Gov Cooper calls on Republican leaders to raise state unemployment benefits

Debate over expanding unemployment benefits

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Unemployment benefits look likely to increase again in North Carolina. Governor Roy Cooper says his administration is working with the US Department of Labor on a program to offer an additional $400 per week to jobless North Carolinians, after the $600 benefit expired. But Cooper says he’s looking for the state legislature to do something in return.

With Congress stuck in a stimulus stalemate President Donald Trump took an executive action that would impact the hundreds of thousands of jobless North Carolinians. The federal government would pony up $300 a week in unemployment benefits if states can match with an additional $100.

In a letter to Governor Roy Cooper sent earlier this week, Senator Phil Berger and Speaker Tim Moore called on Cooper to accept the President’s offer.

“I would advocate we do take the $300,” Cooper said.

During a COVID-19 update Cooper said his administration is working on the plan but doesn’t want the state to have to create a new program to see this out. He says they were waiting on additional rules from the US Department of Labor.

With $2.9 billion in the Unemployment Trust Fund, North Carolina could afford the additional $100 per claimant but Cooper is calling on the legislature to increase the state benefits that already exist, which rank low compared to other states across the country.

“We have to get our state legislature to do better on the state benefits,” Cooper said.

“Most people are running out of their payments after 12 weeks, the cap of #350 per week, that cap needs to be raised. The amount of time particularly during this pandemic needs to be extended, so the state legislature needs to take action as well,” Cooper said.

Michelle Evermore with the National Employment Law Project also says North Carolina’s benefits are low and could be improved.

“The more we prop up the economy right now the better the state’s going to be in the long run,” Evermore told WBTV.

“Enough investment at this point in the crisis could mean we emerge from this high unemployment rate relatively quickly.”

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