In a near party-line vote, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill that would harm many of the state's more vulnerable citizens by cutting back on unemployment insurance. The measure would cut maximum weekly benefits by one-third, bringing the top weekly payout to $350, and reduce the maximum length an unemployed worker can get from 26 weeks to 20. As the bill currently stands, 80,000 workers are set to lose unemployment insurance payments.
The bill now moves on to the state Senate, where Republicans have said they will support the bill. Gov. Pat McCrory (R) also expressed his intention to support the bill.
Most Democrats opposed the bill and made several attempts to reduce the negative impact on the unemployed, only to be rebuffed by Republicans:
"If you want them to lose their homes, if you want them to lose their respect, go ahead—kill the amendment," state Rep. Mickey Michaux (D-Durham) told AP reporter Gary D. Robertson.
He said lawmakers were to blame for the debt by cutting unemployment taxes in the 1990s and failing to restore them before the Great Recession: "Don't let 80,000 people suffer because of the mistakes that we made."
The bill would also raise unemployment taxes on businesses temporarily in order to help eliminate $2.6 billion the state owes the federal government for unemployment claims. Unions, such as the UAW, oppose the bill as putting too much of a burden on the unemployed:
"That bill is devastating to North Carolina families and to North Carolina workers," said Robert Riggins, who works at Freightliner's Mount Holly plant.
Opponents of the bill in North Carolina can send an email to their state senator.