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Shifting of unemployment claimants from state to federal benefits boost initial claim totals

Shifting of unemployment claimants from state to federal benefits boost initial claim totals

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The shifting of unemployed and furloughed North Carolinians from state to federal benefits produced another uptick in claims Tuesday, the N.C. Division of Employment Security reported Wednesday.

The department said there were 9,669 initial claims filed Tuesday, which followed 16,144 on Monday and 11,583 on Sunday.

"A large number" of the new claims the past three days came from individuals reaching one of two filing limitations.

They either have exhausted their 12 weeks of regular state benefits and subsequently begun a 13-week federal extended pandemic program, or were transferred from the 13-week federal UI program to another federal UI program of shorter duration.

The 13-week program is federally paid, but at regular state benefit levels.

"Federal guidelines require a separate application for each unemployment program," DES spokeswoman Kerry McComber said.

The daily filing peak for the COVID-19 pandemic was 34,706 on March 30.

Since mid-March, 1.29 million North Carolinians have filed a combined 2.39 million state and federal jobless claims.

About 30% of the 4.26 million North Carolinians considered part of the state’s workforce as of mid-August have filed a state or federal unemployment claim.

Altogether, unemployed and furloughed claimants have received $8.05 billion in state and federal benefits.

About $4.77 billion came from the weekly $600 federal supplement paid from mid-April until Congress allowed it to expire July 26.

DES said Friday it has received "clarifying information" from the U.S. Labor Department about how to pay a $50 per week increase in regular state unemployment benefits. It said it is "working to reprogram and test its system to determine eligibility and issue the increased payments."

The extra $50 benefit is scheduled to be paid from the week that ended Sept. 5 through the week that ends Dec. 26.

Recipients will only be new claimants of regular state UI benefits and those who have not exhausted 12 weeks of regular state benefits during a 12-month period.

The average approved N.C. unemployment claimant currently receives $278 a week in regular state benefits. The extra $50 a week would boost the payment by 18%.

Lost Wages

DES said that, as of 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, it had paid $563.2 million of an estimated $716.6 million that would cover six weeks' worth of federal Lost Wages Assistance funding.

The Lost Wages program, created by an executive order from President Donald Trump, is a short-term replacement for the $600 weekly unemployment supplement that was available from mid-April until July 26.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Sept. 15 that North Carolina has reached its limit for the program. North Carolina is one of seven states that have or will exhaust their Lost Wages subsidies by the end of next week.

The program uses $44 billion in FEMA money. Lost Wages recipients in N.C were paid the $300 per week supplement for Aug. 1, Aug. 8 and Aug. 15 in a lump sum.

DES said benefits for the weeks ending Aug. 29 and Sept. 5 began being paid Sept. 16.

The latest DES report has $1.68 billion, or 22%, in unemployment benefits coming from state resources.

The state had $3.85 billion in the state Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund in mid-March.

Legislators said Sept. 2 that between $2.9 billion and $3 billion remained in the fund. The third COVID-19 relief bill added $87 million.

About 69% of claimants, or 895,435, have been approved for benefits, while 29%, or 366,974, were determined to not be eligible.

The left-leaning N.C. Justice Center has said the state's economy has been losing about $350 million each week since the expiration of the $600 federal supplement.

336-727-7376

@rcraverWSJ

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