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Unemployed challenge state leaders to live off $350 a week

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Some political activists want some state leaders to put their money where their mouth is. At a rally in Wilmington today the group said the governor and other Republican leaders should try to live on the amount they want the state to pay the unemployed.

The challenge comes after a bill filed in the legislature that would cut North Carolina unemployment benefits as much as 60 percent.

Action NC and its members are upset about the bill that cuts the maximum benefits paid to unemployed workers from $535 a week to $350. It would also reduce the maximum weeks of benefits from 26 to a sliding scale of between 12 and 20 weeks.

Action NC's Kevin Rogers says these are drastic cuts for those who need the money to survive.

"The governor gave his cabinet secretaries huge pay raises so they could 'afford to live.' Governor, if your cabinet can't afford to live on more than $120,000 a year, how the heck are the rest of us supposed to live on less than $15,000 a year?" Rogers said.

Protestor Patrick Varnam has his own challenge for Gov. McCrory and lawmakers who support the bill.

"I challenge them not for a week. Every one of them that voted for it, they need to freeze their assets," Varnam said. "Make sure their buddies can't give them no backdoor money and make them live on $350 a week for six months. They'll lose everything they got."

Among the group's targets is Sen. Thom Goolsby. The New Hanover County Republican says the change is needed because of the state needs to repay $2.5 billion it borrowed from the federal government.

"I would ask the people to please read the law and see the condition that the Democrats left us in after not funding unemployment insurance adequately, and this has left us in a crisis in the state," Goolsby said in a phone interview from Raleigh.

Goolsby says the cuts will help pay that debt off by 2015 instead of 2018.

The bill has passed through committee and is headed for the full Senate.

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