Jobless lifeline saved

Jan. 02, 2013 @ 02:46 PM

One less publicized aspect of the fiscal cliff bill approved by Congress Tuesday will keep the financial lifeline out for thousands of would-be breadwinners in the High Point area still searching for work in a sluggish economy.
The fiscal cliff bill, known formally as the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, includes a provision to continue extended unemployment assistance for people who otherwise would have exhausted their benefits. Had the unemployment benefits provision not been included in the legislation, up to 87,000 unemployed North Carolinians would have faced losing their financial assistance immediately, according to the N.C. Division of Employment Security.
The local impact would have included 4,807 residents of Guilford County, 1,477 people in Davidson County and 1,262 men and women who live in Randolph County, according to figures from the state’s job service agency.
The High Point office of the Division of Employment Security has been flooded with calls in recent weeks from unemployed workers near panic about losing their income.
Without the extension, “this week was their last check,” said Ikel Williams, manager of the High Point job service office. “People were highly upset about the prospect.”
The average unemployment extension payout is $287 per week in Guilford County.
“Even though it’s a small amount of money, that is some income coming in,” Williams said.
Had the program not been extended, approximately $1.4 million provided through the federal program wouldn’t have continued circulating in the Guilford County economy through assistance to the unemployed, Williams said.
Statewide, the Division of Employment Security is currently paying about $25 million a week in extended federal unemployment benefits.
Nationally, more than 2 million Americans faced losing federal unemployment benefits had the program not been reauthorized. At $30 billion, the extension of what’s formally known as the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program will provide extended benefits to unemployed workers who qualify through the end of 2013. Federal benefits help unemployed workers after they exhaust assistance through their state program, a period which typically covers 26 weeks. | 888-3528

Anyone who needs help either looking for work or applying for unemployment benefits can contact one of the N.C. Division of Employment Security offices in the area. The offices include:
High Point office, 607 Idol St., 882-4141
Randolph County office, 355 S. Fayetteville St., Asheboro, 625-5128
Davidson County office, 103 W. Center St. Extension, Lexington, 248-2326