Important action from our friends at the NC Justice Center:
NC Senate Commerce Hearing Needs to Focus on Fix to State Unemployment Insurance
On Monday, the NC Senate will have a hearing about Unemployment Insurance in North Carolina. They need to hear from you about changes we need to make sure workers have support during this unprecedented time.
Nearly 1 million North Carolinians have filed for UI since the pandemic began and estimates suggest that many more have likely tried but couldn’t get through. At the same time, federal UI programs—passed in recognition of the importance of wage replacement in this time—are set to expire at the end of July and December, even as economic projections suggest unemployment will remain high through 2021 and even beyond.
North Carolina cannot go back to a state UI system that provides too little support to too few people for too short of a time.
You can include these recommendations in your comment:
- Allow “attached claims” to be filed by employers. In 2013, changes made to North Carolina’s UI laws severely restricted the ability of employers to file attached claims for their workers. Allowing “attached claims” will be more efficient and allow greater access to benefits.
- Change North Carolina’s weekly benefit calculation. This will put more benefits in workers’ pockets and will be most needed after July 31 when the federal weekly supplement of $600 ends. Before 2013, North Carolina based benefits on a worker’s highest quarter wages – a system that appears to be in use, for example, in Florida and South Carolina. North Carolina should base benefits on either the highest quarter wages or the average of the two highest quarters.
- Increase the maximum benefit amount, putting more money in workers’ pockets after July 31 when the federal add-on of $600 ends. North Carolina set its maximum benefit at $350 in 2013. It was not indexed in any way to increase over time. Before 2013, the state’s maximum weekly benefit amount was 66.7 percent of the state’s average weekly wage. Currently, 40 states have higher maximum amounts than North Carolina, including Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, and Arkansas. North Carolina should set the maximum weekly benefit at 50 percent of the state’s average weekly wage, $850, so the maximum would be $425 and would increase as wages increase over time.
- Increase the maximum duration someone can receive benefits, as Georgia and Michigan have recently done. North Carolina has a sliding scale of 12-20 weeks. Most states have a maximum duration of 26 weeks.
- Address roadblocks created by the state’s low “earnings disregard.” At a recent House Committee meeting, lawmakers discussed the problem of employees who have their hours cut but are denied benefits because of North Carolina’s low “earnings disregard” (1/5 of weekly benefit amount or $70). For instance, if a worker makes $750 a week and has their hours cut so that they make only $420, they would receive $0 in UI because North Carolina’s maximum weekly benefit amount is $350 ($420-$70=$350). Lawmakers should increase the earnings allowance and increase the maximum weekly benefit amount.
- Adopt Work-Sharing/Short-Time Compensation Option for Employers. Work-Sharing/Short-
Time Compensation allows an employer to reduce the hours of all or some workers instead of laying off a portion of the workforce. Workers with the reduced hours are then eligible for partial unemployment benefits to supplement their paychecks. For example, instead of laying off five workers, an employer can reduce the schedules of 25 workers by 20 percent. Approximately 40 states provide this option to their employers. The CARES Act provides $100 million in grants to states to implement, improve, and promote Work-Sharing. Recent Guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor recommended states adopt Work-Sharing. Click here for more information.
Thanks for taking action today and making sure those who have lost their jobs in this pandemic aren’t pushed into greater hardship.
Take Action NOW
The Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee is meeting on Monday, May 18 to discuss the state’s unemployment insurance system and is seeking public comments. Submit your comments on the NC Legislature’s Request for Public Comments form TODAY.