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Support for North Carolinians Losing Their Unemployment Benefits

Support for North Carolinians Losing Their Unemployment Benefits

As of June 30, 70,000 unemployed North Carolinians who received their first unemployment checks prior to January 1, 2013, have likely lost their unemployment benefits. Changes in the law enacted in February end the state’s access to 100 percent federally financed emergency unemployment compensation. By reducing the weekly benefits jobless workers receive under the state-funded program, the changes in state law mean that the federal extension, which allowed the 70,000 jobless workers additional coverage, is no longer available.

New claims are eligible for a maximum weekly benefit of $350, an amount that only covers 32 percent of basic needs for a family of three. Under the changed law, the jobless will not only receive less support, but also a shorter window to receive it.

With the unemployment rate ticking up in May, the labor market in North Carolina remains difficult for workers trying to find a job:

  • Nearly 50 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for over 26 weeks
  • More than half of claimants exhausted benefits without finding a job

Impact on counties

Job losses fall heavily on counties dependent upon traditional industries. According to the N.C. Department of Commerce, manufacturing industries with significant job losses from May 2012-2013 include tobacco, textiles, and furniture—all heavy hitters of the state’s old economy.

(Click to view larger image.)

That means the impact of the newly enacted reduction in benefits is likely to hurt counties differently (see the maps below with information from the N.C. Department of Commerce). For example, Edgecombe County has the second highest unemployment rate (15.3 percent) and the highest percentage of unemployment beneficiaries to lose the federal extension (22 percent of the current unemployed). 

May 2013 – Unemployment Rates by County (Click to view larger image.)

The number of people losing their unemployment compensation also differs greatly by county across North Carolina, according to the N.C. Justice Center, using state Employment Security Commission data:

Estimated Number of Emergency Unemployment Compensation Exhaustions (Click to view larger image.)

Support for unemployed and underemployed workers

To help make up for the loss of unemployment benefits, support for unemployed and underemployed workers is available from The Benefit Bank® of North Carolina, a statewide outreach and enrollment initiative managed by MDC involving more than 200 community-based organizations and over 1,300 volunteers and staff trained as counselors. They have used The Benefit Bank online expert service—a universal form that helps fill out applications that include veterans’ education and training benefits, Medicaid, children’s health insurance, SNAP, federal and state income tax returns to claim tax credits, and FAFSA—to connect more than 30,000 North Carolina families with over $48 million in work, education, and income supports since 2010.

MDC is recruiting more community-based organizations and community colleges to join and participate in this initiative. To see a recent story about The Benefit Bank of North Carolina by WSOC-TV in Charlotte click here: “9 Investigates: Billions of dollars in benefits go unclaimed.”  For more information about MDC’s demonstration project, please contact Ulysses Bell with MDC by phone at (919) 381-5892 or email at ubell@mdcinc.org. You may also contact Tiki Windley at (919) 381-5878 or twindley@mdcinc.org.