RALEIGH -- Thousands of North Carolinians who have been out of work for a year to a year and a half are now losing extended unemployment benefits. State and federal laws require the benefits to expire as the state's unemployment rate improves.
That's bad news for Chrishauna Thomas, who depends on those extended benefits to support her family. Like 17,000 North Carolinians, her extended unemployment benefits are about to end.
“It makes me really nervous,” she said. “I have two small children. My daughter is three and my son is one. This is going to be the very first month in five years I've not paid my mortgage. It's very real. How are we going to eat today? Are the lights going to get cut off? That breaks your heart.”
Last week, North Carolina paid nearly $5 million in extended benefits. Administrators say the reason the program is expiring is because the state's unemployment rate is improving.
“A lowering unemployment rate has led to the program triggering off,” said Larry Parker, spokesman for the Division of Employment Security. “Those folks will file for benefits this Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and will receive that last payment on extended benefits. After that, however, these benefits are no longer available.”
“I was shocked,” Thomas said. “You think, you work and you work. I've been working since I was 15 years old. To have worked all that time and now to know I can't find a decent job and no one is going to help me. It just kind of sucks.”
But Thomas says her children are the best reasons to stay optomistic about finding a new job soon.
“I have to continue to look for a job,” she said. “I have to continue to smile or my kids will worry.”
Without the extended benefits, people can only get unemployment for up to 89 weeks. However, the federal extension is also set to expire at the end of the year, which would drop the maximum amount of unemployment to 26 weeks.