If that puts him over the top, it will be deeply ironic. For the governor sprang into action on this storm after ignoring another one that has battered rural eastern
The governor's hurricane response reflected his lack of attention to that other, unnamed storm of economic ill winds. He announced the availability of Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), a program notably without the draconian changes
DUA provides benefits for 26 weeks instead of the current 13 weeks for regular unemployment. And, at the governor's order, the jobless won't have to comply with the legislature's annoying new requirement that they contact five potential employers a week, instead of the previous two. Weekly benefits, however, remain chopped to a maximum of
The title Disaster Unemployment Assistance underscores the meanness of the changes to regular unemployment assistance. The sudden loss of a job is a disaster to most workers regardless of whether flooding or fallen trees come with it. The DUA rules should be the state's regular approach. Provide help quickly. Provide it for up to half a year. Treat the recipients as adults tapping an earned benefit and trust that they're looking for work without requiring that they document their search.
Yet even the "disaster" program retains the state's miserly maximum benefit. While McCrory gets credit for responding to Hurricane Matthew, he should also have to explain to some storm victims why their emergency unemployment benefits have been cut by
He could also explain to all of rural
The lack of
Gray said rural
Finally, McCrory has come around to seeing the need for a special session, but people in hard-hit counties are left wondering why it's taking the legislature so long to respond. Republican legislative leaders reacted with urgency in calling a special session to block a
"They responded within two weeks to
McCrory has formed a committee to respond to the hurricane, but the focus is more about immediate actions rather than long-term steps that would make rural areas more resilient when big storms hit. This limited and reactive approach is especially concerning given the threat climate change poses to the the coast and the coastal plain. Most scientists expect storms to become stronger and more frequent, but the state is being run by people who are skeptical about climate change and environmental regulation.
Matthew brings into the open how the state's neglect of infrastructure and safety net programs compounds the hardships of poverty. Perhaps what the governor has seen and the legislature will eventually contemplate will show them that budgets are not just about numbers and fiscal restraint. What the state does with its spending and programs is about helping people hit by storms, whether natural, medical or economic.
Barnett: 919-829-4512, [email protected]
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