Thursday, September 23, 2021

North Carolina Democrats renew push to expand unemployment benefits

North Carolina Democrats are part of a group calling for reform of the state’s unemployment system in the wake of ending federal pandemic unemployment benefits.

Vile Nickel, D-Vac., and advocates for the North Carolina State AFL-CIO and the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center on Monday urged the General Assembly to pass legislation to increase the amount and duration of unemployment benefits in North Carolina.

“The loss of significant federal benefits puts thousands of North Carolina families at risk,” Nickel said during a virtual news conference. “Workers have a right to know they can count on the system they paid for when they were in crisis. Right now, we have more than 200,000 North Carolina families with federal unemployment benefits that just ended. “

The federal program ended on 6 September. Nickel said it takes $1,200 from North Carolinians each month to pay for food and rent amid the COVID-19 pandemic. State Republicans pushed for an early end to the federal program because it led to staff shortages across the state, he said. He filed legislation to withhold the additional $300 per week in benefits. Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the measure.

Cooper has pushed for an expansion of the state’s unemployment benefits program, which Democrats have said is one of the worst programs in the country.

Republican leaders, including state treasurer Dale Folwell, said the additional unemployment benefits had created an “unemployment crisis” in the state.

“I get calls every day from small businesses saying they can’t get people to work because it’s more profitable for them to stay at home,” Folwell said in a news release on September 2. “They can’t compete against the federal government. And the workers who are visible are paying taxes so that others can stay at home.”

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North Carolina’s unemployment program was ranked last among other states, with 20 percent of unemployed workers receiving jobless benefits, according to a U.S. Department of Labor report provided by the Senate Minority Leader’s Office. The Labor Department report said the state ranked third for the amount and duration of benefits.

Nickel & Sense. Paul Lowe Jr., D-Forsyth, and Mike Woodward, D-Durham, have filed Senate Bill 320, which would increase the state maximum benefit payout from $350 per week to $500 per week. It will also increase the duration of the program from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.

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Nickel also recommended giving unemployment benefits to part-time workers and giving employers a “tax holiday” from unemployment insurance taxes for one year. The holiday could cost the state $300 million from its unemployment trust fund. The state currently has $2.7 billion in its trust fund, which comes from unemployment insurance premiums from employers and then paid to unemployed workers.

SB 320 was filed on March 18, but has not been reviewed in the Senate.

by Nymeke Daniels

Center Square was launched in May 2019 to address the need for high quality statehouses and statewide news across the United States. The focus of our work is state and local level government and economic reporting. www.thecentersquare.com

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This News Originally From – The Epoch Times

North Carolina Democrats renew push to expand unemployment benefits
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