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N.C. reaches $6.1 billion in unemployment benefits as federal funding nears expiration

N.C. reaches $6.1 billion in unemployment benefits as federal funding nears expiration

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More than $6.1 billion in state and federal unemployment insurance benefits have been paid in North Carolina, the state Division of Employment Security reported Monday.

The state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund was close to $3.85 billion before the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic began. Since then, $1.48 billion has been paid out, or 38.9%.

The remaining unemployment-payment breakdown is $4.16 billion from the federal pandemic unemployment-compensation package, $297.5 million in the federal pandemic unemployment-assistance package, $152.4 million in pandemic emergency unemployment compensation, and $1.8 million in a new federal extended-benefits program.

About 75.5% of unemployment-insurance payments to North Carolinians are coming from federal sources, mostly the $600 weekly benefit.

Federal benefits will expire as early as Saturday unless extended by Congress.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Republican congressional leaders are expected to meet today with President Donald Trump and administration members on a potential COVID-19 aid package.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, was prepared to roll out the $1 trillion package in a matter of days that could include reduced unemployment benefits and another round of limited direct $1,200 cash payments to Americans.

State Sen. Wiley Nickel, D-Wake, called again Thursday for the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Unemployment Insurance to meet immediately to discuss enhancing state UI weekly benefit amounts and expanding the number of weeks beyond the current maximum of 12.

“We are sitting on close to $3 billion in our Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund,” Nickel said. “We can afford to increase benefits and throw jobless workers a lifeline.

“With the federal supplement of $600 per week running out and no end in sight for this pandemic,” he said, “failure to raise these benefits would be an absolute betrayal of our constituents.”

There are now 1.18 million claimants representing 1.96 million claims after 27,935 were filed Friday through Sunday. Some people have been required to file a second claim — after being determined to be ineligible for initial state benefits — in order to qualify for federal benefits that often include extended state benefits.

The daily filing peak was 34,706 on March 30.

Currently, 27.8% of the 4.23 million North Carolinians considered in the state’s workforce as of mid-June have filed a state or federal unemployment claim.

According to DES, 812,533 claimants have received state and/or federal benefits, about 69% of the state’s claimants. About 21%, or 251,026, have been determined not eligible for benefits, while 4%, or 40,900, are awaiting a decision on state benefits.

rcraver@wsjournal.com

336-727-7376

@rcraverWSJ

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