Senior Attorney talks workers' rights, evictions, unemployment with ABC11

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Kate Woomer-Deters, Senior Attorney at North Carolina Justice Center joined ABC11 on Tuesday to discuss workers' rights and unemployment issues.

A partial transcript follows. For the full interview, watch the interview in the media player above.

We know more than 1 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in North Carolina. What about those who don't qualify? Are there resources to help them?

I would say, first off, the resources that are being offered right now are absolutely insufficient, and so we do think it is critical for our federal and state and local governments to provide more resources for these families. But the two places that families should look for resources is first, your local DSS office to see if you or anyone else in your household might qualify for some kind of public-benefit program such as food stamps, the affordable care act or the new P-EBT program, which provides food benefits to families with children.

The second place to look is at private resources, places like your church, your community center. There are some federal funds that may be coming down to nonprofits to provide things like rental assistance. And then there are also some industry-specific efforts such as the North Carolina Restaurant Relief Workers Fund for people who work in hospitality and restaurants that may provide relief to families like this.

What about workers who are high-risk for COVID-19 who are still expected to go to work? What are their rights if they feel it is too risky to work during this COVID-19 pandemic?

First, start off by speaking directly to your employer, and we always recommend to people that you speak with another co-worker. Under the law, your rights are more protected if you act collectively to speak up. So even if its just one other co-worker or two other co-workers that share your concerns, speak up to your employer together, make your concerns specific, so talk about specific things in the workplace that you think could be fixed or improved to make the workplace safer, and if possible it's always best to try to do that in writing.

Let's talk about evictions. What can people do if they are facing evictions? Can they be evicted right now?

So, there are basically two moratoriums happening right now in evictions at the same time. The state courts are closed to evictions until June 1 at this time. That may be extended but we don't know yet. The landlord cannot evict you without a date in court ... there's also a federal stall on evictions for people in three situations: they live in public housing; they have federal rental assistance like a Section 8 voucher, or the home or apartment they live in has a federally backed mortgage. That moratorium goes until July 24, and if you're not sure that applies to you, there are a lot of resources online or you can speak to a legal services attorney.
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