Local News

Many N.C. Residents Left Without Unemployment Benefits For Holidays

Posted December 22, 2003 4:34 a.m. EST

— It may be the season of giving, but the federal government will not be giving out any extended unemployment benefits. Starting this week, nearly 2,500 North Carolinians a week will be cut off from extra help.

Sharon Walker has been without a job since June. The 50-year-old woman thinks both her age and a visual disability that keeps her from driving work against her. Now, she found out Congress did not extend emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed.

"I'm trying not to cry, but it really scares me. If you saw me last week, I was upset," she said. "I was afraid I wouldn't have an income, and you don't know what that's like until you face it."

Since March, 13 weeks of federal emergency money was offered by the government when regular benefits ran out. The program expired Sunday and Congress left for its holiday break without extending it. Now, a new study suggests North Carolina will be the most impacted by the change.

State Rep. David Price said 205 percent more North Carolinians are exhausting their benefits now than 10 years ago.

"That doesn't sound like a total recovery to me. It sounds like one that still needs a lot of attention," he said.

Republican leaders are against extending benefits. They say unemployment figures are going down. However, when emergency unemployment benefits expired at this same time last year, Congress returned in January and passed an extension.

Unemployment in the state continued to rise last month. The jobless rate rose a tenth of a percent to 6.2 percent in November, which puts the state above the national average for the ninth time this year. However, 53,000 more people have jobs than from the same period one year ago.