Mitch Kokai gave comments to the Winston-Salem Journal for a recent story on Unemployment Insurance (UI) in North Carolina. The story reports on the changes in UI following the Great Recession. According to the article, the state racked up $2.8 billion in debt to the U.S. Labor and Treasury departments during the last recession to extend unemployment benefits. Following the recession, the legislature pared back benefits in order to pay back that debt in 2013. Reporter Richard Craver writes:
The UI cuts in N.C. were both in number of weeks from up to 26 weeks to 12, and a weekly maximum amount from $535 to $350.
By comparison, during the height of the Great Recession with the state jobless rate exceeded 10% for several months, some N.C. residents received up to 99 weeks of regular and extended state and federal UI benefits.
Since then, these reductions have enabled the state to pay back that debt and accumulate a $3.61 billion surplus. The article mentions a legislative effort, HB 713, to reverse these cuts and raise them back to the pre-2013 level. In his comments to the Journal, Kokai states:
“Plenty of GOP lawmakers remember the days when North Carolina ran up a debt to the federal government of more than $2.8 billion connected to unemployment benefits… I see zero interest among legislative Republicans in pursuing House Bill 713… HB713 appears to ignore recent history.”
HB 713 has not been heard in committee.