Your View: Guest column - Why make life harder than it already is?

Feb. 05, 2013 @ 01:43 AM

BY JOHN L. CRAWFORD

The proposed House Bill 4 will hit unemployed workers with these reductions:
• Maximum weekly unemployment benefits from $525 to $350 (a 35 percent cut; no state has ever made such a severe cut.)
• Duration of benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks (and in some cases as few as 12 weeks).
• Cut benefits for workers who lose their jobs because of health reasons or family reasons.
• An additional waiting period week for benefits (which no other state has).
This is in a proposed bill which the House Finance Committee passed last week to bring to a vote.  As of Jan. 30, unemployment rates have risen in 95 percent of N.C. counties (which has the nation’s fifth highest rate). That equals to three people looking for work for every one job vacant in the state. I wish that each one of our state’s representatives and senators could be faced with these types of cuts for one month and see if they could manage to pay bills and keep their families going? I don’t think they could!
Put yourself in our shoes. Consider, you are a worker who is under bad economic circumstances already, literally surviving paycheck to paycheck when you are laid off from your job through no fault of your own and you cannot find a new job. Then your elected officials cut your benefits. That’s like “kicking us in the knees” to knock us down even further. Why solve a debt by cutting benefits and if it also makes life significantly more difficult for those who are already struggling? That is fundamentally unfair!
Lead sponsor of the bill, Rep. Julia Howard, has been quoted saying, “North Carolina’s current unemployment benefits are too generous and make people dependent on the government.” I don’t know Rep. Howard’s co-workers or friends. Maybe they serve in the governor’s cabinet making $127,000 a year and just got an 8 percent raise. My co-workers and people I know would rather be working a job that pays a livable wage with health insurance than live on unemployment!
This new General Assembly came to power promising jobs and a stronger economy. When our leaders in government represent me and their other hard-working constituents, I expect and hope they will stand up for us and not against us! Speaker Tillis, Leader Berger, Gov. McCrory, representatives and senators involved with this proposal in our N.C. General Assembly, please help us all to be the best we can be. Why aren’t our elected representatives doing anything about jobs? Who really controls Raleigh? Art Pope and his money or politicians elected by hard-working citizens of North Carolina.
By the way, if these cuts go into effect on July 1, over 80,000 North Carolina workers would also become ineligible for federal benefits. This would result in our state economy losing $25 million per week. This will not help small businesses in our communities.
Call your representative and senator today at (919) 733-4111 and say, “I oppose any cuts to unemployment insurance.”

John L. Crawford of Trinity is president of UAW Local 5287.

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