Extended jobless benefits about to expire
The clock is ticking through the end of this month for Jeffrey Mazzie and thousands of others like him locally who rely on jobless benefits while seeking a steady paycheck.
The 43-year-old transplant from New Jersey, who has a background in culinary work, hasn’t held a full-time job in a year and a half despite searching constantly. As someone receiving extended unemployment benefits, Mazzie faces losing his weekly jobless compensation starting the first of next month. That’s because the N.C. General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory approved legislation to stop extended jobless benefits in the state as they address a huge unemployment compensation debt.
Though passed in February, the legislation cutting extended unemployment benefits takes effect July 1. Approximately 70,000 out-of-work North Carolinians face losing extended jobless benefits starting the first week of next month. The total includes 3,996 in Guilford County, 1,183 in Davidson County and 1,038 in Randolph County, according to figures from the N.C. Division of Employment Security.
As he scanned a High Point job service office computer screen for employment listings Friday morning, Mazzie said he’s not sure exactly what he’ll do to get by financially when his extended jobless benefits expire next month.
Many activists in North Carolina are pressuring the Republican-controlled General Assembly to reconsider their action from earlier this year and extend unemployment benefits further before the end of June. But so far the Republican legislative leadership has given no indication they will extend jobless benefits beyond July 1.
Republican leaders of state government say the unemployment benefit cuts are a tough decision that had to be made as North Carolina deals with a $2.5 billion debt that the state owes the federal government for jobless assistance from the impact of the Great Recession.
In addition to limiting the number of weeks unemployed people can receive assistance, all weekly benefits will be capped at $350, down from the current ceiling of $535.
The change “limits the length of unemployment (benefits) to a sliding scale of 13 to 20 weeks of unemployment, down from six months, when the unemployment rate is above 9 percent. It will drop to between 12 to 19 weeks of benefits when the unemployment rate is between 8.5 and 9 percent,” reports the Raleigh-based activist group N.C. Justice Center.
On Friday, the Division of Employment Security reported that the state’s jobless rate ticked down from 8.9 percent in April to 8.8 percent last month. The unemployment rate is trending in a positive direction, as the level was 9.2 percent in March.
But the rate remains high by historic standards and is greater than the overall national unemployment rate of 7.6 percent in May.
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Anyone who needs help looking for work or has questions about unemployment benefits can contact one of the N.C. Division of Employment Security offices in the area. The offices include:
High Point, 607 Idol St., 882-4141
Asheboro, 355 S. Fayetteville St., 625-5128
Lexington, 103 W. Center St. Extension, 248-2326