MEDIA RELEASE: Groups Call on Lawmakers to Extend Benefits for Jobless Workers

Groups Call on Lawmakers to Extend Benefits for Jobless Workers  

RALEIGH (April 19, 2011) -- With hundreds of thousands of people unemployed in North Carolina, state leaders must act to create jobs and extend benefits --  not disparage jobless workers suffering in a prolonged economic crisis.

That was the message sent today at a press conference featuring unemployed workers, state budget experts and labor leaders. Speaking outside the General Assembly, the group called on lawmakers to extend benefits for the jobless and stop playing politics with workers’ lives.

 “Lawmakers should support North Carolina’s struggling families, not add insult to injury during a deep economic crisis,” said James Andrews of the NC AFL-CIO. “Unemployed workers like the ones here today are not pawns or scapegoats to be used to further a political agenda. They are your neighbors and your constituents. And they deserve to be treated with respect.”

Jobless workers spoke at the event, telling their stories. One, Keith Fountain of Concord, NC, told reporters: “This issue has nothing to do with the state budget. But it has everything to do with mine.”

Recent national data from the American Community Survey found that unemployment insurance benefits kept 3.3 million Americans out of poverty from 2008 to 2009, said Alexandra Forter Sirota, director of the NC Budget & Tax Center.

 The extended benefit program provides a modest support to working families. For the average worker, unemployment insurance payments represent just 37% of their wages before job loss,” said Sirota. “But these dollars are critical. They help families provide food for their children, pay for gas to get to a job interview, meet their mortgage payments or utility bills. These dollars go a small way towards minimizing the total disruption that job loss can have for a family now and into the future.”

For more information, contact: Alexandra Forter Sirota, alexandra@ncjustice.org, (919) 861-1468; or (919) 801-0465; James Andrews or MaryBe McMillan, NC AFL-CIO, 919.863.6678; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center, jeff@ncjustice.org(919) 863-2402 (office) (503) 551.3615 (mobile).