A bill that calls for North Carolina workers receiving unemployment benefits to step up their job-seeking efforts received a preliminary go-ahead from the state House Thursday.
The unemployment bill would require jobless workers to contact five potential employers each week in order to remain eligible for unemployment benefits. Currently, jobless workers are required to contact two potential employers weekly.
The bill, which must be voted on again before it can move to the Senate, passed by a 77-39 margin.
Democrats, who are in the minority, trotted out some of the same arguments about the lack of sufficient jobs that they used in unsuccessfully opposing last year’s legislation that drastically overhauled the state’s unemployment system. Among other things, that law reduced maximum unemployment benefits by about one-third and reduced the number of weeks of benefits from 26 to between 12 and 20, depending on the unemployment rate.
The latest bill also would halt the Division of Employment Security’s decade-long practice of making hearing notices of contested unemployment cases available to employment law attorneys who pay a monthly fee.
The U.S. Labor Department says the policy violates federal regulations and therefore puts the agency’s federal funding in jeopardy. But a court order issued in March, an outgrowth of a lawsuit against Employment Security, requires the state to continue to make those documents available.
The Labor Department has urged the state to pass the bill.