For North Carolina’s 70,000 long-term unemployed, life is about to get more depressing.
As of Sunday, the state will technically be disqualified from receiving aid for the long-term unemployed through a federal program. This comes after North Carolinians saw unemployment benefits slashed by 35 percent.
The disqualification stems directly from the state’s slash in benefits. In order to continue to receive federal funding through the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, states must adhere to a list of guidelines, one of which does not allow states to cut weekly benefits.
North Carolina did just that.
Like other states hit hard during the Great Recession, North Carolina turned to the federal government for help in providing services to the long-term unemployed after its own coffers ran dry.
In February, legislators decided it was time to pay back its $2.5 billion debt owed to Washington. Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law that does just that, yet it does so on the backs of the 8.8 percent of the state’s workers who are unemployed.
Legislators decided to lower the cap on unemployment benefits — from $535 to $350 a week. On top of that, the duration of benefits is also set for a rollback, from six months to five months. While North Carolinians could, in the past, apply for benefits through the EUC program, they’ll now have no other options.
“We’re really desperate as to what’s going on here,” JoAnn Loggins of Morganton told North Carolina Policy Watch. “If they cut off unemployment, I’m going to be devastated; I’m going to be homeless.”
Loggins isn’t alone. With state benefits expected to run out this year for 170,000 unemployed, North Carolina is about to inherit a new dilemma.
“I’m just not sure what I’m going to do,” 45-year-old Lee Creighton told the Associated Press. “What are we to do? Is the state prepared to have this many people with no source of income?”
North Carolina’s unemployment ranks as the fifth-worst in the nation. In April, when the state had an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent, more than 398,000 were without jobs.
The Tar Heel State isn’t the only one dealing with debt related to federal unemployment assistance. According to the Associated Press, 22 other states are in the same boat. While other states have aimed to cut unemployment benefits, North Carolina is the first to directly target weekly benefits, the main point of disqualification for the EUC program.