News: State legislature votes to opt out of extra federal unemployment payments

On Wednesday evening, the N.C. Senate and House voted in quick succession to end the $300 in extra pandemic-related federal unemployment assistance.
The Senate voted 26-22 on a final compromise version of Senate Bill 116. The House followed suit, 65-45, roughly 30 minutes later.
The extra payments were part of the federal benefits supplement after the economic impact of COVID-19 shutdowns. North Carolina would join 25 other states in opting out of the federal supplement. North Carolina has seen an economic recovery since most businesses were allowed to reopen and operate at nearly normal capacity. Small businesses, particularly restaurants, have reported difficulty finding enough help to resume normal hours.
 “With a severe labor shortage, now is no time to pay people extra money not to work,” said Sen. Chuck Edwards, R-Henderson. “The pandemic is largely behind us, and our state shouldn’t be stuck in mid-pandemic policies.”

S.B. 116 also would tighten work-search requirements for people collecting unemployment benefits.  According to a press release from bill sponsors, to continue on unemployment, job seekers would have to accept a job if it pays at least 120% of weekly unemployment benefits, must respond to an interview offer within 48 hours, and show up for job interviews. The bill also appropriates $250 million in child care assistance for eligible children.

The House also voted to approve the Free the Smiles Act, which would give local school boards the authority over mask mandates in public school classrooms.  The Senate will likely consider that bill by the end of the week.

“Each one [bill] is critical to getting North Carolina past the pandemic,” House Majority Leader, Rep. John Bell, R-Wayne, posted on Facebook Wednesday evening.

S.B. 116 now goes to Governor Roy Cooper for approval or veto.

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