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Initial unemployment insurance benefit claims reach five-week high

Initial unemployment insurance benefit claims reach five-week high

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The number of North Carolinians filing for initial state and federal unemployment insurance benefits reached a five-week high of 9,569 on Tuesday, according to the N.C. Division of Employment Security.

The last time daily initial UI claims were higher was 10,654 on Aug. 11.

By contrast, there was a pandemic-low of 2,403 claims on Saturday.

DES has paid out $7.83 billion in state and federal UI benefits. That includes all but $7.8 million of the $434.6 million from the first four weeks of federal Lost Wages Assistance funding.

DES said Tuesday that North Carolina has qualified for an additional two weeks of Lost Wages funding of a combined $223.6 million.

However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said North Carolina has reached its limit for the program.

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, when it was allowed to expire by Congress.

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 will begin to be paid Wednesday. DES did not provide the overall Lost Wages payouts for those weeks.

The latest DES report has $1.67 billion, or 22%, in UI benefits coming from state resources.

The state had $3.85 billion in the state UI Trust Fund when the brunt of the pandemic began to be felt in mid-March.

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

The bulk of payments, at $4.75 billion, came from the $600 federal weekly supplement.

About 70% of claimants, or 889,891, have been approved for benefits, while 28%, or 361,947, 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.

Since mid-March, 1.28 million North Carolinians have filed a combined 2.3 million state and federal jobless claims.

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.

About 30% of the 4.29 million North Carolinians considered in the state’s workforce as of mid-July have filed a state or federal unemployment claim.

Extra payment

DES said it does not have a firm date for beginning payment of an additional $50 in state regular unemployment-insurance benefits.

House Bill 1105, the state's third round of COVID-19 relief legislation, was passed by the Republican-controlled legislature on Sept. 3 and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on Sept. 4.

The UI benefits are drawn mostly by individuals who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. The benefit is scheduled to be paid from the week that ended Sept. 5 through the week that ends Dec. 26.

Although the $50 increase will be paid retroactively to the week that ended Sept. 5, recipients will only be new claimants of state regular UI benefits and those who have not exhausted 12 weeks of benefits during a 12-month qualifying period.

The maximum weekly benefit amount has been $350 since July 2013, when a GOP legislative super-majority lowered it from $535 as part of its strategy for paying off a $2.8 billion debt to the U.S. Labor and Treasury departments.

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

Because the state provides currently a maximum of 12 weeks of regular UI benefits, eligible recipients will gain at most an extra $600.

336-727-7376

@rcraverWSJ

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