State struggling under layoffs

February 19, 2009 2:19:46 PM PST
With the list of people who have lost their jobs growing every day, North Carolina's Employment Security Commission is struggling to keep up.It has once again had to borrow from the federal government to meet all the demands for unemployment checks.

In Raleigh, Unitra Burrell, a single mom of three kids, is just one of the thousands who are depending on those checks for income. She has been looking for work since January after being laid off as a restaurant cook.

"It's kind of frustrating. You come here, you speak with a counselor. You think you're going to have a good outcome, but nothing," she offered.

But as more like Burrell file for unemployment, the state has run out of its own money. It's one of eight states borrowing from Washington to keep the checks coming.

"It really goes to show how we made some really bad choices in the 1990's," offered John Quinterno with the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center.

Quinterno says the state stopped collecting payroll taxes on businesses before the recessions in 2001, and now employers are paying again, but he thinks taxes may have to go up at some point.

"Well, we're not at that point yet, because we don't know how long this downturn, this recession, is going to last," said Moses Carey with the Employment Security Commission.

Carey says unemployed workers need not fear that the money will run out. While that may be reassuring, some critics say it's part of the problem.

"There are jobs that are going wanting. They may not be very desirable jobs, but in many cases, they will earn you a little bit more than the unemployment insurance check and then you'd be working and you'd feel better because you'd be employed," offered John Hood with the John Locke Foundation.

Unitra Burrell told Eyewitness News she'd take almost any job, but has found nothing.

"I'm willing to go any limit. Like I said, I have three children. It's about them, not me," she said.

Meanwhile Thursday, Gov. Bev Perdue signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor to provide $25 more per week in federal unemployment insurance benefits to those who qualify under the Unemployed Workers and Struggling Families Act.

"We need to do all we can to help people looking for work who have been hard hit by the nation's economic crisis," said Gov. Perdue in a statement sent out to the media.


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