Just this month it was announced that about 37,000 North Carolinians would suddenly lose their unemployment benefits. This news emerged as at least eight other states avoided a similar fate by changing the calculations used to determine when these benefits could be distributed.
But according to Bloomberg Businessweek, the same revisions weren’t considered in the Tar Heel State. “North Carolina lawmakers…so far haven't shown interest in revising the formula, which some advocates say risks adding to the misery of an already stagnant job market by cutting off tens of thousands of the long-term unemployed from their benefits. ’It's critical that we keep these benefits in place," said Alexandra Sirota, director of the left-leaning North Carolina Budget and Tax Center. "Not just for the people themselves, but for their communities. When they lose their benefits, they cut back on spending, which hurts local businesses and contributes to the overall problem.’”
The federal government let state employment officials know late last week that the last of the extended benefits program must pay out by April 16. While the tiers of benefits and payment schedules can be confusing to decipher, essentially the stoppage relates to a drop in overall unemployment rates from formerly recessionary numbers. As Bloomberg described it, the unemployment benefits cycled ended because, “a recent three-month average of the state's unemployment rate didn't equal or surpass 110 percent of three-month averages from 2010 or 2009. That's the formula the government uses to determine which states can pay out the extended benefits, which kick in after 26 weeks of initial benefits followed by 53 weeks of emergency federal benefits. The 20 weeks of the extended program brings people to 99 weeks of benefits, or nearly two years. That may seem like a long time, but the lingering effects of the Great Recession include a job market that's been remarkably slow to recover.”
In light of North Carolina’s sustained unemployment rates and overall tough economic climate, many state citizens have been forced to turn to food banks and other charities to get by even before these benefit changes. The cut-off of unemployment checks for many of the state’s long-term unemployment and formerly middle-class means surging numbers will once again to turn to the kindness of strangers to make ends meet.
"’They've lost jobs, and a lot of these jobs are middle-class, middle-income jobs," the Rev. Mike Aiken, the organization's director, said. "A lot of these folks have been dependent on unemployment benefits. It's been extended and extended, and when it stops, it comes at a real bad time.’ North Carolina is one of about three dozen states to have the extended benefits program, which was created as a way to lessen the sting of the massive job shedding that began around the start of the Great Recession at the end of 2007. About 234,000 North Carolinians have received payments under the program at a cost of around $750 million, according to Larry Parker, spokesman for the commission.”
Were you one of the thousands receiving these benefits? Are you prepared for them to end?
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