North Carolina is a trend setter after all.
Six months ago the state’s legislators decided the unemployed could all go jump in a lake, as far as they were concerned, when the General Assembly voted to cut off jobless benefits to the unemployed. Prior to the legislators’ action, those who qualified could receive jobless benefits for as much as 43 weeks. Afterward, that figure was sliced to 19 weeks, leaving tens of thousands without any income.
Now the federal long-term jobless benefit program has expired, leaving millions across the nation in the same boat.
Unfortunately, we believe this is a dubious honor, to be at the forefront of such action.
Thankfully, not all leaders in North Carolina have turned their backs on the unemployed.
The U.S. Senate is considering a bill that would extend those federal benefits to the jobless for at least another three months, and U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina is pushing for a measure that would include North Carolina residents in that extension, even if they had lost benefits by the General Assembly’s action.
“The General Assembly knowingly and willingly violated federal law, and I refuse to let the people of our state suffer because of their reckless actions,” Hagan said of the state’s legislature, though she was not clear on what she meant by violating federal law. “I have worked closely with the Department of Labor to ensure that those North Carolinians who had their unemployment insurance terminated last year will be eligible to receive the emergency benefits they missed out on.
“North Carolinians struggling to get by while looking for work should receive the same benefits as citizens in other states,” she said.
No one likes the idea of able-bodied individuals sitting at home, drawing an unemployment check which those who are gainfully employed are paying for. While that is the stereo-type those who supported the benefit cut portrayed, the reality is most on unemployment would do most anything to get a job.
The truth is there just aren’t as many jobs as there are unemployed — according to the economic research arm of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, there are still three jobless individuals for every available job in America.
The idea that there has to be some limitation on national jobless benefits, that they eventually have to end, is a legitimate discussion to have. Until the discussion is settled, however, North Carolina residents shouldn’t have to suffer needlessly.
We support Hagan’s efforts to get those federal benefits back in place for state residents. It is the right move to make.