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9.29.20

Two Months After Federal Unemployment Benefits Expired, North Carolinians Are Still Waiting For Sen. Tillis To Take Meaningful Action On COVID Relief

Tillis Prioritizing His Own Political Interests Over The Needs of North Carolinians

RALEIGH, NC – Unemployed North Carolinians have now been without enhanced federal benefits for two months, leaving them with “one of the stingiest” state unemployment benefits in the county, thanks to Senator Tillis. But instead of working to find a bipartisan solution for North Carolinians, Tillis has been more focused on campaign stunts in Washington, voting for a sham bill that even the President said didn’t go far enough. 

Amid Tillis’ inaction, North Carolina Policy Watch reports that “North Carolina’s number of renter households behind on rent increased by nearly 30,000 week over week, suggesting the loss of UI could continue to ripple throughout the state and put pressure on communities” and noted a survey that found more than 780,000 adults were unable to buy food for their family. Since the federal benefits have expired, North Carolina’s economy has been losing at least $356 million a week. 

As the News & Observer Editorial Board wrote: “Unemployment insurance is not only about helping those who lose jobs. It’s about protecting the economy during recessions by helping jobless workers to pay their bills and buy goods.” But Senator Tillis has failed to act, hampering economic recovery and failing the hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who remain out of work through no fault of their own.  

When the Senate returned from a month-long recess earlier this month, Cal Cunningham spoke with North Carolinians impacted by the lack of action from Washington. During the call, Isaac Sturgill, a housing policy expert from North Carolina Legal Aid said: “Many of our clients are out of work, many of our clients work in the food service industry or retail or other jobs that have faced furloughs or layoffs due to COVID-19 and they’ve been relying heavily on unemployment benefits to make ends meet. And so what we’ve seen is a lot of families struggling to pay their bills on those benefits, especially after the $600 supplemental benefit, the federal benefit that was cut off in July.” 

Cal released his COVID-19 priorities in May, and has been calling on Senator Tillis to take action to support North Carolinians struggling through this public health and economic crisis including by expanding enhanced unemployment benefits, relieving state and local government budget shortfalls, providing resources for schools and small businesses, providing relief for the postal service, and passing a Medicaid expansion incentive. 

“The impact of COVID-19 continues to ripple through communities across North Carolina, but Senator Tillis seems to be more worried about his own re-election prospects than providing meaningful relief,” said Kate Frauenfelder, a spokeswoman for Cal Cunningham’s campaign. “ North Carolinians deserve a leader strong enough to work across the aisle and take swift action in times of crisis. Instead, Senator Tillis has caved again to Mitch McConnell and his own political interests at the expense of North Carolina.”