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Inaction to Extend Unemployment Benefits Continues to Extend the Suffering

Jeremy Sprinkle
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For just over a month, an estimated 37,000 North Carolinians have been trying to live without their federal unemployment benefits all because Republican legislators refuse to pass a clean bill to extend benefits. The number of people losing benefits grows by just over 2,000 each week. Now over 42,000 people must live without this critical income.

These benefits are totally federally funded and would not cost our state a cent. But rather than help so many of their constituents who are suffering, G.O.P. lawmakers have decided to use 42,000 people as pawns in a political chess game. The legislature's inaction affects many more than just the out-of-work individuals. It also impacts countless children and family members who depend on this money just to make ends meet.

During this economic crises, North Carolina lawmakers need to support these struggling individuals and families, not contribute to their financial uncertainties. That was the message delivered at a picket/press conference held in Charlotte on Monday, May 16. The event was organized by the NC State AFL-CIO and the NC Justice Center and held outside the Employment Security Commission office. Republican Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis, who represents Charlotte, has done nothing to move a bill in the State House that would renew payments to North Carolina workers who have been without a job for over 79 weeks. Speakers at the event included MaryBe McMillan, NC AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, Harry Payne of the NC Justice Center, and two unemployed union members who have lost their benefits - Keith Fountain, CWA 3695 and Fritz Nowack, UAW 3520.

Click here for coverage of the Charlotte picket/press conference

Click here for additional coverage

Union member, Mark Show, IATSE 322, attended the press conference and was frustrated at the legislature's unwillingness to help so many families. To read Mark's letter to the editor of the Charlotte Observer, click here (it is the third from the top)

In an effort to keep this in the public eye, one of our allies, the NC Policy Watch has created a website that profiles the individual faces and stories behind this struggle. Its goal is to make sure that this issue continues to be talked about with the urgency it deserves. The website gives people a sense of the obstacles and hardships faced by unemployed workers simply because G.O.P. lawmakers have hijacked this money for political purposes. Click below to view the NC Policy Watch website.

NC Policy Watch: Jobless Held Hostage

One of the 42,000 individuals who has been held hostage by the legislature's unconscionable inaction is Joyce Fowler of Garner, a tireless volunteer for APRI. When Joyce lost her job two years ago, she had a feeling it could happen as a result of the Great Recession. However, when she received the news that her unemployment benefits would stop, her reaction was very different. With little progress being made on the extension of benefits, listen to the interview this past Saturday and hear what is at stake for her and her family.

Please make every effort to make your voice heard and let G.O.P. lawmakers know that you will not stand by while they hijack federal funds for the extended unemployment benefits of 42,000 North Carolinians! Contact Speaker of the House Thom Tillis at 919.733.3451 and Senate President Phil Berger at 919.733.5708 and ask them, "Will you quit playing games with the lives of jobless workers in North Carolina and allow House Bill 676 / Senate Bill 584 to come up for a vote? You need to pass a clean bill to authorize the continued payment of federal unemployment benefits ASAP!"