The most recent recession has seen massive amounts of folks joining the ranks of the unemployed. Compounding that problem is that it is hard to obtain a new job in this economy. In an effort to alleviate, or help alleviate, some of the pain, benefits have been extended.
The new law is a response to the more than $2 billion the state owes the federal government, money that was borrowed to cover state-funded unemployment benefits after unemployment soared beginning in 2008.
While the state does get help from the federal government, they have to pay that money back. And if that money isn’t paid back in time, there are penalties.
So what is North Carolina doing?
About 70,000 people will stop receiving federal extended unemployment benefits June 30 – the result of a state law that goes into effect July 1. (See the state and Triangle jobless rates, and the rates for all 100 counties, in the interactive graphics at the bottom of this story.)
The law, one of the first passed by the legislature this year, reduces the maximum state benefits a laid-off worker can receive by roughly one-third. It also reduces the maximum weeks of benefits funded by the state.
Those changes triggered the end of the federal extended benefits because federal law requires states to maintain current benefit levels. Extended benefits, which kicked in after the unemployed had exhausted their 26 weeks of state-funded benefits, have provided as many as 47 additional weeks of benefits for those unable to find a job.
We’re reducing the unemployment benefits.
This, of course, is one of the reasons for Moral Monday protests here in Raleigh. It’s an example of an extremist legislature dominated by republicans to wage a war on the poor and middle class of North Carolina.
Never mind the fact that this money is going to have to be paid back. Never mind the fact that, at some point, the benefits are going to end. Never mind the fact that data suggests that people begin to look in earnest for their next job 2 weeks before their benefits end.
It’s time. It’s long past time to return to a state of things where benefits are a simple and short bridge to the next job. No one envisioned nearly two full years of unemployment benefits when the program was instituted.