The bad news: Congress hasn’t moved forward on renewing Emergency Unemployment Benefits. At this point it’s uncertain when we will see any movement. That means 1.3 Million Americans actively seeking work have been without any Federal assistance for a month.
Worse news: If you live in North Carolina, the state General Assembly cut the maximum unemployment benefits from 73 weeks to 12-20 weeks. The net effect of this is the statewide unemployment rate in NC has dropped sharply–from 8.8% to 7.4%. Some of that has been through more people finding jobs; but over 100,000 North Carolinians left the workforce altogether, artificially reducing the unemployment number.
Additionally, if you are still receiving unemployment benefits in NC, that benefit has been significantly reduced–from $500 to $350/week.
The net effect of these changes is that fewer people can continue to focus on seeking work. Many of these people, who have exhausted their savings and/or didn’t have any savings to begin with, will be forced to seek other forms of assistance to keep their families housed and fed.
Republicans argue that extended unemployment benefits amount to little more than a crutch–that it makes not working too comfortable.
Reducing or eliminating the safety net may have an impact of getting people back to work–into jobs that would be considered underemployment.
I would be very curious to see how many people have accepted positions with wages significantly below what they made previously–and whether that action has forced them to access other social safety net programs–food banks, food stamps, etc. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any data on this yet. If any of you do, please let me know.
There may be some hope on the horizon in NC, though. Senator Kay Hagan amended the Senate bill for extension of the Federal Emergency UI benefits to include a reinstatement of extended UI insurance in NC. It would be in the hands of Gov. Pat McCrory to determine whether extended benefits were reinstated in NC if the Senate bill passes.