North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) today signed a law that imposes severe cuts to his state’s unemployment insurance program, a change that will also cost jobless workers in the state access to the federal unemployment compensation program.
McCrory’s signature earned him a rebuke from the National Employment Law Project, which said in a release that the law will result in “the most severe cuts to both state and federal unemployment insurance of any state in the nation”:
These heartless cuts, in the state with the fifth-highest jobless rate in the nation, at 9.2 percent, show a shocking disregard for 400,000 unemployed North Carolinians and their families, many of whom will now go from struggling to barely make ends meet to outright struggling to survive. The immediate pain of these cuts will fall on North Carolinians unfortunate enough to lose work through no fault of their own in a weak economy where jobs are scarce. But the entire state will take a hit from the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in spending at local businesses that would’ve boosted the local and state economies.
The law reduces the maximum benefit allowed from $535 a week to $350 while cutting the number of weeks an unemployed worker is eligible for the program from 26 to 20. As a result, 170,000 jobless North Carolinians will also lose access to $780 million in federal unemployment funds. The average unemployed worker in the United States has been off the job for 35 weeks, meaning many jobless workers will now face the prospect of searching for a new job without access to a safety net program.
Republican state senators have touted the law as “re-employment” program, even though research suggests that workers who receive unemployment benefits search harder for jobs than those who don’t. McCrory, meanwhile, praised the fiscal responsibility of the law, which will allow North Carolina to pay back money owed to the federal government a measly three years earlier than it would have under the old program.