State unemployment insurance benefit payments reach $1 billion threshold

State unemployment insurance benefit payments reach $1 billion threshold

Only $3 for 13 weeks

North Carolina has surpassed the $1 billion mark in state unemployment insurance benefit payments, the state Division of Employment Security reported Monday.

Altogether, $4.37 billion has been paid in state and federal UI benefits between March 15 and 10:30 a.m. Monday.

The state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund was at close to $3.85 billion before the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic began. Since then, $1.006 billion has been paid out, 26.1% of fund total.

The remaining UI payment breakdown is: $2.35 billion from the federal pandemic unemployment-compensation package; $981.5 million in the federal pandemic unemployment-assistance package; and $39.2 million in pandemic-emergency unemployment compensation.

That means that 73.9% of UI payments to North Carolinians have coming from federal sources, mostly the $600 weekly benefit.

There have been 1.07 million individual claims and 1.6 million claims overall.

Some individuals have been required to file a second claim — after being determined to be ineligible for initial state benefits — in order to qualify for federal benefits that often include extended state benefits.

Currently 26.4% of the 4.06 million North Carolinians considered as part of the state’s workforce as of mid-May have filed a state or federal unemployment claim.

Over the weekend, 24,089 new claimants filed for benefits. The daily filing peak was 34,706 on March 30.

DES said 719,204 claimants have received state and/or federal benefits, or about 66.9% of the state’s UI benefit claimants.

The division said it has determined eligibility status for 93% of claimants, while there are 68,737 state UI claims awaiting a decision.

About 67% of claimants were approved and are receiving benefits. Another 20% have been determined to not be eligible, whether they lacked a sufficient wage history, have not filed a weekly certification or earned excessive wages in a benefit week. About 6% were not approved for state benefits and are awaiting a determination on federal benefits.

Economists and workers’ advocates stress the importance of Congress passing an extended round of benefits before the current round expires in late July.

“Making sure that unemployment insurance provides wage replacement to jobless workers is a first step to ensuring a recovery and minimizing the harm of this recession,” said Alexandra Sirota, director of the left-leaning N.C. Budget & Tax Center.

“That is why it is critical that the federal UI program is extended ... and why fixing the state UI program before then should be a top priority of all policymakers.”

North Carolina’s unemployment rate has tripled from 4.3% in March to 12.9% in May — a stark reflection of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the state’s economy.

Individuals without jobs and not actively looking for work are not counted as part of the labor force.

rcraver@wsjournal.com

336-727-7376

@rcraverWSJ

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