The Republican-controlled North Carolina state senate overwhelmingly approved legislation to slash the state’s unemployment insurance program Tuesday, reducing the amount of aid unemployed workers can receive and also the number of weeks they will be eligible to receive it. The legislation reduces the maximum benefit from $535 a week to $350, while reducing the time workers can receive aid from 26 weeks to 20.
The cuts will also cost unemployed North Carolinians access to the federal unemployment insurance program, which is based on state programs. The change will cost 170,000 North Carolinians a total of $780 million in federal funds, adding to the total they will lose in state funds. North Carolina’s unemployment rate is 9.2 percent, more than a percentage point higher than the national rate, but proponents of the legislation say it will help workers find jobs faster, Reuters reports:
“What this really should be called is a re-employment rather than an unemployment bill,” said Republican state Senator Bob Rucho, a sponsor of the measure. “We’re trying to put North Carolinians back to work.“
The average unemployed worker has been off the job for 35 weeks, meaning North Carolina will now fall far short in helping many of its jobless residents. And Despite Rucho’s assertions, and despite typical Republican concerns that programs like unemployment compensation cause a “culture of dependency,” studies show that workers who receive unemployment insurance look harder for jobs than those who do not. More likely, the bill will simply make the lives of unemployed workers even harder, preventing them from falling back on unemployment aid and cutting America’s already-stingy unemployment program even closer to the bone.
If the bill is approved and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who has sign he will sign it, North Carolina will become the seventh state to make cuts to unemployment insurance.