RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Jenni Propst said she was “shocked” when she got a notification this week from the North Carolina Division of Employment Security that her weekly state unemployment benefits were being cut significantly one year after she lost her job due to the pandemic.
As people approach the 52-week mark of receiving benefits, the agency has instructed people to file a new claim to begin a new benefit year.
The weekly benefit people receive is based on income in the previous year, which was reduced significantly last year for Propst and many others as sectors of the economy shut down.
In her case, it meant her weekly benefit would drop from the state’s maximum of $350 to $192.
“Absolutely angry at the state of North Carolina, and I felt betrayed and lied to a little bit,” she said.
Before the pandemic she worked behind the scenes at events like live theater and concerts. For the last year, she and many of her friends and colleague have relied on the state and federal unemployment benefits to be able to pay their bills until those events can safely resume.
Propst said she’s not alone in seeing the benefits reduced.
“My best friend is getting $33 a week,” she said. “I have friends in my industry that are now getting $22 a week.”
As part of the stimulus bill President Joe Biden signed into law last week, people are slated to receive $300 per week in federal benefits until early September in addition to any state benefits they receive.
“So, it was like this one side you’ve got the feds that are trying to take care of the citizens of our country and then the state is saying, mmm sorry,” Propst said. “How could this be? How could the state of North Carolina be treating their citizens the way that they are right now?”
CBS 17 contacted the Division of Employment Security about the situation. A spokesperson said they planned to reach out to Propst but did not respond to our questions.
We also reached out to members of the General Assembly who oversee the state’s unemployment system.
In an email, Pat Ryan, spokesman for Senate Republicans, wrote, “If their unemployment is related to COVID closures, then they should qualify for the extra unemployment benefits provided by the federal government. Fortunately, the pandemic looks to be nearing an end and millions of vaccines have been distributed to North Carolinians. Economists predict the economy will continue to rebound, especially as more people reenter the workforce. Legislators are focused on finding better ways to connect the currently unemployed to businesses that are hiring to help people get back on their feet and to aid in the state’s economic recovery efforts.”
Beginning Monday, March 15, people who file for benefits for the first time or are reapplying after completing one year are required to show each week that they are looking for work.
The work search requirement is typically required of everyone on unemployment. Governor Roy Cooper had waived that requirement a year ago when the coronavirus began.
Propst pointed out she’s been looking for jobs and has applied for dozens of them outside her field, but so far has had no luck with them.
“I haven’t seen a single job in my field in my state in the past year,” she said. “I’m hoping that they come to their senses and revert to how things were last year.”