Local News

Drop in NC unemployment rate means drop in jobless benefits

Posted April 4, 2011 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated April 4, 2011 6:07 p.m. EDT

— About 37,000 unemployed North Carolinians will lose their jobless benefits in two weeks, according to the state Employment Security Commission.

The ESC's extended benefits program kicks in after someone has exhausted regular unemployment benefits and all federal extensions. It lasts for 20 weeks and relies on a federal formula to determine eligibility. Because the statewide unemployment rate has declined in recent months, the federal government ordered North Carolina to stop providing extended benefits as of April 16.

"We have no choice. We have no choice in this," ESC Vice Chairman David Clegg said. "The federal government tells the state when it triggers on and triggers off."

The state unemployment rate was 9.7 percent in February, down from 11.4 percent a year earlier.

Regular benefits last 26 weeks, and the federal government has added four tiers of extensions during the recession to give people an extra 53 weeks of benefits. With the end of the state extended benefits programs, thousands of people are much closer to losing their weekly benefits check.

"I'm nervous, concerned. I only get a little bit, and what is it I'm supposed to do?" Jacqueline Ezeamii said.

Ezeamii said she uses her unemployment benefits to pay bus fare to get to interviews and to the unemployment office.

"How are you going to take the bus to look for a job? They are cutting off everything. How are you supposed to look for a job?" she said.

Ricky Faison said he has been collecting unemployment benefits for almost two years, using the money to pay bills, buy groceries and occasionally take care of his grandchildren.

His benefits were scheduled to run out in a few months, but they will now end in 12 days.

"All of a sudden, it's cut off. So that means, you know, it's over. It's over," Faison said, trying to remain positive. "It's been a tough situation."

Clegg said the ESC is reviewing its options to try and extend the April 16 deadline.