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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -
Put your money where your mouth is.
That's the challenge issued now to the state's leading Republicans. Members of the advocacy group Action North Carolina are asking new Governor Pat McCrory, House Speaker Thom Tillis, and Senator Bob Rucho to commit to living one week on $350, because the trio wants to cut unemployment benefits from a maximum weekly amount of $506 to that amount.
Eligibility would shrink, too, from 26 weeks to a total of 13 to 20 weeks, depending on the unemployment rate.
"It's just a huge overhaul of our system and it's moving really, really fast," says Kevin Rogers of Action NC, an advocacy group for the unemployed. Rogers calls the proposal the Cat Food Budget, saying that's all you can afford to eat on it.
"When you do the numbers, you can't make it work on $350 a week, and that's the maximum benefit," he says. "Most people are going to get even less than that. So it's just a really difficult position to be putting unemployed workers in."
But McCrory says the state's in a difficult position as well.
"I don't want to step on people's toes to cause pain," McCrory said in a recent speech about the state's unemployment situation. "I want to step on people's toes to get them to stand up and recognize we've got a problem."
North Carolina owes $2.8 billion to the federal government for money borrowed over the past few years to pay unemployment. McCrory wants that debt gone.
"It's an unfunded liability," he explained during his speech. "We're going to deal with it. You will be impacted. Everyone will be impacted. But I'm convinced that if we deal with it now, that means the costs won't be greater years down the road."
Ruch says reducing benefits now will help the economy, absolve the debt, and put away funds for the future. "It is a very comprehensive way of trying to get the funds solvent and put people back to work and more importantly have a solvent fund available for when the next recession comes.
Still, many insist the system isn't ready.
"A lot of people are going to get hurt," Rogers says.
The unemployment rate rose last month in Mecklenburg County, and there are still layoffs to contend with. Officials at Daimler Trucks just said Tuesday that they would eliminate a significant number of positions, and that workers at the company's three Charlotte-area plants will lose their jobs.