The Covid Pandemic Increased Vulnerability to Forced Labor in Global Supply Chains

Comprehensive evidence points to increased vulnerability of workers to forced labor in global supply chains during the Covid-19 pandemic, an analysis published today by the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (Modern Slavery PEC) has found.

The Centre, which was created to enhance understanding of modern slavery and transform the effectiveness of law and policies designed to address it, is funded by the Arts and Humanities Council.

The Modern Slavery PEC has carried out an analysis of evidence, including new academic research funded by the Centre, on the impact of Covid-19 on modern slavery across the world.

The analysis has found that the pandemic has increased vulnerability to modern slavery all over the world, including in the UK, as many of the underlying wider factors underpinning modern slavery have worsened, such as poverty, inequality and unemployment. Construction, manufacturing, including ready-made garment production, as well as accommodation and food services have been the sectors most affected by the pandemic.

It found that the increased vulnerability of workers to forced labor is often linked to long and complex supply chains, of which businesses have limited visibility. Already vulnerable groups, such as migrant and informal workers, were most affected, particularly in the lower tiers of supply chains.

There is evidence of an increase in the risk of forced labor both in supply chains that experienced a significant reduction in demand, such as garments, and those that experienced demand spikes, such as PPE production.

The problems were compounded by businesses struggling with the immediate impact of the pandemic making it difficult to mitigate the modern slavery risks in their supply chains, including by making it very challenging to carry out due diligence processes on suppliers on the ground.

Additionally, some of the early response by business to the pandemic exacerbated vulnerability to modern slavery, for example by cancelling contracts and withholding payment for goods already produced.

Modern Slavery PEC Partnership Manager Owain Johnstone, one of the authors of the analysis, said:

“Covid-related supply chain disruption is a wake-up call for businesses. The evidence that the pandemic has worsened people’s vulnerability to forced labor in global supply chains is overwhelming.”

“The pandemic has highlighted the complexity and fragility of many supply chains and reinforced the link between the lack of visibility over supply chains and the vulnerability of workers to modern slavery. More transparent, resilient supply chains are better for business and better for workers”, he added.

Dr Jo Meehan, Senior Lecturer in Strategic Purchasing at University of Liverpool Management School, who led the Modern Slavery PEC project on the impact of Covid-19 on the management of supply chains, said:

“Demand volatility has been extremely high during the pandemic. It acts as a driver of modern slavery as it erodes profits, encourages the use of temporary and precarious workers, and destabilises capacity in supply markets.”

However, the Modern Slavery PEC’s analysis has also pointed out that the pandemic may lead to longer-term positive changes to supply chain dynamics. This includes greater visibility and awareness of supply chains that Covid has forced on businesses and increased awareness of exploitation affecting supply chains.

Dr Meehan said: “Our study revealed that because of the pandemic, two-thirds of businesses sourced from new suppliers and undertook additional supply chain mapping. Therefore, there is an opportunity for businesses to use these new relationships as springboards to understand the impacts of their own business model and practices, and how they may change to collectively tackle, and prevent, modern slavery.”

For example, evidence suggests that some businesses have already moved towards the ‘localisation’ of their supply chains, working to shorten them and bring suppliers closer to home to avoid future disruption, which is likely to decrease modern slavery risks. Another example includes extending inventory planning cycles to take their longer-term demand into account and enable better workforce planning.

Johnstone said: “It’s clear that the crisis has pushed businesses to strengthen their hold on their entire supply chains, which can make it easier to address any exploitation issues potentially affecting them.

“We urge businesses to use the pandemic experience as a platform to increase visibility and transparency over their supply chains, as well as improving collaboration with their suppliers and peer companies.”

What Options Do Furloughed Workers Have?

The rapid spread of COVID-19 across the United States caused a serious disruption in the daily lives of most American workers. Although many people are able to work from home, or are still working under “essential employee” status, others have been laid off or furloughed. 

The Healthcare Sector

In the healthcare industry, doctors and nurses, radiologists and anesthesiologists, receptionists, and other healthcare staff are facing furloughs in the millions. As the rise of COVID-19 leads to the restriction of all unnecessary or elective procedures, private doctors’ offices, and specialty clinics such as endoscopy centers, plastic surgery facilities, and out-patient/day surgery centers are out of work across the country. 

In fact, reports this past April cited that nearly 1.9 million Americans were employed at family medicine offices which closed because of the virus. While doctors may still be able to “see” patients through teledoc-type systems, many of the nurses, medical assistants, receptionists, and janitorial staff have either been laid off, are experiencing severely reduced hours, or have been furloughed.

A furlough means workers are suspended without pay but, typically, they do still receive health benefits and are eligible for re-hire once the company reopens. In fact, government workers still retain employment rights that prevent them from being fired during a furlough without the typical process. As helpful as these benefits are, furloughed employees still need a source of income while waiting for the virus to run its course. There is an abundance of uncertainty surrounding how quickly businesses will re-open and when they will get back to full capacity.

Other Employment

While some businesses are shuttered, others may be hiring. In most cases, if a furloughed worker is interested in doing so, they are free to seek other employment. Similar to seeking employment while working, the employer cannot retaliate against an employee for finding another job while they are on furlough. This can be full-time, part-time, permanent, seasonal, or temporary work. 

If a furloughed employee does not want to find another job permanently, they usually have the option of seeking other employment during the length of the furlough. However, employers are able to create policies against furloughed workers having simultaneous employment during the furlough in situations where it may jeopardize the safety and security of the company. This can include trade secrets, protected company information, customer/client sources, and other company property. Employees should check with their individual employers to discuss their options of seeking short term employment until the company is able to bring them back on board. 

Unfortunately, many of the frontline healthcare workers who were battling the virus every day have been furloughed and quarantined due to exposure to, or worse, contraction of the virus. Hundreds of healthcare workers, especially those in states significantly impacted by the virus, have been infected, and countless more have gotten sick in states which have not kept track of their case count. If a healthcare worker is unable to work, unable to seek other employment, and unable to seek temporary employment, what can they do? 

Unemployment Benefits

Thankfully, most furloughed employees are able to receive unemployment benefits. Employees must be careful about unemployment because if upon returning to work, they get back-pay from their employer, the employee will have to repay any benefits they received. However, with new, federal, temporary rules set in place to combat the financial consequences of the virus, many furloughed workers can find help. In addition to receiving $600 each week on top of the state’s maximum amount until July 31st, applicants will also be able to receive benefits for two or three times longer than normal. Also, contractors and self-employed individuals are now eligible for benefits. The waiting period to apply for benefits, the regular check-ins, and the ongoing job search requirements have been waived. With a record 6.6 million Americans filing for unemployment in April and rates still disproportionately high now, this relief couldn’t come soon enough.  

Answering the Call

With COVID-19 still going strong, these furloughed healthcare workers have answered the call to help. In New York, a cry for help yielded over 80,000 healthcare volunteers to relieve those nurses and medical staff run ragged in New York hospitals. With the number of COVID cases rising nationwide, the more doctors there are, the more people treated and, hopefully, the more who recover. 

Many states are loosening licensing requirements in order to meet demand. A simple Google search will lead you to page after page of hospitals asking for volunteers to help with the crisis. Doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers are coming out of retirement to help. Nurses are relocating to other states to provide assistance. Doctors, unable to practice as they regularly would due to the shutdowns, are going back to the basics to help treat the virus.

For those with experience outside of the healthcare industry, there are still many companies that are hiring during the pandemic. All essential companies, including grocery stores, gas stations, many retail stores, and restaurants may have reduced hours in some locations but are “business as usual” otherwise. Companies like 7-Eleven, ACE Hardware, CVS Pharmacy, Dominos, and UPS, to name a few, are experienced a rise in demand due to the virus and are hiring at various locations.

Companies with remote positions are also hiring. This includes positions in the technology field, social media forums, and tech support positions for internet and cable companies. The virtual meeting platform Zoom is experiencing much higher demand since the shutdowns began and is looking for employees, as are internet/television companies like Spectrum. 

Every American has been affected by the spread of COVID-19, in one aspect or another. Whether struggling with the insanity of working a healthcare or retail job, the nuances of working from home, or the financial consequences of a layoff or furlough, most of us are eagerly awaiting the day society returns to normalcy. For those who have been furloughed, the situation is all the more difficult to navigate. Whether you choose to seek new or temporary employment with one of the companies that are still hiring or you decide to take advantage of the current assistance available through unemployment, there is help available. 

Honoring South African Youth Month through Social Work and Entrepreneurship

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June is a special month to salute civil and human liberties — from Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States, to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, which honors the 1969 Stonewall riot in Manhattan, a tipping point to the Gay Liberation in the United States. However, June 16, 1976, also commemorates the youth uprising which led to the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa.

To Americans, commemorations can honor bravery and self-sacrifice, or they can remember those who have fallen victim to an unfortunate event or a series of heinous acts. But nevertheless, here in America — where Liberty stands clothed in democracy with one hand clenching independence and the other raising the importance of universal knowledge that brings light to all — tragedy no longer unites this deeply divided nation.

Of course, America is far from alone in its attempt to push a more unified front in the midst of tragedy, whether one we commemorate often or one we mourn just yesterday. South Africa — still a chronically racially divided nation — is a country where America’s struggles to end racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans in the 1960s and 1970s helped inspire its anti-apartheid movement in the mid-1960s.

Much like the origin of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, the joint forces between students and youth in South Africa echoed the same courage and extreme tenacity of African American students protesting their unequal status in the state’s segregated educational system. Unlike the strides South Africa has made to celebrate student advocacy and its contribution to the larger society, America has not yet begun to observe, or even embrace, the strength of young people in the 1960s who sought to return the power back to ordinary citizens. As a result, this may be one of our nation’s biggest oversight: the lack of history we share about social movements inspired and led by our youth.

Today, in South Africa, millions honor the memory of a national tragedy — the tragedy that began with thousands gathering at a peaceful student protest against the education system of South Africa during Apartheid rule but ended with hundreds of young people killed by the ruling government. This historic event, also known as the June 16th, 1976 Uprising, continues to pave the way for the youth of South Africa to carry on the spirit and legacy of those who withstood the painful and unjust political force of the Apartheid State and demanded more for themselves and their community. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the uprising.

Millennials and Entrepreneurship in South Africa

After many decades of struggles, the South African government ended apartheid, but today’s Millennials still face many socio-economic challenges in modern times that are often overlooked. In this now diverse nation, largely made up of young people who constitute 66% of the total population, many are unemployed despite being qualified.

As of March 2016, the unemployment rate in South Africa increased to 26.7 percent in the three months from 24.5 percent in the previous quarter.  Of those unemployed, youth unemployment is at its highest.  Of those unemployed, youth unemployment is at its highest. In response to these staggering statistics, South African’s National Youth Policy is geared toward addressing the needs of young people from 15-34 years of age with respect to “education, health and well-being, and economic participation and social cohesion” (United Nations Population Fund, 2013).

However, too many South Africans, the reality of owning a business as an alternative solution to unemployment is far too unlikely. According to the annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) South Africa Report (2014),  South Africa’s rate of entrepreneurial activity is undoubtedly low for a developing country. Less than 7.0 percent of the adult population in South Africa is engaged in some form of entrepreneurial activities, while less than 3 percent already own or manage an established business. This report also reveals that for every 10 adult males engaged in entrepreneurship there are eight females. However, the number of women in entrepreneurship has increased over the years primarily due to government support, but also because of the growing perception of opportunities to start a business.

The report also suggests that South Africa needs more Millennials – male and female alike – to consider starting businesses. But yet, there are very few governmental initiatives that are contributing towards entrepreneurial activities by its citizens. Historically, the most effective ones are supported by private companies or grassroots organizations that inspire to make a difference and increase the entrepreneurial propensity among all of South Africa, especially among their peers.

For example, Ndosi Strategies, an NYC-based consulting firm providing affordable development services, international platform, and economic investment for primarily African-led businesses, seeks to:

“Support Africa’s optimistic job creator towards success with the same passion and deliberation that propelled them into the arena of commerce, social enterprise, and industry – through providing accessible business in research, marketing and assisting in fostering their next U.S. or South African/African based partnership or collaboration”.

In fact, Ndosi Strategies in partnership with Brand South Africa will launch the first annual conference in NYC, on June 25th. South African youth entrepreneurs, both U.S. and S.A based, will come together and discuss their business ventures, the youth’s role in South Africa’s development, and the entrepreneurial movement as a vehicle for economic development and stability. The keynote speaker will include international branding & business expert, Mr. Thebe Ikalafeng, Founder of award-winning African brand and reputation advisory firm, Brand Leadership Group. Moderating the discussion will be Yolanda Sangweni, Deputy Editor of ESSENCE.com, and Founder of AFRIPOP.

Call to Action

Young people have always been viewed as the heart of socio-political change in South Africa. However, what is not well-documented is the contributions social workers made to help usher such change in South Africa through entrepreneurship, policy-making, practice, and community service. In events scheduled for later this month, we will be further exploring how social work and entrepreneurship can work collaboratively to improve outcomes for youth.

As a result, today I challenge my fellow budding social workers from all walks of life to learn more about Soweto, to uplift high school students or mentees in your local community by sharing this story with others, and to consider participating in one of two Twitter chat discussions focused the state of youth in South Africa and the role social workers play in developing the next generation in youth in South Africa as global change agents and social innovators.

Together let’s re-ignite the fire of Liberty here in the United States, but also in South Africa, so younger generations won’t forget those who pushed justice, freedom, and democracy forward.

How a Social Worker Can Become an Entrepreneur and Still be Social

Since Evelyn started thinking of becoming an entrepreneur and starting her own business, her head was full of questions. Sure, not knowing all the answers made her anxious. But nevertheless, this energy felt much better than being unemployed and feeling no energy at all.

She knew she needed some firm answers. How can a social worker transform into an entrepreneur? How do they get clients? Who will pay for that?

IMG_2325My name is Anneke, and I am a social worker  just like you and Evelyn. Since 2006, I  have been running my own business. I teach and coach social workers how to become a successful entrepreneur and still be social. This is where I met Evelyn.

Like Evelyn, many other social workers fear deep down that you will loose your social spirit once you become an entrepreneur. It’s always on our mind’s all the time to avoid becoming the pushy salesmen or greedy snatchers. Who wants to be like this? Not Evelyn, nor you or me.

Let me promise you there is a solution to address your fears. It’s my proven system of 7 easy steps called Sweet Social Marketing. More on that in a next episode of Evelyn’s journey. Now let me first tell you how Evelyn made her next step.

Evelyn needed answers. I gave her examples of social workers who became an entrepreneur.

  • Saskia and Evelien are two young dutch social workers and their business is called “Samen Wille”. They organize speeddates for the elderly to find one more time true love in their life.
  • Dagmar grew up with disordered parents. She became a social worker and is now helping other women who grew up in the same situation, to get a balanced life.
  • Marjolein is a social worker who is helping women who experienced a deep loss in their life and who reached the point that nobody else can help them. She helps these women to learn to live with this.
  • Rick started a practice for men with problems in their marriage. He helps them to take three major decisions to get their lives back on track.

I also coach social workers who have a business in helping other social workers, like I do.

  • Hans is a community worker who now is successful in helping social workers with their social media.
  • Wies, an expert in child abuse prevention, is helping social workers to take better care of abused children.

All these social worker entrepreneurs have in common that they followed their passion. They choose to work with specific clients with specific problems that match perfect with their own passion and talents.

Evelyn learned a couple of things:

  • She was not alone: many social workers become an entrepreneur or have plans to do so
  • It is possible to be successful: to have paying clients and get an income
  • You have to be specific: choose specific clients with specific problems
  • It works best if you make these choices with your heart: just follow your passion

If you stay loyal to your passion, you can become a social worker entrepreneur and still feel aligned with your higher purpose to serve people in need. Now, how can you turn your passion into a business?

Evenlyn’s Journey: Every Social Worker Needs a Red Carpet Dress

Evelyn is a kind of woman who has never worn a red carpet dress.

Her whole life she has been in service of others. As a child she played with the kids who were bullied. As a teenager she volunteered in the animal shelter. When she became a social worker, she found her mission in helping disabled children. You could find her at the office even after working hours because of an emergency.

red carpet dressEvelyn’s sister made other choices in her life. At school she was a luminary in mathematics, and she got a well-paying job at Apple. Her working agenda was filled with parties, retreats, and conventions. Even on several occasions, Evelyn’s sister wore a red carpet dress.

Evelyn was a bit jealous. Just a bit, but at the same time she was proud of her choice to serve needy people instead of making money. Who needs a red carpet dress anyway?

Since Evelyn became unemployed two years ago, she started longing for a red carpet dress. Her desire to be successful grew every new day of her unemployment.

Sitting on her couch looking for a job on Linkedin, she felt more and more invisible. Her own shiny moment, walking the red carpet with a glamorous dress and killer heels, seemed farther away then ever.

As Evelyn’s frustration got stronger, a new thought came up in her mind which initially made her feel anxious and uneasy. This thought came right out of her heart and was so strong that she couldn’t hide from it.

There was this tiny voice, smooth but crystal clear,  “you are a social worker, show up and share your passion, there are needy people out there waiting for you”!

But I first need a job!’ Evelyn said. Do you? Do you really need a job to help others? Have you ever thought of creating your own job? Have you ever thought of becoming a social worker entrepreneur?

Evelyn had never heard of a social worker entrepreneur. Sure, she knew some social workers with a private practice, but she never ever considered herself as an entrepreneur.

Suddenly, Evelyn started dreaming again, and her heart started bouncing as it did before. In her imagination, she saw happy clients, her own website, a lovely office, and a good income. She also thought from her first paid invoice she would buy a gorgeous red carpet dress!

But, this thought also made her feel anxious and uneasy. ‘How do I get clients? How do I make a living? Who will pay me? How do I get the money to start my business? Can I do this on my own? Will there be support?’.

Evelyn realized that becoming a social worker entrepreneur was something she didn’t learn at school. On the other hand it might be the solution to living her passion again, to be of service again, and contribute to a better world.

One day, Evelyn made a very social worky decision. She decided the only way to find out if this would truly work is to do some research.

From this point, Evelyn’s journey became really exciting! She discovered a whole new world of marketing, branding, selling, and even the red carpet dresses every social worker needs.

More about Evelyn’s journey in my next article.

What Else Can I Do With My MSW?

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They say unemployment is on the decline, but I can tell you as a recent graduate with a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from a top rated school that it isn’t low enough! Many from my cohort are still unemployed, and many who expected to be employees by their second year practicum were disappointed!

The University of Southern California, my Alma Mater, spent a great deal of time asserting that your MSW was more than just a degree for therapy and could be used as training for multiple work force sectors. By receiving your MSW, you learned skills needed to go into consulting, human resources, and any number of nonprofit sectors. In addition, combing these skills with other talents will create a variety of new and interesting opportunities

Though I remain unemployed, I am still using my MSW, and the skills I have gained are being used in way I would never of expected. Here are a few ways I am using my MSW that might surprise you and more importantly might give you ideas on new ways to use yours!

Documentary Interviewer:

Every single MSW had to take classes on how to interview clients and most have done many interviews themselves. These skills lend themselves directly to interviewing people for documentaries. You can interview patients at a hospice, creating personal histories of these peoples lives so that their families have something to remember them by!

Consulting:

What is a needs assessment? A systematic process for determining and addressing needs, or “gaps” between current conditions and desired conditions or “wants”.  Doesn’t that sound like a skill that might be useful in the work place. Working as a consultant allows you to put those strong assessment skills into practice in combination with your other skills to better understand what your client needs rather than what they might want.

Not only will you have the necessary skills and abilities, but you will already have experience working directly with difficult populations. A hyped up lawyer in a suit is nothing compared to staring down someone who is suffering a psychotic episode, and sometimes you still have to deal with a hyped up law in a suit when you go to court. Most people have little idea that a MSW has a backbone made of steel!

Data analyst:

Though it may require that you have some experience with statistics, a MSW’s eye for detail is important. In addition, social workers have a strong knack for understand both Qualitative and Quantitative statistic after reading over the tides of research papers during your program.

Many of you who have “Macro”  specific MSW degrees concentrated your course work with data collection and program evaluation which are both skills data analysts use on a regular basis.

One challenge that social workers face is convincing others that their degree is for more than just a clinical position, I know because I face that challenge in showing others my skills translate. Unfortunately, to do this, we have to pick up other skills and certifications along the way.

If you are using your MSW in interesting ways, let us at Social Worker Helper know in the comments below.

Are Sheltered Workshops A Thing of the Past

Much like institutionalization of people with disabilities, sheltered workshops started with someone’s heart being in the right place. Starting around the middle of the 20th century, sheltered workshops began as an intervention for adults with disabilities in which they were given jobs to help keep them busy. These places offer limited-skill work such as sorting, assembling and packaging to people with disabilities.

01 sheltered workshop 82014 0202fOften, the jobs are repetitive-motion tasks, do not offer much in the way of self-fulfillment, and give the employees zero opportunity to advance their position in the company. More often than not, workers make somewhere between $2 – $3 per hour which is less than half of the federal minimum wage that so many non-disabled workers are fighting to increase.

There is a great debate taking place on whether or not sheltered workshops should still be an option for people with disabilities who age out of school usually at the age of 21. One of the main arguments people have against closing down workshops is the fear that these individuals will have no place to go since businesses tend to not hire people with disabilities.

According to the Department of Labor as of August 2014, the numbers appear to support this argument because unemployment rates for people with disabilities are twice as high than people without disabilities.  You can find more information on that here:

According to an article in the Disability Scoop, Vermont has found a way to improve outcomes for the disabled after closing its sheltered workshops which states,

The sheltered workshops that are still prevalent across much of the country were shut down in Vermont more than a decade ago. And now, the employment rate of people with developmental disabilities in the New England state is twice the national average. Read Full Article

How did Vermont do it?

The University of Vermont received a grant to build programs for integrated employment in the 1980’s. They worked with state disability agencies and its success over time was enough for Vermont to realize that sheltered workshops were not how the state wanted their citizens with disabilities to be treated. Workshops were phased out over a 4-year period: new entries into workshops were no longer allowed and their funding was incrementally cut.

Of course, there were fears from the families who would be directly affected by this and rightly so. As parents, we want our children to be safe and secure, accepted by peers and part of something bigger than themselves. Could these desires be realized if workers with disabilities don’t have contact with others who are also disabled? Is there a job out there they could actually do and feel good about doing? Would society in general accept them?

It turns out, the answer is yes! In Vermont, about 80% of the people who used to be in workshops found employment in an integrated setting. The rest found other community-based services. According to the Disability Scoop article, “In fiscal year 2013, the average wage for supported employees was $9.26, more than 50 cents above the state’s minimum wage and $2 above the federal minimum wage.” How incredible is that while Vermont shows no signs of slowing its success.

It has increased its numbers of employed disabled individuals yearly. To continue their success rate, ongoing support is available in each county and doesn’t fade over time, which is common in most other states. There are also education programs with businesses that ease fears and answers questions for potential employers.

Looking to the future

Some argue the reason Vermont was able to be so successful is because it’s a small state, but isn’t that a cop out? Amazingly, Vermont was able to develop their employment program without involving the legislative process, but not every state is willing to do the work to put this program in place even though Vermont offers a living model of how and why it should be done.

In order to make sheltered workshops a thing of the past or at least a last resort, there is new legislation under consideration in both Houses of Congress that would alter their pathway into the workforce. Under Section 511 of the Workforce Investment Act, people under 24 years of age could not be employed by workshops unless they have sought employment in other settings first. This legislation also requires that state vocational rehabilitation agencies provide “pre-employment services” to students at schools in their area.

As a parent to a teenager whose disability severely impacts her, I worry about her future all the time. What will she do when she ages out of school? Today, I can’t picture a job where she can be independent because of the extremity of her physical disability but who knows where we’ll be in terms of technology and employability six years from now? My greatest hope is that all states work towards achieving the successful model Vermont has realized so that our community has as many options as it can.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Kansas City Star

North Carolina Unemployment Changes Leave Residents Without Safety Net

unemployment-applicationAfter North Carolina’s Unemployment law took effect this weekend, North Carolina is the first state to disqualify itself from a federal long term unemployment program. The North Carolina Unemployment changes, adopted and signed into law by Governor McCrory in February, were to help accelerate the repayment of debt owed to the federal government. North Carolina has the third highest federal debt in the country, $2.5 Billion, and will now be paid back three years ahead of schedule, but at what cost?

North Carolina has the fifth highest jobless rate in the nation, with unemployment above the national average in the majority of its 100 counties. With the new changes to the law, unemployment benefits will last a mere 12-15 weeks and on top of that, the maximum benefits receivable per week is dropping from $535 to $350. It is the reduction of weekly benefits that is responsible for disqualifying approximately 170,000 North Carolina residents from long term jobless funds from the federal government.

The federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program (EUC) kicks in after a state’s designated period of unemployment runs out, in North Carolina, this was previously 6 months. The EUC money is available to jobless in every state, however, a requirement for a state to qualify is that states cannot cut the average weekly benefits of recipients. The North Carolina legislature has cut weekly benefits starting July 1st by around $185.

The disqualification of the 170,000 workers from EUC funds means a loss of $700 million dollars, for those workers and their families. On top of the shortened compensation period for state unemployment, the reduced benefits, and the stricter requirements to qualify for the program, many jobless residents are going to be out of luck.

Ideally, this plan will accelerate the payment of the state’s debt to the federal Government having it entirely paid of by 2015, and not cost North Carolina companies an extra $21 per year per employee until the debt is paid. This legislation was designed and backed by the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, their top lobbyist called the situation unfortunate but said “You’ve got to pick a point in time where you solve the problem. They picked a point in time that allowed us the most time to pay the debt as quickly as we can…”

An Associated Press Article by Emery P. Dalesio on the changes included profiles of  North Carolinians who will personally be affected by the changes in the unemployment law. The section about one of those individuals is below:

“Lee Creighton, 45, of Cary, said he’s been unemployed since October, and this is the last week for which he’ll get nearly $500 in unemployment aid. He said he was laid off from a position managing statisticians and writers amid the recession’s worst days in 2009 and has landed and lost a series of government and teaching jobs since then — work that paid less half as much. His parents help him buy groceries to get by.

“I’m just not sure what I’m going to do,” said Creighton, who has a doctorate. “What are we to do? Is the state prepared to have this many people with no source of income?”

These cuts to unemployment are not only going to have devastating effects on the individual workers losing the benefits, but it will have devastating effects on their families as well. Last year a national report published by the Urban Institute and First focus estimated that 1 in 10 North Carolina children have at least one unemployed parent. NC Policy Watch discussed the report in a piece published on April 3rd, 2013.

As the report highlights, the effects of parental job loss on children can be severe. Economic stress links to parents’ responses to their children and children’s well being. And studies of unemployment and family income show that poverty increases sharply among the long-term unemployed. The adverse effects of children living in poverty can last well into adulthood. – See more here

The number of children with at least 1 unemployed parent increases by 140%.

Opponents of the unemployment changes include state labor groups, democratic representatives, and the North Carolina NAACP. They would like to have had the cuts delayed until the federal program runs out, but the Governor and republican controlled legislature refused. The federal EUC program expires in January. The delay may have given North Carolina workers and families time to prepare for the devastating cuts.  However, supporters of the enacted changes say the sooner the federal debt is re-payed the sooner the legislature can develop a long term solution for North Carolina’s unemployed. Until that solution comes, thousands of North Carolinians are going to find themselves without work and without a safety net.

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