In the midst of a pandemic and recession that has hit more than 1 million workers and every county in the stateUnemployment Insurance (UI) can be a strong foundation to stop the economic harm from spreading by supporting workers in a proven way that stabilizes local economies. 

The economy needs a strengthened unemployment insurance system to ensure that jobless workers stay connected to the labor market and can meet their basic needs while they seek work. It is this ability to make basic purchases that supports local businesses and stabilizes local economies.  

And yet policymakers in North Carolina in 2013 made changes to the state’s UI system that have undermined its effectiveness today. We did not agree with this shift, but NOW is the time to re-balance North Carolina’s UI program. A strong and just recovery from this downturn requires changes to the state’s UI that make sure jobless workers have adequate wage replacement for enough time to find work and that those who lose jobs are able to access UI so that they economy is not further damaged by loss of income. 

The I am a Tar Heel Worker campaign calls on North Carolina’s policymakers to act in 2021 to make the following improvements to our state Unemployment Insurance system:

  1. Set the number of weeks available to jobless workers to the standard 26 weeks.
  2. Change the calculation of average weekly benefits to be based on highest quarter of earnings and ensure that the state gets closer to the 50 percent wage replacement standard.
  3. Adopt short-time compensation to reduce mass layoffs and provide workers with.
  4. Change the part-time earnings set aside to ensure that workers who have been hard hit in COVID-19 are not penalized for working at reduced hours. 
  5. Fund administration and re-establish a Worker Training Trust Fund to ensure jobless workers and employers have access to an efficient Unemployment Insurance system.