With federal benefits expiring at end of the month, jobless North Carolinians unemployment benefits will be slashed by more than half

Low unemployment benefits in North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Eddie Cribb is just like more than a million other people in North Carolina who filed an unemployment claim during the pandemic.

“Our company was taking some furlough weeks, in fact, I’m on furlough week this week as well,” Cribb said.

It took a month and a half but his claim was eventually approved.

“I finally received a payment for my furlough week. $950 dollars on July the 3rd,” Cribb said.

But $600 of Cribb’s unemployment benefit comes from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, meaning Cribb is earning the maximum allowable payment from the state just $350. The average North Carolinian on unemployment insurance is receiving $270 per week.

“The average benefit in North Carolina is well below the national average benefit,” Michele Evermore, with the National Employment Law Project, told WBTV.

Evermore said the low benefits are the result of a change in law by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013.

“Benefits were based on the highest quarter of earnings and now they’re based on the last two quarters and if you’ve ever been somebody who’s lost a job you’ll understand you lose a job slowly not quickly,” Evermore said. “So basing it on the most recent two quarters you’re catching people as their job was winding down.”

The reason the general assembly cut those benefits is that, on the heels of a recession, the state’s unemployment system was $2.6 billion in debt to the federal government.

“Every week when we paid out unemployment claims we had to go borrow money from the federal government and pay interest on that money,” State Treasurer Dale Folwell said.

Folwell was leading the Division of Employment Security in 2013 the same year those changes took place. He says now North Carolina’s system is well funded and less likely than many other states to run out of money.

“There’s no question that there’s tremendous stress across North Carolina and anxiety about people not being able to get their unemployment compensation,” Folwell said. “But it should be somewhat comforting to know that there’s almost $3 billion sitting in the unemployment trust fund so when this backlog ultimately does clear there’s money there to pay them.”

A Division of Employment Security spokesperson told WBTV there’s still $2.98 billion in the trust fund although there are no projections on if that money will run out.

But the $600 from the FPUC is slated to expire on July 25th meaning if Congress doesn’t act, jobless North Carolinians are facing a steep drop in their weekly deposits.

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