100,000 North Carolinians could lose unemployment benefits

December 11, 2012 at 9:50 am

On December 29, the extended unemployment benefits offered by the federal government will discontinue, unless Congress acts to extend them. If this happens, an estimated 100,000 unemployed workers could lose their  benefits abruptly. As the Charlotte Observer notes, this would be unprecedented.

Previously, when federal benefits were set to expire, they were phased out gradually. This time, Congress did not include a phase-out period in the extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program. Secondly, the issue of unemployment benefits is getting tangled up with the fiscal cliff debate, making an extension seem less likely than in previous years.

North Carolina’s high unemployment rate of 9.3 percent means that the state will be hard hit.  Some argue that extending unemployment benefits only encourages laziness– that without them, workers will be more proactive in seeking work. However, for millions of people across the nation, this is simply not true. The Charlotte Observer profiled a few North Carolina workers who have been searching for work, but have been unable to secure a job. For these people, unemployment benefits are a lifeline.

Lorraine Kimble, 61, of Raleigh, attended a job fair in Research Triangle Park on Monday. Kimble, who has a master’s degree in health education, lost her job as a wellness program specialist when the YWCA of the Greater Triangle closed in February. Kimble said she was “devastated” when she learned last week that her unemployment checks could soon end. “I’m worried about being homeless if I don’t get a job,” said Kimble, who nonetheless remains confident that she’ll land a job soon.

In addition to federal benefits expiring, at the state level a recent bill calls for reducing state-level unemployment benefits. This would reduce the number of weeks to no more than 20 and reduce the benefits from $506 per week to $350 per week.

The recession has been marked by long-term joblessness, and although we are officially in a period of “recovery” many parts of the country and North Carolina have yet to see any positive change in their local economies. The following charts from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published earlier this  month show that long-term joblessness and unemployment remain persistently high.

The depth of the Great Recession and its lasting impacts mean that many people will not experience the economic recovery for a while longer. As workers continue to struggle to find jobs, it is important that they are able to stay afloat. Without key safety net benefits, like extended unemployment, many workers will end up in poverty.  As the worker quoted in the Charlotte Observer notes, for  many workers these benefits make the difference between falling into poverty and being able to keep hanging on. Furthermore, the abrupt expiration of the benefits will deal an immediate blow that we have previously not seen before. As Bill Rowe from the NC Justice Center states, “All I can do is hope and urge the representatives in Washington that there is a tremendous need out there. Not dealing with the situation won’t make the problem go away.”

 

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Entry filed under: Economic Development, Economy, Jobs & Employment. Tags: , , , .

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