North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue ended a hostage situation on Friday when she signed an Executive Order reinstating unemployment insurance for approximately 47,000 laid off North Carolinians.The state’s unemployed have been without financial aid since April 16 when the state allowed the benefits to end when it lost eligibility for the federally funded Extended Benefits program.
The unemployed could have had their benefits extended back in April had it not been for the fact that Republicans used the crisis as a way to cut the state’s budget by 13 percent. Instead of passing a clean bill reinstating the state’s unemployed, they added a stipulation to the bill cutting the budget by double digits. Governor Perdue had no choice at the time but to veto the measure, calling it “extortion.”
In effort to persuade the Republican majority to reconsider its stand on helping the unemployed, Senator Martin Nesbitt (D) set up a public hearing so that these laid off workers could have their say before the Republicans.
Of those who spoke at the hearing was Ken Williams of Wilson. According to an article in the NC AFL-CIO newsletter Williams drove to the hearing in Raleigh with what gas he had left. “I lost my pride a long time ago,” he said. “Last night I had to visit my daughter. She wanted to borrow something, and she had to give me gas money to get there and back. I’ve never been in a position like this. If I can’t pay my rent next month, I’m gonna be homeless. You folks are holding my future in your hands. You’re holding hostage federal money that has nothing to do with our state.”
Mr. Williams plea for help from the Republicans obviously fell on deaf ears as they continued their political maneuvering, unnecessarily tying the state’s budget to the federal aid.
In signing the Executive Order on Friday Governor Perdue said, “They were holding me hostage, but they were really holding 47,000 people hostage. So, yeah, finally I am going to act on my own.”
Even though the federal money was approved by the Dept of Labor, Republicans said they were going to look into the matter to see if Perdue has the authority to make the change. In other words, if at all possible, they want to hold the state’s unemployed hostage a little while longer.
After the order was signed by Perdue, the Employment Security Commission released a statement saying that it is working as quickly as possible to respond to the order, adding that it anticipates paying a majority of the claimants by some time next week.
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