Will NC end $300-a-week federal unemployment benefit? The bill still sits on governor's desk

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Although the experts are saying it's still too early to tell, there's some data that shows job searches are on the rise in states where federal pandemic unemployment benefits have been eliminated.

While those other states have opted to end the federal $300 a week unemployment supplement to try to encourage more people to go back to work, a bill to do the same in North Carolina has not yet been signed by the governor. It's been on his desk since last week.

"He should sign it," said a frustrated Randy Hernandez.

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Hernandez is the owner of several restaurants including Casa Cubana in Raleigh's Wakefield.

He has raised wages far beyond the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and said he still can't find enough employees to keep his doors open seven-days-a-week like before the pandemic.

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"We're at $20 an hour for a dishwasher," Hernandez said, "That's ridiculous. But yet you can stay at home and make the same amount of money."

Hernandez wishes North Carolina would follow the lead of other states that have eliminated the federal supplement.

The online job search site Indeed.com has released data showing that: "Search activity is a bit above the national trend in the thirteen additional states opting out of enhanced federal benefits in late June and early July."

But Indeed also notes that in twelve states that ended the federal benefit earlier in June, searches are down over April.

A spokesperson for Governor Roy Cooper said in a statement: "Unemployment continues to decline as more North Carolinians get vaccinated and back to work."

But at the Triangle offices of job recruiter Manpower office manager, Katherine Meyer said: "We have not noticed any difference in our hirings. We're still having just as difficult of a time finding qualified applicants for the jobs."

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Meyer said some of their clients are expressing the same frustrations expressed by Casa Cubana's owner -- that even with large wage increases, they still can't reach their hiring goals.

"Employers feel that they are not able to meet these because you have employees that would be in the job market that aren't because of the additional federal unemployment money," she said.

However Governor Roy Cooper's spokesman Ford Porter noted there are also other factors to consider.

"This legislation falls far short on helping remove barriers like affordable child care, while hurting people who are looking for jobs," he said in a statement.

With that in mind, Hernandez, the owner of Casa Cubana, said it might be best to send the bill back to the legislature for a compromise on child care.

"Maybe that's one of the incentives," he said. "One of the incentives on this is, 'Listen, you find a job, you have employment, and as you have employment we're going to give you X amount of money for childcare.'"

A federal program scheduled to start this week won't provide childcare after employment but will provide it while people are searching for jobs.

The $300 federal unemployment incentive ends September 6.
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