RALEIGH- As Congress debates whether or not to extend federal unemployment benefits, state leaders in North Carolina are preparing in case the extension is approved. A state law cut off extended benefits this summer, but this new federal proposal would allow North Carolina to once again be part of the extended benefits pool.

“But if this is passed,” asked Sen. Bob Rucho, a Mecklenberg County Republican, “what would be the procedure, and what would be required of North Carolina?”

North Carolina is in a unique position, that its benefits have been cut off from the federal level because of changes made at the state level. The bill under debate in Congress is looking to extend benefits across the board.

“We think its critical,”said Bill Rowe with the NC Justice Center. “There are people who are really struggling out there to pay rent, pay mortgages., they are now on a much reduced unemployment insurance system in our state- and the jobs are not there.”

At a meeting of the legislative Unemployment Insurance Oversight Committee Wednesday, lawmakers had some questions about the federal bill. Some wondered if it would add to the state’s already massive debt, and questioned why it has taken federal leaders this long to consider allowing North Carolina back on to the extended unemployment rolls.

“Could have easily been put in legislation early on back in early 2013 and eliminated any of the concerns about the federal benefits,” said Rucho.

The proposal is far from a done deal in Washington. Should it get approval, it would be up to executive leaders in the state to set up the system to get these federal benefits paid out. State leaders say this could be cumbersome.

“Sometimes people confuse the words simple and easy,” said Dale Folwell, Assistant Sectary of Commerce. “They are not the same words.”

– Loretta Boniti