Gov. Roy Cooper will not end the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation as part of North Carolina’s unemployment benefits. On Friday, Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 116 — tagged “Putting North Carolina Back to Work Act.” Had it passed, North Carolina would have joined 25 other states in quashing the additional $300 a week in federal unemployment payments, on top of the state’s benefits, which pays up to $350 a week for 13 weeks.
The bill not only would have ended the additional payments, it would have stricter work-search requirements for people receiving unemployment, including having them respond and schedule interviews in tighter timelines. As well, claimants would have had to accept work that pays 120% more than unemployment benefits. Republicans who led the charge on it also added in a $250 million boost to child-care subsidies, in order to help people with childcare, so they could get back to work.
On June 23, SB 116 passed down party lines in the Senate and the House voted 66-44. All Democrats in the assembly voted against it. Cooper had 10 days to sign off on the bill, else it would become law; he vetoed it July 2. The supplemental federal payments are set to expire nationwide in September.
Cooper addressed in a veto message that his recent measures to reinstate work-search requirements and getting more people vaccinated has improved the state’s return to the workforce. Currently, unemployment hovers at 4.8% — 1.2% higher than it was right before Covid-19 hit. It ballooned above 13% in April and May of 2020.
Cooper pointed to North Carolina’s unemployment benefits as some of “the stingiest in the country” as well, with around 200,000 people receiving additional federal payments in the state right now.
“Prematurely stopping these benefits hurts our state by sending back money that could be injected into our economy with people using it for things like food and rent,” the governor noted of the vetoed bill. “I support strong efforts to make more quality childcare available and to provide businesses with funds for hiring bonuses, and the bill falls short on both of these.”
The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation has paid out $6.7 billion in North Carolina since March 2020.
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