NC needs extended unemployment benefits

March 20, 2014 

Surely there are some in the tea party movement who have at one time been unexpectedly unemployed or have known people who were. And yet the “movement,” such as it is, continues to lead the Republican Party down a hard-line and, yes, hard-hearted path.

Specifically, tea partyers don’t like a federal program that extended unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. The anti-attitude was that people were goofing off and not looking for work because they could stay on the unemployment compensation dole. In North Carolina, Republican legislators altered the benefits, lowering the time people could receive help and cutting the maximum payment, on the misguided logic that if people ran out of benefits, they’d be more motivated to seek work.

In fact, the vast majority of those who are unemployed have been looking for work, and most can’t really support themselves and their families on what unemployment compensation pays them. In North Carolina, that’s an average of about $300 a week.

Because lawmakers cut benefits, they rendered the state ineligible for extended federal benefits for its people. Republicans were fine with that.

But now the U.S. Senate has a bill to restore unemployment insurance to more than 2 million Americans. North Carolina’s Sen. Kay Hagan put an amendment in the bill to restore North Carolina’s eligibility for the long-term compensation program. It’s uncertain whether Gov. Pat McCrory and Republicans in the General Assembly would go along, even if the Senate bill somehow managed to make it through the U.S. House, where the tea party seems to have leaders running scared.

GOP leaders would be foolish to pass on the program should the Senate measure succeed. They’ve already refused federal funds to extend Medicaid to more people under the Affordable Care Act, and their previous action on unemployment insurance was pure political ideology at its worst.

The least that Republicans can do is support extending some unemployment benefits to North Carolinians who are out of a job through no fault of their own.

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