More than 70,000 unemployed workers will see their unemployment benefits cease at the end of this month, thanks to an overhaul of the state’s unemployment system that goes into effect on June 30.
For any North Carolina workers receiving federal extended unemployment benefits (known as the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program or EUC), or anyone who started receiving benefits prior to Jan. 1, 2013, weekly payments will be cut off completely after the week of June 29, which is when final EUC payments will be issued in North Carolina.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimated that ultimately 170,000 North Carolinians will not receive the extended federal benefits they would have received or been eligible for prior to the overhaul.
For those who lose their jobs in N.C. in the future, the picture is also grim. Workers who are laid off or terminated after June 30 will be subject to the state’s new weekly maximum payment of $350, a drastic drop from a maximum of $535 per week. Although unemployed workers have been eligible for 26 weeks of benefits for more than 70 years, this new plan also limits the duration of benefits to between 12 to 20 weeks, depending on the state’s unemployment rate. North Carolina currently has the 5th highest unemployment rate in the country at 7.8%
Because of the manner in which North Carolina lawmakers chose to cut benefits with reductions in both the number of weeks and the amount of benefits, the loss in benefits will be the most extensive in the country.
The cuts follow the change in the standards that laid-off or terminated workers attempting to apply for benefits must meet. Now, if an employer alleges an employee was involved in relatively minor misconduct, the employee can be refused any unemployment benefits. Gone are the benefits to nonmilitary spouses who must move because of a job change for their spouses, those who had to leave work for health reasons, and those who leave work because of family hardship.
The state Division of Employment Security (formerly the Employment Security Commission) will focus its mission on the provision of resources for unemployed workers similar to those already available at local libraries: free computer and internet access, information on the job market, information on training and education programs and access to training classes and workshops.