Jobless benefits offered for tornado-ravaged businesses

Posted April 26, 2011 7:31 p.m. EDT
Updated April 26, 2011 7:40 p.m. EDT

— People who have been out of work because the recent tornadoes damaged their businesses can apply for state unemployment benefits, officials said Tuesday.

“There is help available, and North Carolinians affected by the storm should not wait to ask for it,” Gov. Beverly Perdue said. “These are the times when we come together and help each other.”

In Lee County alone, 50 businesses were damaged, with 17 buildings destroyed. Static Control Components Inc., which makes parts for laser printer cartridges and is the largest private employer in Sanford, lost several buildings to the tornado.

"The owner of the company is a man who is 75 years old. Some people were concerned that maybe he would decide he'd had enough of it, but he did not," said Skip London, general counsel for Static Control.

Instead, owner Ed Swartz decided that not even a force of nature would take down the company he started 20 years ago in his basement.

"He rose to the challenge and has really been invigorated by it," London said.

Just three days after the storm hit, the company was talking to customers by phone and shipping products.

"We've had people working," he said. "People have been working 12-hour days to get this together. We've had people offer to work for nothing."

All of the approximately 1,000 Static Control employees will keep their jobs, London said.

"I am very grateful to Mr. Swartz and his family for allowing us to be able to work and for our jobs," employee Melrose Durham said.

Other companies haven't been as fortunate to get up and running so soon after the tornado.

A furniture store across the street from Static Control is still a pile of rubble. In another part of Sanford, the parking lot remains blocked off in front of a Big Lots store and Tractor Supply Co.

The Disaster Unemployment Assistance made available Tuesday is for self-employed business people, farmers and others not typically covered by traditional unemployment benefits. Employees at businesses that have been shut down or curtailed by the storms can apply with the state Employment Security Commission for regular jobless benefits

People can apply for the Disaster Unemployment Assistance by contacting the ESC at or by calling 1-866-795-8877.

Business owners can also register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to apply for a low-interest loan to help pay for repairing storm damage and replacing lost inventory.