North Carolina Worker Protections Erode

Protections for workers in North Carolina were substantially weakened recently, as the Associated Press reports the state slashed benefits for newly-filed unemployment claims and also became the first in the country to become disqualified for federal aid for the long-term jobless.
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This, combined with the fact that many businesses were discovered last year to be putting employees at risk by failing to purchase workers’ compensation insurance – something the state failed to appropriately monitor – just further drives home the critical importance of selecting an experienced Asheville workers’ compensation attorney following a job-related injury. Attorney Henry E. Teich of Grimes Teich Anderson is a North Carolina Board Certified Workers Compensation Specialist.

In addition to shelling out thousands of dollars in medical costs following a work injury, many workers find they are unable to immediately return to work. Sometimes, that time away is extended. If that time frame is expected to be a year or longer, it may be appropriate to file for federal Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

While collection of SSDI and workers’ compensation benefits is generally not appropriate (or in many cases even possible), an injured worker should seek qualified legal advice. Fewer North Carolina workers can expect to receive unemployment benefits – and those who do will get less – as state officials adopted both increased business taxes and a reduced benefits package. Their aim is to speed up repayment of a $2.5 billion debt owed to the federal government, for assistance given to the state’s unemployment program in the midst of the Great Recession.

North Carolina has the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the country.

The state was forced to give up worker access to those federal dollars in exchange for reducing the weekly benefits amount – something that the federal program strictly prohibited as a condition of receiving the money.

In practical terms, what this means is that the 170,000 workers whose state unemployment benefits are expected to expire yet this year will lose out on access to about $700 million in federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation funds.

Additionally, qualifying for benefits will become even more difficult and weekly payments will go from a maximum of $535 weekly down to $350. That’s the largest reduction ever recorded in the Southeast.

Some 20 other states are in a similar debt situation with regard to federal aid, but no others have taken the drastic step of reducing benefits so severely as a result. North Carolina’s unemployment benefits debt to the feds is the third-largest in the nation – which is indicative of the fact that we were one of those states that could least afford such a dramatic reduction.

Lawmakers said that delaying the move could have meant the debt would increase. However, the people who ultimately pay are the ones who can’t find work, in many cases due to a prior work-related injury.

Republican lawmakers suggested that many of those collecting unemployment benefits are holding out for better opportunities than the ones being presented, and urged them to “take a job, get back into the job market.”

However, for those who have suffered a significant injury, such directives are not always so simple. A recent study by Cornell University showed that only 34 percent of all persons with disabilities were employed full-time in 2011. In North Carolina, that rate was lower at 30.7 percent.

When the disability was incurred after sustaining a work-related injury, you deserve compensation. We are committed, especially under the significant reduction of other financial safety nets, to helping you obtain it.

If you or a loved one is involved in an accident, contact Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845. No Attorney Fees Until You’ve Been Paid.

Additional Resources:
NC becomes 1st state to drop federal jobless funds, By Emery P. Dalesio, Business Writer Associated Press

More Blog Entries:
North Carolina Worker Deaths Higher Than State Reports, June 11, 2013, Asheville Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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