North Carolina GOP – Unemployment Benefits

Another legislative agenda for the state’s republican dominated state government:

 Tens of thousands of unemployed workers receiving federal emergency unemployment will likely lose their benefits starting July 1 as legislators overhaul the program.

Legislative leaders said this week that they will push ahead with a July 1 start to cuts in weekly benefits for unemployed workers. The measure would put the state in violation of the recently passed federal relief package that would have provided benefits to laid-off workers through December 2013. The federal legislation specifically forbid the states from altering the weekly benefit amount, which the General Assembly is poised to do as it returns to session Wednesday.

The reason for the change?  Well, it turns out that the federal government funded the North Carolina’s unemployment payments.  Funded to the tune of nearly $2.5 billion.  And until that debt is paid, North Carolina businesses are required to higher federal unemployment taxes, or FUTA.  In fact, each year that there is an outstanding balance, businesses in NC have to shell out an additional $21 per employee per year, cumulative.

As a response to this ever growing tax burden faced by employers, the idea is to reduce the scope of the state’s UI payout to reduce the normal tax payed.

Is it popular?

Worker advocates called the measure unnecessary and shortsighted.

“This will push thousands and thousands of North Carolinians off an artificial cliff and deny hundreds of millions in dollars to businesses and communities. That money adds nothing to our debt and had already been appropriated,” said Harry Payne, former labor commissioner and worker advocate for the North Carolina Justice Center.

The extended benefits was being funded entirely by the federal government. Each week, that program funnels $25 million in benefits to about 85,000 laid-off workers.

“If anyone wants an example of thoughtlessness, I’ll hold this piece up high,” Payne said. “This is about not understanding what people are going through.”

Certainly not.

However, as the tax per job increases, more and more NC businesses will look to get out of the way of those taxes.  And the only way to do that is to constrain jobs.  Something we certainly don’t wanna do.  Further, by reducing the size of the UI check, the incentive to look for work increases, driving more and more people into the labor force.

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