Unemployment payments end July 1
By Stephanie Carroll Carson
NC News Service
RALEIGH – Nicole Feig is one of thousands of North Carolinians who still can’t find work. She was laid off from her job as a finance manager last November.
Next week, on July 1, she and an estimated 70,000 others in the state will fall off the unemployment cliff because state lawmakers chose not to accept federal funds to extend unemployment benefits.
According to Feig, she’s done everything possible to find a job.
“I mean, I was at like $53,000 a year and now I’m looking for jobs for $12 an hour just to pay my utilities,” she said. “That doesn’t even come close to my mortgage.”
As the unemployed look for ways to make ends meet, many of them will turn to one of the 36 community action agencies in the state that already help thousands of people. North Carolina has the fifth-highest jobless rate in the nation. Lawmakers in support of the unemployment benefit cuts say it will encourage people to work harder to find jobs.
The executive director of the North Carolina Community Action Association, Sharon Goodson, said times already are tough for her agencies as they face reduced funds starting in September, because of sequestration. The added demand that will come from the thousands without unemployment benefits will make their job even tougher.
“We know that they will show up at community action agencies,” she said. “The new unemployment law in North Carolina coupled with sequestration equals a nightmare for low-income people across North Carolina.”
Feig said losing her job has set her back and emptied her bank accounts.
“I had to cash in all my 401(k)s and I don’t have anything,” she said. “I don’t have any equity in a house. I have nothing. I have nowhere to go. I’m going to be homeless.”
The North Carolina Justice Center estimates that within a year’s time 170,000 North Carolinians will lose their unemployment benefits as a result of the state not accepting a federal loan that would have prevented the shortfall. Unemployment benefits were cut as well, falling from a maximum of $535 per week to $350.