Up & Coming Weekly

March 02, 2021

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 10 of 24

10 UCW MARCH 3-9, 2021 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM NEWS With new U.S. Census data not expected until September, the State Board of Elections is recommending moving all of this year's municipal elections to 2022. Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell also told the elections board Feb. 23 she recom- mends delaying the 2022 primary elections from March until May. e changes would need to be passed by the General Assembly. Bell said she would present these recommendations to a House committee on Feb. 24. Sixty-two municipalities, including North Carolina's largest city of Charlotte, use districts or wards to elect council members. ese districts are reapportioned every de- cade with data provided in the U.S. Census. is data traditionally is finished by the end of March of the following year, and redistricting is completed by the summer. But the U.S. Census Bureau said results this year would be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Numbers won't be delivered to the states until Sept. 30. is poses a problem for the 2021 munici- pal elections. Filing is currently set to begin in July. Holding elections under previous census data could pose constitutional and other legal issues for those 62 municipalities. e delayed census results could also create a tight turnaround for the 2022 primary elections, which are scheduled for March. North Carolina could be in line for an additional seat in Congress due to population growth. Once redistricting is complete, it takes about two months for the State Board of Elections to finish coding and preparing ballots for the new districts. us, Bell recommended moving the primary to May. is election will include several high-profile contests, most notably the party primaries for the U.S. Senate. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is expected to retire at the end of this term, making it an open seat. e recommendations were met with little comment by the State Board of Elections members. One member said he was hesitant to endorse the changes. "It causes me some heartburn to talk about making such a sweeping change," board member Stacy Eggers said. Chairman Damon Circosta said he trusted the General Assembly would make the right decision. Off-year elections tend to have significant- ly lower turnout than even-year federal elec- tion cycles. Moving municipal elections to 2022 could pose problems for Republicans in urban areas, which have trended Demo- cratic in recent years. DAVID BASS, Carolina Journal News Service. COMMENTS? editor@upandcom- ingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. Unemployment benefits likely to be tied to job search again by DAVID BASS Legislation introduced by Republican law- makers would mandate recipients of unem- ployment benefits actively search for work, a requirement that hasn't been in place since the pandemic began in March. Traditionally, unemployment benefits have been linked to a job-search require- ment. But in a March 10 executive order, Gov. Roy Cooper waived that requirement due to the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic. Now that the economy is improving and rates of infection, hospitalization, and death in North Carolina are steadily declining, lawmakers believe it's time for the job- search requirement to make a comeback. North Carolina's unemployment rate peaked at 12.9% in April before declining to 6.2% by December, the most recent month for which data are available. Due to the state's improving employment situation, North Carolina no longer meets the federal government's threshold for pay- ing extended unemployment benefits up to 24 weeks after traditional unemployment benefits run out. ose extended benefits ended Feb. 20. e bills introduced in the state House and Senate would only apply the work-search re- quirement to those who lost unemployment for non-COVID-related reasons. e N.C. Division of Employ- ment Security has the option of waiving the requirements, even without legislative autho- rization. At a legislative meeting Feb. 17, DES assistant secretary Pryor Gibson signaled to law- makers that his office would reintroduce the work require- ment "within days, certainly within weeks." at directive would apply to all recipients of unemployment benefits, not just those who lost work due for reasons unrelated to COVID-19. "It makes sense for DES and legislators to reinstate job-search requirements for people who are unemployed for reasons unrelated to CO- VID-19," said Joseph Coletti, senior fellow for fiscal studies with the John Locke Foundation."Even people who lost their job because of the pandemic have found new jobs. "As parts of the economy strengthen, businesses need to fill those roles. Since the governor waived the job-search requirement nearly a year ago, workers and businesses have learned how to take precautions to limit risk. is is a reasonable step in the process of restarting." All told, North Carolina has paid more than $10 billion in unemployment claims since the pandemic began in March. State Board of Elections recommends delaying 2021 elections, 2022 primary by ANDREW DUNN ANDREW DUNN, Carolina Journal News Service. COMMENTS? editor@ upandcomingweekly.com. 910-484-6200.

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