The Republican-controlled legislature is kicking off their session by proposing a bill that would drastically slash unemployment benefits. The GOP wants to cut the maximum benefits unemployed workers can receive by one-third, the most severe cut any state has ever proposed. The maximum benefits received would be cut by $175, from $525 to $350 per week. Also the amount of time workers can stay on the state’s unemployment benefits would be reduced from 26 weeks, to a sliding scale from 12 to 20 weeks, based upon the state’s unemployment rate.
Unemployment benefits are received by workers who lost their job due to no fault of their own. Benefits help workers stay afloat, while allowing them to still contribute to the local economy. It is a win-win situation – but apparently our state legislators do not see it this way.
Right now, North Carolina is about $2.5 billion in debt to the federal government. Since 2009, there have been temporary taxes on corporations to pay back this debt. Under the current system, the debt will be paid back by 2018. GOP legislators argue that if benefits are cut, the debt will be paid back sooner.
No matter what, the federal government will get their money back. They are not asking for this process to be expedited. Yet our state legislators see this small temporary tax on businesses to be a burden. The temporary taxes are only $21 per employee each year, which will not break the bank for major corporations.
If workers benefits are cut by $175 per week, they are going to be the ones burdened. $175 can be the difference between paying for rent, heat, buying groceries – or not. If this legislation goes through, workers will be sacrificing more while corporations get tax breaks.
Our members have been writing letters to their legislators and also letters to the editors. In a published letter to the editor on the effect of cutting unemployment benefits, Working America member Norma Marshall states:
“The result will be more people who are unable to pay rent and mortgages, or feed and care for their children. It will lead to more misery and economic strife for the unemployed.”
Newly elected Republican Governor Pat McCrory has not stated whether or not he supports this plan. Gov. McCrory needs to hear from you! Working America and our allies are asking Gov. McCrory to put his money where his mouth is and live off of $350 per week. Please tell Gov. McCrory and tell him that you support the challenge and want him to protect unemployment benefits.
With our state unemployment rate still over 9 percent, now is not the time to cut benefits.