POLITICS
06/01/2011 03:30 pm ET Updated Aug 01, 2011

North Carolina Unemployment: Grim Prospects For Latest Effort To Restore Benefits

Sonia Street does not want to be evicted from her apartment in Charlotte, N.C., but she says that's what will happen if Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue can't agree on a budget deal that restores 20 weeks of benefits for the long-term unemployed.

"Provided this thing goes through next week, I should be okay," Street, 43, told HuffPost. She said she found an eviction notice last month on the front door of her apartment. "If I have money in my hand by the 11th, I’ll be fine. If not, I don’t know what I’m going to do."

Street is one of 46,000 unemployed North Carolinians who have prematurely stopped receiving federal unemployment benefits because of the political standoff. In April, Perdue vetoed a GOP proposal that she said would have resulted in massive state layoffs, though Republicans insisted layoffs could only happen if a formal budget for the next fiscal year is not in place by the end of July.

On Tuesday, statehouse Republicans announced a bipartisan budget deal that includes retroactive payments for people who have missed checks since the federal Extended Benefits program expired in the state on April 16. The state Senate will likely approve the budget on Thursday, and the House will approve it over the weekend, said a spokesman for Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis.

Perdue doesn't like it.

"I am taking a close look at the Senate budget, but at first glance it raises enormous concerns," she said in a statement. "With regard to education funding, the proposed budget appears to be a charade. While the Senate claims to protect teaching positions, they are actually forcing local school districts to make substantial layoffs of education personnel to the tune of more than a quarter billion dollars -- meaning thousands of teachers and teaching assistants will be cut. It also appears to take a devastating toll on higher education."

Democratic House Minority Leader Joe Hackney told HuffPost that Perdue "probably will veto" the bill; a veto override by the legislature "is possible but not assured."

Street will be watching closely. She says she lost her job as an accountant for a commercial property management company in July 2009. She's been taking classes since then in hopes of eventually earning a bachelor's degree. Her job search has been lousy: "I haven’t one interview the whole time I’ve been laid off."

The benefits lapsed because the state has failed to modify its Extended Benefits eligibility law to conform to a new federal standard, which the U.S. Congress created in December to ensure states with high unemployment rates would not lose the final 20 weeks of benefits. That aid kicks in for people who use up 79 weeks of combined state and federal benefits without finding work.

Twenty-five states have passed laws to keep the benefits. Chapel Hill resident Ali Braswell, who also said she is facing eviction, doesn't get why it's been such a struggle for North Carolina.

"I at least thought I was gonna get the 99 weeks that everybody else did," Braswell, 40, told HuffPost. She said she lost her job as a payroll coordinator in July of 2009 and that the only work she's had since then was as a desk attendant in a University of North Carolina residence hall. From October to May, she worked 12 hours a week, earning $7.50 an hour.

Braswell said she had a job interview on Wednesday that went well.

"I have $213 to my name and my rent is due as of today," Braswell said. "I have a cutoff notice from my electric. I’m really hoping this job will come through. I really don’t know what I’m going to do."