hard-hit industries core to the state's economy to return soon. In March, the unemployment rate fell slightly to 9.7 percent, compared with 9.8 percent in February and 11.3 percent in March of last year, The Employment Security Commission said Tuesday.

But most economists believe the jobless rate will stay high as workers who have run out of unemployment benefits or who have given up looking and are no longer counted in the official data come back into the work force. Tuesday's data show the number of people on state unemployment rolls decreased by 1,949 workers, to 434,996 on the official jobless count. At the same time, the number of people employed increased by 13,402 to 4.05 million.

Fountain said he supported Perdue's decision and wanted GOP legislators to understand that a family was behind each of the 37,000 jobless like him who've had their benefits stopped.

"This bill has nothing to do with any budget. We're not line items on the budget," he said. "We're people who need to have a little bit of support."


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  • blackdog Apr 20, 2011

    Does anyone know what the other cuts stuffed into this bill are? ??

  • SAR26 Apr 20, 2011

    What is Perdue afraid of? Being forced to go on the record in favor of cutting spending and matching incoming tax dollars to spending minus our interest payments?

  • 5Rs Apr 20, 2011

    "Maybe they'll remember this when they get tossed out for another 100 years or so." - 6079

    To jog your memory, it is the people who have been in charge for the last 100 years that have the state way overextended. Most of that was done starting in 2001, when they spent the dotcom capital gains bonanza and committed equal amounts for future years. Easley and Bev then proceeded to empty the "rainy day" funds instead of cutting back.

    Now cutbacks are essential. Yes, it hurts because we are all used to feeding at the trough.

  • gray3369 Apr 20, 2011

    I know a few people that laid around the Obama Factory bringing in $515.00 a week for 99 weeks = $54,585.00. These Lazy Bums were to busy buying TV's gambling & playing video games to look for employment. It was only a matter of time before the factory went belly up.

  • gmarcum Apr 20, 2011

    Ok, here's what gets me about these political prima donnas: The Repubs send a bill to good ol' Bev to extend the jobless benefits for 37,000 North Carolinians. Ah, but there is a catch-the bill stipulates that unless a budget is approved, then the state will run on a budget 13% less than what has been proposed. Bev, being the wise sage that she is, vetoes it because it will cut state services, etc. Now, we have not heard anything about a new bill being proposed in the state legislature. Basically, it boils down to this: The politicians of this state do not care about the average citizen. They have their jobs, so ---- the rest. None of them are worth the votes.

  • Karmageddon Apr 20, 2011

    We could give them all unemployment until they're old enough to draw social security

  • 2BHonest Apr 20, 2011

    from what I gather from the N&O article, $259K was spent in renovations of wiring. This was justified by stating that the home was rented out for events. Event income in the last year was approximately $7000. I guess $7K justifies $259K? I just can't understand this "new math."

  • hmbear32 Apr 20, 2011

    you can't file over and over again. if you have a claim that is open and active but just lost extended benefits, it will kick your new application file out. they keep saying the economy is getting stronger, really? where because i want to know. it obviously isn't here. and i am young. will be 31 on sunday but still can't seem to get a job. been out of work for almost 3 years. unemployed people are really struggling. just to pay bills. and can only get food stamps. i don't have children so therefore i can't get any other assistance..which seems a little wrong to me.

  • chenliliu3 Apr 20, 2011

    2BHonest, I hope that a whole group of unemployed people gather this week at the Governor's residence and ask for an accounting of how much was spent on renovating her 2nd residence, and why she feels that takes precedence over North Carolina families who are unemployed through no fault of their own.

  • chenliliu3 Apr 20, 2011

    ncmedic, the jobs that are not in people's fields,as you say, have 200- 300 applicants for every opening, and they ARE picking the people with experience in that field to hire. They can afford to be choosy when there are 200-300 applicants for one opening.

    I see the same things happening with "burger places." They have 250 applicants for one job and they hire the 18 year old over the overqualified 49 year old every time.

    I am employed, but so severely under-employed that my family is going under and losing pretty much everything. So I do have sympathy for friends, relatives and neighbors who are unemployed - these are folks who have worked hard their whole lives and are unemployed through no fault of their own.