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House Lawmakers Pass Unemployment Overhaul

North Carolina House lawmakers have tentatively passed a bill largely along party lines that would lower benefits for unemployed workers. The measure would reduce the maximum weekly allowed benefit from $500 to $350. It would also reduce the maximum amount of time a laid-off worker could receive benefits from 26 weeks to between 12 and 20 weeks. Democratic Representative Paul Luebke said this is the wrong bill to be passing at a time when unemployment in the state is high.

"This is a very unbalanced bill. People who are not included in the discussion of this bill are the unemployed. The unemployed people of this state had no advocates as this bill was crafted."

But the bill's sponsors say if passed, it would help the state pay off a nearly $2.6 billion debt owed to the federal government. North Carolina borrowed that money to help pay for a spike in unemployment claims brought on by the recession. Under the measure, business owners would see their unemployment insurance taxes rise until the debt would be paid off in 2015.

Jessica Jones covers both the legislature in Raleigh and politics across the state. Before her current assignment, Jessica was given the responsibility to open up WUNC's first Greensboro Bureau at the Triad Stage in 2009. She's a seasoned public radio reporter who's covered everything from education to immigration, and she's a regular contributor to NPR's news programs. Jessica started her career in journalism in Egypt, where she freelanced for international print and radio outlets. After stints in Washington, D.C. with Voice of America and NPR, Jessica joined the staff of WUNC in 1999. She is a graduate of Yale University.
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