Saturday, May 7, 2011

NC Republicans callous inaction on jobless benefits

Republicans in the NC General Assembly still have not gotten around to passing legislation necessary for 37,000 long-term out-of-work North Carolinians to collect an extra 20 weeks of federally-funded unemployment benefits.

Last month, the Republicans tried to use the extension to extort Governor Perdue into committing to double-digit percentage budget cuts for the coming fiscal year. The governor, rightly, vetoed the legislation and asked for a clean bill. The extension has subsequently languished.

Regrettably, Republicans' general callousness towards the poor isn't new or surprising. However, once upon a time, Republicans did at least try to show support for workers who lost their jobs, a group they included among "deserving poor." No more.

As the Republican Senate Leader, Phil Berger said, "We need to remember that we're talking about the extension for folks who have already received benefits" for a year and a half.

Moral and humanitarian concerns notwithstanding, Republicans should be able to grasp the practical, economic benefits of hundreds of thousands of federal dollars flowing into a state that still suffers from 9.7 percent unemployment. But again, no.

Since benefits ran out, Republicans have found the time to adopt resolutions recognizing the 100th anniversary of North Carolina Family and Consumer Sciences, a former representative, and Cinco de Mayo.

These are priorities, but legislation that would help the long-term jobless and bolster our economy, all without costing our state budget a dime is not.