Shortly before Congress adjourned for the July 4 recess, it failed to extend unemployment benefits for millions of Americans. The Senate was unable to overcome a Republican-led filibuster that was joined by Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (NE). Tomorrow afternoon, the Senate will try once again to overcome the filibuster.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who who has repeatedly voted against extending benefits for the unemployed, said he opposes the extension because he believes we have a “fiscal responsibility to pay for anything when we’re in the debt we are” (a demand his fellow conservatives do not make about tax cuts for millionaires). According to the latest numbers from the North Carolina Employment Security Commission, Burr’s state of North Carolina currently has a double-digit unemployment rate of 10 percent. North Carolina Policy Watch estimates that when the last vote to extend unemployment insurance failed, 20,000 North Carolinians lost their benefits.
All across the state, unemployed North Carolinians are suffering as their benefits run out and they are unable to find any work due to the recession. Here are just a few examples of the pain the unemployed in Burr’s state are experiencing:
— Stephen Crockett, who has “34 years of primarily manufacturing and construction experience” in the Winston-Salem area, has been unemployed since August 2008. His benefits ran out June 14th, and he worries he will be “homeless, hungry and without car insurance by mid-July if another extension is not granted.”
— Boonville’s Melissa Carr lost her job more than a year ago at a travel agency. Living on $135 a week in unemployment benefits, she qualified for a Pell grant and is studying to become a substance abuse counselor. Yet her benefits will run out soon, and she is terrified of what she will do without them. “I am going to lose my home and most likely, my possessions,” she told USA Today.
— Shari Maloney, 45, has been out of work since January and lives with her boyfriend in Raleigh, who is also unemployed. “It’s a roller coaster, honestly,” Maloney told the Charlotte Observer. “Can I say that it’s getting any better? No, I can’t say that. I talked with a recruiter recently with a group of other applicants. She said, ‘Look, you guys are all midcareer, you’re midmanagement and your jobs are the ones that are not going to be coming back soon.’”
In Ashe County, North Carolina, unemployed couple Mark Nesselhaus and Stephanie Young were forced to live in a tent in a campground in West Jefferson after Nesselhaus was laid off twice from manufacturing jobs. As storms pounded the campground, the owner allowed the couple to move into a cabin and pay rent when they can. “You don’t realize how fast it could happen to you,” Nesselhaus told the local press. “You could be working one day, nice paycheck, nice home and within a week or a day it could all be gone.” Local news station WXII12 interviewed the couple about their predicament. Watch it:
With the vote to overcome a Republican-led filibuster expected to be close, Burr could make the difference in easing the suffering of not just thousands of his fellow North Carolinians, but millions of Americans by voting for extending unemployment insurance.