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Triangle's Unemployed Hope To Benefit From Federal Benefit Extensions

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RALEIGH — Before Sept. 11, the country's economy was weak. Since the attacks, it has become even more sluggish.Even in the Triangle, where unemployment has been very low, more people are losing their jobs.

In September, Wake County paid out $6.2 million in unemployment benefits, compared to $1.4 million last September.

Many people who have been out of work for a while are starting to worry that their benefits will run out before they get a job.

David Brown is an engineer who has been unemployed for six months; his unemployment benefits run out in two weeks. Brown's situation is not unlike others who pack Wake County's unemployment office.

Standing room only crowds search the Internet and classifieds and meet with career counselors at the state Employment Security Commission. Traffic has doubled there since last December.

Many of those looking for work are hoping that a federal proposal to extend unemployment benefits includes North Carolina.

"We're just kind of on pins and needles like everyone else waiting to find out what finally takes shape," saysMichele Tavernise of the

N.C. Employment Security Commission


The proposed bill includes states that have been declared disaster areas or where unemployment rates jumped 30 percent after Sept. 11.

"It doesn't appear that North Carolina would qualify for any extended benefits, however Congress has not put out a final bill, so we won't know until they finally take action," says Tavernise.

The unemployment rate in North Carolina is currently 5.2 percent. Workers can draw unemployment up to 26 weeks. Our state pays the highest weekly amount in the southeast: $396.

For now, all many people can do is try to land a job and hope the extension that is passed includes the Tarheel state.

"It would give me another three months to look for a job. Maybe the economy will turn around and jobs will be easier to find," says Brown.

The U.S. House passed its version of an economic stimulus package on Wednesday. Major changes are likely before the Senate votes and a final package is approved.

Legislators are debating how long benefits should be extended and what states should be eligible.


Ericka Lewis, Reporter
Don Ingle, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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