Closings and delays

Reduction in unemployment benefits to take effect

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William Pina is currently unemployed and will be one of tens of thousands affected by the cut in less than a month. (Photo credit: Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez/The Winston-Salem Journal)

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s unemployed residents are less than a month away from becoming participants in the General Assembly’s grand experiment for reviving the state’s economy in part through significantly cutting jobless benefits.

When Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law House Bill 4 in February, he provided the first measuring stick for whether his conservative approach to running the state economy will create jobs. State GOP legislators, along with four Senate and three House Democrats – none from the Triad and Northwest North Carolina – voted for the bill.

“This bipartisan solution will protect our small businesses from continued over-taxation, ensure our citizens’ unemployment safety net is secure and financially sound for future generations and help provide an economic climate that allows job creators to start hiring again,” McCrory said.

Starting June 30, residents relying on state unemployment insurance (UI) money to pay their bills as they seek work lose six benefit weeks as the law changes the maximum amount from 26 to 20.

Even though the law includes a sliding scale – the number of weeks goes down with every 0.5 percentage point decline in the jobless rate – the maximum number will not go below 20 the rest of this year, said Dale Folwell, the head of the N.C. Division of Employment Security.

The sliding scale can be implemented every Jan. 1 and July 1. The state’s jobless rate was 8.9 percent in April.

According to the division, 22 percent of post-June 30 claimants will receive a reduced weekly benefit amount, including 17 percent who now qualify for the maximum $530. The new maximum will be $350.

Read full story: The Winston-Salem Journal