MEDIA ADVISORY: Press conference Thursday opposes cuts to unemployment insurance benefits

WHAT: Press conference on cuts to unemployment insurance benefits
WHO: The North Carolina Justice Center and allies. Speakers will include Rep. Larry Hall, policy experts, and unemployed workers.
WHERE: General Assembly Press Conference Room, 16 W. Jones Street, Raleigh
WHEN: 10:00 a.m., Thursday, May 24

RALEIGH (May 23, 2012) - The North Carolina Justice Center will host a press conference on Thursday, May 24, to oppose cuts to unemployment insurance benefits.

The shortfall in North Carolina’s unemployment insurance trust fund is a problem that hurts employers and the community as a whole. However, the current proposal offered by the N.C. Chamber to scale back future unemployment benefits does not solve the problem, advocates say, and will only make matters worse. Advocates are urging legislators to protect unemployment insurance benefits and avoid taking any action that will hurt workers and their families even more than they already have during this economic downturn.

“Working families have the same interest in a viable unemployment insurance system, but it must also be fair,” said Bill Rowe, director of advocacy with the NC Justice Center. “Workers and their representatives should be part of the discussion as our state leaders seek solutions to develop a well-functioning system that can better weather economic downturns. We need to work through this problem together.”

Unemployment insurance is a lifeline not just for those who are struggling to find work, but also for their communities and the state as a whole, as the benefits help pump dollars into local economies. 3.2 million Americans avoided poverty in 2010 because of unemployment insurance, and cutting benefits could have unintended consequences for workers across the state, experts say.

“We’re seeing an increase in evictions and foreclosures for people who are out of work and are barely holding on because they’re receiving unemployment benefits,” said Chris Estes, director of the NC Housing Coalition. “Any cuts to that safety net will just mean more evictions, foreclosures, and utility shut-offs.”

The press conference will be held at 10:00 a.m. on May 24 in the press conference room at the General Assembly, 16 W. Jones Street in downtown Raleigh, and will feature testimonies by Rep. Larry Hall, policy experts, and unemployed workers who have relied on unemployment benefits to meet their basic needs while they look for a new job. Reporters can watch the press conference live online at this link.

The following organizations have signed on to oppose cuts to North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system: Action for Children NC, Good Work, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 391, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, National Association of Social Workers – NC Chapter, North Carolina Association of Educators, NC Advocates for Justice, NC AFL-CIO, NC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, NC Coalition to End Homelessness, NC Council of Churches, NC Housing Coalition, NC Justice Center, Pisgah Legal Services , State Employees Association of NC, and Working America.

In conjunction with the press conference, the NC Justice Center and Working America have partnered to gather feedback from workers on their experiences with the unemployment insurance system in North Carolina. Nearly 400 hand-written letters will be delivered to the General Assembly on Wednesday with a clear message: North Carolinians value a strong unemployment insurance system and want legislators to protect this critical resource from cuts that would harm our state's most vulnerable citizens. Watch this video to learn more.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bill Rowe, Director of Advocacy, NC Justice Center, bill@ncjustice.org, 919.649.6766; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).