RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A North Carolina bill allowing a $1,500 bonus for people who leave unemployment and take a job is moving forward.
The Senate approved the bill on Tuesday and now it heads to the House.
The bill offers people receiving unemployment benefits up to $1,500 to take a job and keep it.
Republicans said many aren’t going back to work as they have become comfortable collecting unemployment at home.
“I believe there is a percentage of the population that’s gotten comfortable and gotten out of the habit of looking for a job,” said Sen. Chuck Edwards (R-Buncombe).
Democratic lawmakers said it shows a need for higher wages.
“This is a post-pandemic economy and folks need to be paid a living wage,” said Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake).
“This labor market is not like anything we’ve ever really seen before,” said John Quinterno, visiting professor at Duke University.
Quinterno said the unemployment rate is dropping as more people find work. However, there are about 23,500 fewer jobs in the Raleigh and Durham area than a year ago.
“While things have come back, we’re still not back to where we were,” said Quinterno.
He said the pandemic changed how a lot of jobs operate and made people reassess their expectations.
The jobs not being filled tend to be in lower-paying industries, which in some cases aren’t paying as much as unemployment might.
“What does that say about the underlying job that would be paying less than that?” asked Quinterno.
The funds for the bonuses to return to work would come from recent stimulus federal money, which means the bonus portion of the bill needs an act by Congress.
Republican lawmakers said they are talking to members of Congress to act on it with urgency.
“Things move slowly in government. We’re probably closer to that expiring on its own, so I’m not quite sure why now,” said Quinterno.
The federal stimulus money expires at the beginning of September.
Half the country, mainly Republican-led states, has stopped those federal stimulus payments.
Oklahoma and Arizona are doing a similar incentive like the one being discussed here.