As legislators return to Raleigh this week, a top priority must be expanding unemployment insurance. Legislative leaders are responsible for creating the worst unemployment benefits in the nation and they need to act instead of offering token gestures or political gimmicks.
On Friday, legislative leaders said they supported an additional $50/week for people out of work through no fault of their own. However, they provided no details for their plan. Would these additional funds go to people currently receiving state benefits? People receiving federal benefits? Would they retroactively apply to North Carolinians already receiving benefits? Legislators didn't say. In fact, DES officials haven't even heard from legislators about their plan to discuss details about implementation.
Since March, North Carolina has dramatically increased its capacity to deliver unemployment benefits. A system that had been seeing approximately just 12,000 people file each month has processed more than $7 billion for 1.2 million claimants unemployed largely because of the global pandemic. DES has processed state and federal dollars and in recent weeks has rushed to implement an entirely new program for disbursing federal funds because Congress and the President couldn't come together to continue the existing program. State legislative leaders need to step out from the shadows and quit trying to make this process even harder.
It is inexcusable for state legislative leaders to hide the ball on a new plan for additional funding. Legislators should dramatically expand both the amount and length of unemployment benefits for the system we already have. And if they have already crafted and announced a backroom deal for a lesser amount, they should work to publicly fill in the details so DES can get to work ensuring these dollars can get to people who need them as soon as possible.
So as legislators return to Raleigh, ask them: Where is your plan to increase unemployment insurance?
- Contact: Ford Porter