N.C. cuts unemployment benefits to pay back federal loan

(CBS News) GOLDSBORO, N.C. -- These days, Shaun Marso's life is pretty simple. He's either at the gym or in front of his computer looking for a job. Simple, but not easy.

Right now, he has $170 in his bank account.

Shaun Marso lost his job selling insurance six months ago. Last week, he got his final unemployment check.
Shaun Marso lost his job selling insurance six months ago. Last week, he got his final unemployment check.
CBS News

"And I believe 93 cents in savings," Marso says. "That's all I have to my name."

Marso lost his job selling insurance six months ago. Last week, he got his final unemployment check.

"July 1 -- that was the cutoff date," Marso says. "Yup. That's D-Day. No more."

North Carolina has the nation's fifth-highest unemployment rate: 8.8 percent. When the recession hit, the state did not have enough money to cover all its unemployment claims, so it borrowed $2.5 billion from the federal government to cover the shortfall.

"And it was a loan with interest, and what I'm doing is I'm tearing up the credit card and we are going to pay off our debt like every reasonable family has to do," says North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory.

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McCrory says paying it off as soon as possible would reduce taxes employers now pay to cover the loan -- $21 per worker per year.

"We are going to try and free up money so businesses can hire people and get them off unemployment," McCrory says. "This is not an easy decision."

To get the money to pay off the loan earlier, the Republican governor and Republican legislature cut current state benefits from $535 a week to $350. The benefits end at a maximum of 20 weeks, instead of the current 26.

Watch: Job seeker: "I hate" taking unemployment, below.

But changing the structure of state unemployment insurance made North Carolina ineligible for federal benefits that kick in after state benefits run out. So 70,000 unemployed workers in North Carolina are now out of luck.

For those who say, "I know it's a tough economy, but get out there and look for a job," Marso says, "Every day, you know, looking is not the problem. I can find jobs, it's getting hired that I can't get done."

"I care for these people, and I want to help these people, and one way I help them is to not to continue policies that will create more people on unemployment rolls," McCrory says.

The law means up to $600 million in federal money is no longer being pumped in to North Carolina's economy. As for Marso, he might head elsewhere to find work -- if he can find a way to fill up his gas tank to leave.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.

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