NC Lawmakers Consider Cuts to Unemployment Benefits
RALEIGH, N.C. - Bridgette Burge is one of the more than 430,000 unemployed people in North Carolina. With a masters' degree and ten years of experience in the nonprofit sector, Burge says she's frustrated with attempts by some members of the State Assembly to cut unemployment benefits.
They're doing so in an effort to overcome a shortfall in the state's unemployment insurance fund, which is complicated by the increased number of jobless people.
"People are in such dire straits right now, and it feels to me like being kicked when I'm down. I've done everything right. It's just devastating."
On December 5, members of the legislature's Revenue Laws Committee will vote on some of the most drastic cuts to unemployment benefits being considered in the nation. It would reduce the maximum weekly unemployment benefit from $506 to $350. Workers would also only be covered for 20 weeks instead of 26.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports there are three unemployed people in North Carolina for every eligible job in the state. Harry Payne, senior counsel for policy and law with the North Carolina Justice Center, and a former head of the state's Employment Security Commission, doesn't like the legislature's approach.
"These people are the biggest victims of the economy, and the very thought that the victims of the economy should pay its costs doesn't work."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, unemployment benefits kept more than 3 million Americans out of poverty in 2010.