Challenging our Governor to live on $350 per week

Published January 29, 2013

By Tom Campbell

by Tom Campbell

Action NC, an organization that describes itself as a “grassroots community organization that empowers low to moderate-income communities to take action and win victories on issues of concern to our communities,” has issued a challenge to Governor Pat McCrory to try to live on the $350 per week the legislature is proposing for unemployment benefits.

The challenge got a lot of media attention,  but didn’t get much media scrutiny. The legislature is set to pass reductions in the amount of unemployment benefits to $350 per week. Why didn’t any media types ask how that compares to North Carolina’s minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour.

A person working a minimum wage job 40 hours per week doesn’t earn but $290 per week. We have thousands who work in fast food, retail and other jobs at the minimum. Where is the fairness in a person who is actually working earning less than a person who is unemployed? And what is the incentive for a person to take a job that only pays $290 when they can draw unemployment at $350.00 per week?

As we said last week on NC SPIN, many forget that the unemployment benefit was meant to be a safety net, not a living wage. It was meant to be a bridge to help people while they find work, not a disincentive to working. We can debate whether minimum wage is sufficient but the real discussion needs to be centered around what we can do to help incentivize small businesses, the ones that create most of the new jobs in our state, to create jobs so that our people don’t have to depend on unemployment.

Our 9.2 percent unemployment rate is too high but challenging our governor to live on unemployment shouldn’t be the point.  Let’s remember to keep the main thing the main thing.

January 29, 2013 at 5:31 pm
Tom Hauck says:

HI Tom,

Thank you for an excellent commentary.

Tom (Hauck)

January 30, 2013 at 3:53 pm
Joe Stewart says:

Tom ... I am not an expert on unemployment benefits or the current reform proposal, but pretty sure someone earning $290 per week would not qualify for $350 per week in unemployment since what an unemployed person qualifies for is tied to the wage of the job they lost ... believe the $350 figure is the proposed top rate for unemployment benefits (and further seem to recall that you would have to lose a job paying in the $50,000 or more range to qualify the $350 rate).

January 30, 2013 at 10:29 pm
TomC says:


It is obvious I don't know much about unemployment either. Perhaps one does have to earn $50,000 per year to qualify for the $350. So the numbers may be a bit high. The point remains there should not be a disincentive to work, even at lower wages.