RALEIGH — North Carolina is currently about $2 billion dollars in debt to the federal government for money it borrowed to help pay for unemployment benefits during the recent recession.

The feds have now started a mandated payback program, but the state is looking to accelerate it.

“Under that payment plan, we anticipate that the state would have a positive UI (Unemployment Insurance) balance by the year 2018,” said Cindy Avrette with the N.C. Fiscal Research Division. “But what this legislation does, is it makes changes to our state laws that enables the state to accelerate the repayment of that debt.”

The proposal being sent to the General Assembly would pay down the $2 billion debt by 2015. But the way that money is being found has some folks concerned.

“This proposal, however, largely pulls the North Carolina trust fund out of debt, pretty much on the backs of unemployed workers,” said George Wentworth with the National Employment Law Center.

The draft bill as it is written, it cuts the number of weeks the state pays for unemployment benefits from 26 to 20 weeks, and it also reduces the maximum pay-out for those benefits from $535 to $350.

At the same time, the federal government has raised taxes per employee on employers and as of next year state unemployment taxes would see a small increase as well.

Some lawmakers said they understand the need to get rid of this debt, but also don’t want the unemployed to suffer should another recession hit.

“As certainly as the sun shines in the morning and sets at night, one will come," said Sen. Floyd McKissick. “And we want to make sure when that day does arrive that our unemployed here in North Carolina do receive benefits until they can find that next job.”

All of these proposed changes would only affect people who lose their jobs after July 1.