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Head of N.C. unemployment office explains potential 8-week delay for extra $50 in checks

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WLOS) — North Carolinians who have lost their job because of the pandemic will be waiting until at least Oct. 30 for an extra $50 per-week in their benefits check.

It’s been nearly a month since Governor Roy Cooper, on Sept. 4, signed the Republican-led General Assembly’s bill giving those collecting unemployment $200 extra a month through December. The program called Increased Benefit Amount (IBA) is the seventh program the North Carolina Department of Employment Security (NC DES) is now managing to help those who have lost jobs.

As the pandemic began to take its toll on the state, the department faced heavy criticism of the unemployment benefits program, especially after a surge of applications came through. In May, Gibson took over the top department job. “We’re running six other programs concurrently,” Gibson said. “IBA is our seventh. The intent of what they (legislators) have done is very good. But it being easy to implement are two different things. We have to keep the integrity of all the programs safe and secure.”

Of the seven programs run by the state DES, several are federally funded unemployment programs with the money then distributed by the DES.

State Senator Chuck Edwards said he was in contact with Department of Commerce officials on Aug. 31 about the intent of the bill to give unemployed North Carolinians the extra funds for four months starting in September.

Gibson said he had never spoken directly with Edwards. Both Edwards and Gibson said their priority is getting the funds into the hands of those who need it but there has been no direct dialogue between the two men since the bill became law.

As for criticism of the NC DES over the processing of claims, Gibson responded with the following, “We are down to less than 1% in backlog on our two largest programs. And, let me emphasize, if you have a viewer who hasn’t had their claim heard, they’re important to us. We want to get it done.”