Raleigh, N.C. – Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and NC House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) today announced intent to accept President Donald Trump’s offer of a $300 weekly federal supplement to unemployment insurance benefits. The federal government will supplement unemployment benefits by $300 per week for eligible recipients if state government provides $100 per week. Expiration of the $600 weekly federal benefit makes the current supplemental benefit $0.
In a joint statement, Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said, “Because of smart budgeting decisions, North Carolina is one of the best-prepared states in the country to handle this recession. We have $2.9 billion in the Unemployment Trust Fund and $552 million in unencumbered CARES Act funding, so we can afford to accept President Trump’s offer while liberal states with oppressive tax-and-spend policies, like New York, cannot.”
What President Trump offers is very similar to Disaster Unemployment Assistance. The federal government already offers Disaster Unemployment Assistance (funded from the federal disaster relief account) as a matter of course following traditional disasters like hurricanes. Gov. Roy Cooper accepted federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance after Hurricane Florence and encouraged
North Carolinians to take advantage of it. Gov. Cooper also specifically requested
Disaster Unemployment Assistance earlier this year to help with the pandemic. In fact, the program is so widely used that the state Division of Employment Security has a webpage
dedicated to answering questions about it.
Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow), the Senate’s chief budget writer, said, “It doesn’t make sense that Gov. Cooper would object to this federal unemployment assistance offer. He’s already accepted almost identical assistance after previous disasters, and there’s no question we’re in a disaster right now – he himself declared the disaster in March.”
Where does the federal offer come from?
Federal supplemental unemployment benefits expired on August 1. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer declined a late-July offer from the White House to temporarily extend those unemployment benefits while negotiations over a larger relief package dragged on.
President Trump then offered states unemployment assistance from the federal disaster relief account, which requires a 75/25 federal/state cost-share. FEMA provides
similar Disaster Unemployment Assistance as a matter of practice after hurricanes, and Gov. Cooper has previously accepted that assistance.
How does it work?
Gov. Roy Cooper must first submit what’s called a 424 application
Once that is done and the state obtains other necessary approvals, the state Division of Employment Security may begin adding the $300 supplement to eligible unemployment claims retroactive to August 1. The legislature will vote in early September to appropriate any additional funds to cover the 25% state match.
The 25% state match is the statutory match required in the Stafford Act, which governs disaster assistance.
Will the disaster relief account for unemployment put hurricane recovery at risk this season?
No. Disaster Unemployment Assistance is a standard federal benefit offered to states during disasters. We are in a disaster right now. There is $70 billion in the federal disaster relief account. The President’s order funds the $300 unemployment supplement until the federal disaster relief account reaches $25 billion. The $25 billion threshold is in place to ensure the disaster relief account has plenty of funding in the event of a natural disaster like a hurricane.
It is critical for Gov. Cooper to act quickly to access the supplemental funds because there is a chance the federal account will reach the $25 billion threshold before North Carolinians receive their benefits. Gov. Cooper must act quickly because there are finite funds available.
Read the letter Sen. Berger and Speaker Moore sent Gov. Cooper today here