Business owners urge lawmakers to improve NC unemployment insurance system
North Carolina business owners and workers hold a virtual press conference urging lawmakers to move forward with changes to the state's unemployment insurance system in order to meet the challenges facing workers as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
sure everyone's of more or less assume pro at this point. But just ask folks. Teoh mute themselves if they're not speaking, um, that we will be recorded this Teoh, mostly just for posterity's sake. But that will make sure for any press were on the line. Will make sure this is available to you for you know, it's useful to have that a record to get exact quotes and such, Um and that after, ah, our speakers go, we will have Q and A at the end and will make sure that we share the list of our speakers and contact information with all the press were joining us this morning. So thank you so much, representative. All stupid. You like to get started? Sure. Thank you so much. Good morning, everyone. I'm representative. Forget Alston. Represent District 29 excuse me in Durham County. I'm very glad to finally have the opportunity. Do you really want to talk about this? We're an issue with individuals and organizational partners who are committed to putting the needs and rights of workers first. During this short session, some good things have happened. We've approved over $1.5 billion cover relief. We passed the second Chance Act and an elections bill that will help North Carolinians vote safely this November. We haven't done enough. That's viral. This year, more than one million Americans friskies me one million North Carolinians, uh, including many of our friends and neighbors, have joined the ranks of the unemployed over the past few months. Yet despite that, we've done very little in the General Assembly this session to do more for them. You're for all of our workers. Coben, 19 has brought us face to face with an underfunded and unprepared unemployment system, the inadequacies of which make ours one of the worst unemployment systems in the country. And that fact is the direct result of bad policy decisions. I know for us in Durham, you know, I hear from my constituents very regularly, so I know very well that there's right now someone because he's me, a worker who works long hours at multiple jobs to support their households before the pandemic, and now they find themselves out of work. There's struggling to keep their lights on and to keep their kids fed, um, and aren't receiving their benefits because North Carolina lawmakers, uh waged war on the ability of working families to survive any kind of prices, let alone local. This is on. These folks are suffering. Our workers are suffering. The unemployed are suffering on bad policy led us here. So it's my hope, along with all of you and my partners in the general sent away, like Senator Nickel and representative Holly and representative Batch representative Time that we can make good policy so that we could make things better. I believe together we can salvage our economy and support our workers at the same time. But we have to act quickly. We have to act now. Here's why. Unemployment insurance is critical not just for workers but for employers, for communities and for businesses. It helps people stay connected to the labour market. I make sure that ah, job losses and push people on. It helps workers continue to meet their basic needs without a fixed to our system. Our recovery from the second climate crisis I will take longer. Who will hurt more people I want with that outcome. And I know everyone here does as well by continuing to fight for reform and reform in particular to our unemployment insurance program. And I look forward to doing that with all of you, both now and in the future s o many of my colleagues and several of our partners apart here on this call on. So I want to give them an opportunity to kind of share their experiences and all the work that we want to get done together. So first, I'd like to invite Corey, whom President of U A w look, uh, 3520 to share experiences of workers in this part of the state. It's a Cory if you're on. Appreciate it. Thank you. Ah, First of all, forgive you, Ugo. Um, in 2013 we pretty much broke the unemployment system here in North Carolina, creating the maximum week benefits was cut, durations was cut, roadblocks of filing benefits was cut. How we calculated benefits were cut, uh, and applying for benefits. Years of shrinking budgets. Teoh, the Unemployment Security Commission has taken its toll. I mean, there's no magic thinking right now. If you think we didn't have problems before the pandemic, you kind of kind of crazy, uh, to think that because we've been dealing with this since 2013. Uh, here, Donald Trump. We we have a sequel market, you know, where we incur layoffs. Uh, and these layoffs has taken a toll on our whole community and that as lawmakers, that's what we have to look at. We have to look at doing the right thing for working class people. We have to look at what it's doing to a whole community, not just those people. They're trying to get on the benefits and trying to provide for their families of much needed income, of creating a household and running a household and keeping that household up on the stingy benefits just lowest in the country, but also the community, the amount of money we have taken out of community. I mean, it took a pandemic to get us here today to get in front of people to continue to talk about this. I've been coming up talking about this since 2013 because of the effect that had on my community in my area. We won the largest private employers here in Rolling County, and every time we see large layoffs, how it affected my community, how it takes money out of community by reducing these benefits and you didn't you have small business? Try to continue to run with lower money going through the economy. This is something that lawmakers need to act upon today. It's never too late to do what's right for the working class people here in North Carolina, and it's now it's past time. I'm not gonna say it is time in this past on the pandemic just brought light to it. We've been talking about this since the cuts have been done. We're better than this into here in North Carolina. We need to take care of the people that go and put in labor every day. The people didn't make this economy run. They go and they make the system work. And they're the ones that would neglect by Not in acting upon this bill. You know, HB 10 75. It's just a step in the right direction. The job was market. Right now, workers can weather through this crisis with this much needed benefit to be increased time duration way talked about the impact that it's had on every household, but it's had greater impact, not just on the warrants is being laid off, but on the ones that still are air trying to run economy where we have less money in it because of these benefit cuts this time back now appreciate Charles time and look forward to your doing the right thing. Thank you, Corey. I think you couldn't put it better, uh, and explained, I think the urgency of this issue so well, we hope she your next from Sarah Parker, who's the owner of term Caden Company to explain the unique And, I think uniquely devastating it back that this crisis sat on her, uh, and workers in her industry. Unfortunately, she had a medical emergency this morning. I won't be able to join us for the press conference, but she is available to are the press were listening. She is available for questions and for off camera interviews. So please reach out to her. The moderators here today are so we're gonna move next. Teoh calling in the Senate. Uh, senator Nickel was really lead the charge for unemployment insurance warm and just workers rights generally in the General Assembly and someone that I've been lucky to learn from and before it continued with around these issues Senator Nickel. Hi Veneta. Thank you so much for your leadership on this issue as well. You know, it's great to have partners in the house there. Ballads and folk of action was a slapping Who's who's tried to access this system. Republicans gutted this program in 2013 and we started this year with the worst unemployment insurance programs in the country. When you combine the alot, you know, maximum benefit per week and a low amount of weeks that you get the benefit, you combine those things with a program that's intentionally hard to access. We had the worst program in the country, and to make matters worse, we have. We started the year with over $4 billion in our unemployment insurance trust fund. So we are at the bottom of the barrel in terms of benefits and ease of access to this program. And we were number five in the country with the most amount of money in this trust fund. And just to tell you, you know, my might, um, the reason I was brought to this issue is because I was appointed to the Joint Unemployment Insurance Committee. It's a House and Senate committee with eight members. And to tell you how little Republicans care about this program, they appointed seven Ripper Bob look ins more. I'm demo really Democrat on this any more. Didn't even point a Republican. Me a Democrat from the House, Teoh, be part of this committee. So we had to find people who are passionate about this issue, like represented Ballston, representative Holly, who've been fighting on this issue in the House even though they didn't get to join this committee. Um, you know, so this really from a public policy perspective, you know, when you have a program that's intentionally difficult for workers access when they need it the most, we need to throw jobless workers a lifeline, and Republicans have done virtually now, Major, what about the letters filed along with maximum benefit we have right now is only $350 a year are weak. Excuse me, $25 a week. It is, he said. You know, that way since 2030 13 change for inflation since the $450 a week is the maximum benefit, you know, in Wake County, that's barely enough to make ends meet as it is But it's it's progress. Also the calculation of the last 2/4 to the highest quarter that za change in calculation of benefits, that it will help workers those air. Two important things that our bill does. Um, and we need to have action on it and just to give you a little bit of procedural background on this issue so far, you know, we worked hard on this issue in the Senate, my bills co sponsored by Senator Jay Choudhury, whose are, um, Democratic whip. We worked hard on this issue, and we were able to get Republicans in the Senate to agree, you know, not as much as we wanted, but to agree to raise the maximum weekly benefit from $350 a week to $400 a week. And, you know, while it's not what we wanted, it is what it was progress and that passed the Senate unanimously. Then it went to the house. We're represented. Julia Howard is is very proud of her role in destroying any chance to help jobless workers during this pandemic. And from what I understand and, you know, I love to hear from my House colleagues, her and a group of other Republicans squash that small provisioned to help folks. And we weren't able to get that back in the Senate for our first Covad relief measures. We're gonna keep fighting on this issue. We're gonna keep pounding and doing everything we possibly can to make sure that we help jobless workers. Right now, we've got close to $3 billion sitting in this unemployment insurance trust fund. We can afford to raise the weekly maximum benefit to help jobless workers. This is an issue that will continue to be one of the major priorities for Democrats in the Legislature. Gonna keep fighting on this and I encourage everybody toe learn more about this issue and understand why we need to make these changes to help folks and what's And just in closing the one thing I think that's especially important for every single North Carolinian out there is the federal benefits of an extra $600 a week. That money will come to an end at the end of July, and jobless workers will be faced with in out with the system. It provides only an average of $277 a week That is not enough to make ends meet in Wake County. You got to do better. We have the money. We just need the political will to make these changes. Thank you. Thank you, Senator. Nickel and, uh, just yet, Again. Thank you for your leadership and passion for this. I see my colleague in the house, representative Follies in the call. Um, if there's anything you'd like to share around this issue, your thoughts would be welcome. Uh, yes, I thank you represented Austin. Well, I've been in the house for eight years and I've seen the dismantling of our unemployment process, unemployment insurance process. They have a tendency to believe that people are lazy and they don't want to work right now and speaking with some of my colleagues on the Republican side, they seem to feel like up with the money from the feds and what they're getting that people are living sat off the land right now getting all this money employment, and there's no motivation for them to get out there and work. Yet. We're on the front line every day off this pandemic, and most of the people who need the unemployment insurance, the most of those people who are out there doing the daily grind to make it so those of us in the General Assembly don't have to go in Ah that we can stay at home, that workers, they're the ones who were working in the restaurants to reduced work hours. And then we make the process of getting the unemployment cumbersome and difficult so that, you know, the time involved in just getting through the process with the phone calls and the things that you have to do has just been heart breaking for a lot of people. What's gonna happen is we're going to have a major crisis in North Carolina and in America when unemployment runs out and when the support runs out and people are being put out, evicted, hungry and, um, jobless. And we need to do some things. And we need to do some things like passing this bill now to extend those benefits until the job market picks back up and people are ready to really hire again or to get them back full time. It used to be a point where $7.57 hours a minimum wage just Babel support whatever the minimum away Waas you speak to support the individual. Now we're asking minimal waits to support families and it can't. And unemployment insurance. It's based upon your salary. So those have moving to begin with, even still get little unemployment, they don't get that Max out. Eso We need to do some things to help the people of North Carolina and stop this attack on the poor and make it an attack on on and reinstitute the war on poverty and bring people back to some self sufficiency. Thank you for that. And thank you. And again, Teoh, I think Representatives Batch and Hunt who were on the call but who also sponsored on House Bill 10 75. Um uh you know, for your for your support and trying to get this bill hurt and past, you know, the the opportunities there, it's on the table both in the House and Senate, and the time is now to do something about it. Um, your North Carolina workers and our economy, you know more broadly are we're at risk of Ah, Senator Nickel put it of losing. We're almost going to run out of this incredible critical and stabilizing sport for workers. And so we've got to do something about that. You know, we can't continue to rely on a system that isn't working. Uh, that ranks last in the country. Um, and with gotta fix it, we're in a position t to do that to put the lives and safety of our workers first, um, and and you pave the way for a stronger economy in the future If we can connect now. Eso Thank you all. Thanks to my colleagues. Thanks, Teoh. Folks at the Justice Center and the A f l c i o for being a part of this event, Mom. And you know, I think we're we along with the looks of just center open for questions. Yes. Proud members of the press feel free. Teoh, speak up or put your questions in the chat box. We don't have any questions again. We'll make sure everyone who registered for the call will get a recording of the video and was well is a list of speakers and contact as well as for Sarah. Who today Thank you so much. Thanks, everybody. You wants everyone. Have a good day and show Thanks for inviting me. Be safe, everyone. Thank you for joining us