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Calling on Lawmakers to Extend Benefits

Jeremy Sprinkle
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GOP political games leave future of 37,000 in doubt

On Tuesday the NC State AFL-CIO and NC Justice Center held a press conference outside the state legislative building to urge lawmakers to not leave 37,000 jobless North Carolinians without federal unemployment benefits.

Click here to read our press release.

Last week, Republican lawmakers passed HB 383, a bill which would have taken advantage of a change in the federal extended unemployment benefits program to continue paying benefits for an additional 20 weeks to workers laid off through no fault of their own. The bill would cost North Carolina nothing; the extended benefits program is fully paid for by the federal government.

But the bill was combined with a poison-pill amendment - an across the board 13% cut in the state budget if the Governor did not agree to GOP budget demands by July 1.  Last weekend, Governor Perdue vetoed the measure.  Unless the legislature takes up a clean bill to extend the benefits, these workers are left with an uncertain future.

According to results of its April 2011 Carolina Issues Poll, NC Policy Watch is reporting that 65% of North Carolinians support extending these benefits and 66% say lawmakers should be given a chance to vote on the extension by itself.

Faced with losing everything, workers tell their stories

Several unemployed workers affected by the legislature's failure to allow the federal extended benefits program to continue traveled to Raleigh on Tuesday to tell their stories.

Gary Price, 43, worked at Freightliner in Cleveland, NC until he was laid off in 2009. He is one of 37,000 jobless workers in our state who just lost their federal unemployment benefits because the state legislature failed to pass a clean bill to extend the program. Gary came to Raleigh, NC on April 19 to urge state lawmakers to vote again on extending the federally-paid unemployment benefits program. Letting these benefits expire "puts a lot more on my shoulders," Gary says. "I don't know how to deal with it. It's getting harder to deal with. I need these benefits extended just so I can still provide and be able to keep going."

Debra Koonts is from Lexington, NC.  She and her husband also worked at Freightliner until they were laid off in 2009.  Debra is currently taking classes to get an associate's degree from Forsyth Technical Community College. "I don't know what's going to happen after that."

"Hopefully they can get this straightened out. I understand Governor Perdue had to do what she had to do. She was put between a rock and a hard place to make a decision that should not have been put upon her.  For the lawmakers, we want an up or down vote on this. Think about all the families it affects. Let us know where you stand."

Keith Fountain, 48, worked at Lucent in Charlotte, NC until he was laid off, also in 2009. After applying to over 400 jobs since being on unemployment, Keith recently took a part time job at a grocery store to help he and his wife make ends meet. Keith's is one of 37,000 North Carolinians who just lost his extended unemployment benefits.  Keith spoke to WRAL's Laura Leslie about the issue outside the legislature:

Click here to read the AP coverage of the Tuesday press conference on unemployment.

Click here to see pictures from the press conference.

Click here to watch NC: Gary Price on Expiring Jobless Benefits, "We've just gotta get these passed."

Click here to watch NC: Debra Koonts to State Lawmakers, "Let us know where you stand," on Extended Jobless Benefits