NC unemployed lose safety net

June 25, 2010 3:31:08 PM PDT
Genell Dunbar has been unemployed for seven months. She was an office manager, but now says she will take almost any job.

"Customer service, administrative assistant, I've tried Wal-Mart and nobody's hiring," she told ABC11.

Now comes news for Dunbar and 472,000 other unemployed North Carolinians: Congress has not renewed extended jobless benefits.

"They don't have to live it. They have their nice homes. They're in their secure jobs," said Dunbar.

Unemployment checks for some were to last up to 99 weeks. Now, that promise is cut short, and new applicants can expect protection for about 30 weeks.

"It's troubling because this is a new world. We're in uncharted economic territory. This is new stuff," offered David Clegg with the North Carolina Employment Security Commission.

Since the beginning of June, 20,000 state residents each week are losing their benefits and still don't have jobs.

"Those employment insurance benefits are so important in providing a retail engine in North Carolina," said Clegg.

Besides helping the jobless to survive, unemployment checks also help consumer spending prop up a still lagging economy.

"And the jobs, although they are starting to come back, are coming back at a trickle," explained NC State economist Mike Walden.

But extended unemployment checks are also adding to the nation's debt, and more in Congress are starting to worry about how to pay it all back.

"We have to draw a line in the sand somewhere and say enough is enough. We're going to have to start worrying about the deficit and the debt we've built up," said Walden.

Genell Dunbar does not know when her benefits will expire and she does not know what will happen if they do.

"I have two boys, and they gotta eat. We gotta survive. You gotta pay your bills on time. It's too much of a struggle. And no one should have to live like this," she said.

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