Under the Dome

GOP lawmakers may thwart federal unemployment rules

Tens of thousands of unemployed workers receiving federal emergency unemployment will likely lose their benefits starting July 1 as legislators overhaul the program.

Legislative leaders said this week that they will push ahead with a July 1 start to cuts in weekly benefits for unemployed workers. The measure would put the state in violation of the recently passed federal relief package that would have provided benefits to laid-off workers through December 2013. The federal legislation specifically forbid the states from altering the weekly benefit amount, which the General Assembly is poised to do as it returns to session Wednesday.

“It interferes with our expected legislation that we already had ready to go in December. We won’t let it continue,” said Rep. Julia Howard, R-Mocksville, head of the House Finance Committee who is shepherding a bill that would overhaul the unemployment system.

Federal emergency benefits for unemployed workers were extended for another year under legislation that prevented the U.S. from going over the so-called fiscal cliff – the automatic federal spending cuts and tax increases that were scheduled to take place at the beginning of this year.

As of Jan. 5, more than 85,000 laid-off workers in North Carolina collected federal emergency benefits and could have continued through year’s end. Some of the 128,000 unemployed on the state’s portion of benefits may also be affected, depending on when they transitioned from state to federal benefits.

Worker advocates called the measure unnecessary and shortsighted. “This will push thousands and thousands of North Carolinians off an artificial cliff and deny hundreds of millions in dollars to businesses and communities. That money adds nothing to our debt and had already been appropriated,” said Harry Payne, former labor commissioner and worker advocate for the North Carolina Justice Center. Read the full story here.

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