MaryBe McMillan, Secretary and Treasurer for the NC AFL-CIO, speaking at Mass Moral Monday

CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina became the only state in the U.S. this year to cut off long-term unemployment benefits, instead choosing pay-off the state’s debt to the federal government. The new measure goes into effect Monday, and will impact roughly 70,000 North Carolinians.

When the recession hit in 2008, the state was forced to borrow from the federal government as unemployment claims increased.

North Carolina was one of many states facing similar debt, but the only state to choose this course of action.  Unemployment benefits are slated to expire across the country at the end of this year.

State Senator Ellie Kinnaird, who represents Orange and Chatham Counties, voted to extend the cut-off deadline for unemployment benefits.

“I worry about what will happen to the children of these families. Do they not care about what is going to happen?” Kinnaird said.

MaryBe McMillan, Secretary and Treasurer for the NC AFL-CIO, partnered with the NAACP recently to speak out against the state’s decision.

She estimated that within a year’s time, 170,000 North Carolinians will lose their unemployment benefits.

“This list of injustices against workers is long. They are making us pay more taxes; they are gutting protections in the State Personnel Act; they are endangering teacher tenure; and they are further restricting our right to organize. But there is no greater injustice than this legislature’s treatment of the unemployed,” McMillan said at this week’s Mass Moral Monday rally in Raleigh.

McMillan called the state’s decision “brutal,” considering that North Carolina has the fifth highest unemployment rate in the country.

“The legislators made it their first order of business to make the most drastic cuts to unemployment of any state in the nation,” McMillan said.

Wayne Bostick of Durham is unemployed and is worried for his family. He spoke alongside of McMillian at Mass Moral Monday about his trials as an unemployed worker.

“It will be a gloomy day. Even if the sun is shinning, 71,000 will suffer a fate worse than a death sentence,” Bostick said.

Under the state’s plan, though workers will lose extended unemployment benefits, the debt owed to the federal government will be paid off in 2016, three years early.