In a letter to Governor Pat McCrory, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge expressed his “deep disappointment” with the Governor signing into law the Fund Solvency and Program Changes Act, which drastically reduces the amount and duration of benefits paid by the State to the unemployed.
Bishop Burbidge noted that he understood the General Assembly’s concern for fiscal responsibility but questioned “as to the proper time to enact cuts to unemployment compensation and to reduce the number of weeks a newly unemployed can be provided benefits, especially with the North Carolina unemployment rate at 9.2 percent.”
The Bishop explained that his concern with the newly signed legislation is based on what the regional offices of Catholic Charities are witnessing throughout the 54 county Diocese. “Catholic Charities experienced a record number of people coming to its doors in the agency’s eight regional offices during the past year,” the Bishop wrote. “Those who require support were in need of food, emergency assistance and counseling. Sadly, many of the new clients were, at one time, previous donors to the agency.”
Bishop Burbidge informed the Governor that Catholic Parish Outreach in Raleigh, the Triangle’s largest food pantry, has served an average of 10,000 people each of the last six months, with the seven other regional offices of Catholic Charities also reporting larger numbers of clients.
The Diocese of Raleigh does not participate in the State’s unemployment program. Rather, it operates a self-funded unemployment program that historically mirrored the State’s program in benefits. Bishop Burbidge said, “The Diocese will no longer follow these State guidelines but will continue to provide unemployment benefits to eligible employees at the current rate, in addition to retaining the 26-week maximum benefit period; thereby, assisting in further reducing the hardship experienced by too many of our citizens.”