States Cutting Weeks of Unemployment Aid
After losing her job as a security guard in June, Alnetta McKnight turned to food stamps and unemployment insurance to support herself and her 14-year-old son. But her jobless payments ran out after 20 weeks, and now they are living on close to nothing.
“I worked for 26 years; I lost my job through no fault of my own,” Ms. McKnight said, sitting in her darkened living room — she keeps the lights off to save money — in this small town about 20 miles from Wilmington, N.C. “This is what I get?”
Had Ms. McKnight been laid off a year earlier, she almost certainly would have qualified for more than a year of unemployment insurance payments, helping keep her family out of penury while she sought another position. But last July, North Carolina sharply cut its unemployment program, reducing the maximum number of weeks of benefits to 20 from 73 and reducing the maximum weekly benefit as well.
The rest of the country is now following North Carolina’s lead. A federal program supplying extra weeks of benefits to the long-term unemployed expired at the end of 2013, and congressional Democrats failed in an effort to revive it. About 1.3 million jobless workers received their last payment on Dec. 28. Starting on Jan. 1, the maximum period of unemployment payments dropped to 26 weeks in most states, down from as much as 73 weeks.