Unemployment changes clear first vote in Senate

Posted February 18, 2015

The Great Seal of North Carolina in front of the legislative building covered by ice.

— North Carolinians receiving unemployment compensation would have to increase the number of "job contacts" they make during a given time period under a package of changes to state unemployment insurance laws the Senate gave tentative approval to on Wednesday. 

The 42-6 vote on Senate Bill 15 came after a brief debate and is due to be confirmed with a second vote on Thursday.

Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, D-Northampton, asked why the bill requires those receiving benefits to make five "job contacts" in the space of a week rather than just two contacts with two different employers under the old system. 

Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, said the change was deemed as fairer to unemployed workers. During a recent committee meeting on the bill, proponents pointed out that a job contact could be as simple as submitting an application via the Internet.

"I think it is overly burdensome," Smith-Ingram said, pointing out that many of the people she represents lack Internet access and live in counties without state-run re-employment centers. 

"You are kicking people while they are down. I don't know if that makes you feel good about yourselves or not," she said.

Rucho didn't respond. 

If the bill passes the Senate, it will go to the state House, and should it pass the General Assembly, Gov. Pat McCrory will weigh in.

Rucho pointed out in the introduction to the bill that certain changes staggering the terms of the Board of Review, an appeals panel that oversees unemployment claims, did not pass last year. That's because McCrory vetoed the measure.

After a recent Senate Finance Committee meeting on the bill, both McCrory legislative liaison Fred Steen and Dale Folwell, a deputy commerce secretary who oversees the Division of Employment Security, said that the McCrory administration likes several parts of the measure. However, the governor, they said, oppose the changes related to the Board of Review because it strips currently appointed officials from their existing terms. However, the administration does support several other parts of the bill, they said.

McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis hammered home that point again today.

"These proposed changes to the Board of Review are not only an example of legislative overreach; they also waste taxpayer dollars on an unaccountable and bloated bureaucracy," Ellis said. 


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  • Steven Cousler Feb 20, 2015
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    This bill could easily be fixed by asking the claimants if they had internet access or not and using that response to determine a reasonable number of weekly job-seeking contacts they should make. Not everyone fits in the same box,

  • Sammy Macloud Feb 20, 2015
    user avatar

    Sadly I expect nothing less from our GA.....

    It doesn't matter to them if most wouldn't be able to do that due to no computer/internet at home.

  • Jack Jones Feb 19, 2015
    user avatar

    These are foolish and wasteful changes that are based an attacking struggling families. Very sad our legislators focus on doing harm rather than good.

  • Eric Peters Feb 19, 2015
    user avatar

    This bill is another method of reducing the number of people receiving unemployment benefits, for two reasons.

    First, as Sen. Ingram pointed out, not everyone has Internet access or easy access to State unemployment offices. This mainly applies to the rural poor.

    Second, the employer contact requirement is no more than a hoop to jump through in order to collect benefits. Making the requirement tougher ensures that fewer people will qualify. I worked in a State agency that helped with employment for many years. I encountered hundreds of people receiving benefits. They all reported that the employer contact requirement was a joke. They simply applied for jobs that they were unqualified for or couldn't accept. They knew that the State did not have the manpower to check every contact claimed by every benefits recipient.

    So Sen. Rucho's bill will slightly reduce the number of claimants. Really, the bill amounts to mere grandstanding while denying benefits to some who deserve them.