A spokesperson from U.S. Sen. Richard Burr’s office said Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) funding will not be included in the unemployment bill, while a spokesperson from U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s office said it appeared Monday afternoon the funding would not be included in the bill.
The legislation is yet to be published by the Senate, and could be released to the public as little as an hour before the vote is taken on the Senate floor.
State leaders are banking on the increased funding, enacted under the stimulus, which pays 75 percent of North Carolina’s Medicaid costs. Right now it would only pay about 60 percent.
The enhanced funding expires in January, and hasn’t been approved by Congress, though it is included in the state budget.
If it doesn’t come, it will blow an estimated $550 million hole in the 2010-11 budget, and about a $1 billion hole in the 2011-12 state budget.
“I sure hope they’ll approve something, because if they don’t we’re in big trouble next year,” N.C. Sen. Bill Purcell said Monday. “We have a contingency plan, which would involve a lot of cuts. We’ve already cut $371 million from Health and Human Services this year, and the state appropriations for the department are now at $3.9 billion. They were $4.9 billion in 2008. So, we’ve cut about a billion dollars from it, which is about 20 percent, which is hard to do without affecting services to the poor folks of North Carolina.”
N.C. Justice Center spokesperson Jeff Shaw said sources led the group to believe the funding would be included, but would be significantly less than what states were requesting.
He said the state’s contingency plan is believed to involve a 1 percent cut to the state’s budget across the board, “which would be a step backwards and may throw us into a double-dip recession.”
“We feel like anymore cuts are going to imperil our recovery,” Shaw said.
As for the extension of unemployment benefits, Shaw said “it could not be more important.”
“Unemployment benefits generate a ton of economic activity in all of North Carolina’s 100 counties,” Shaw said.
He referred to a report the non-profit released in April which calculated the $2.2 billion in unemployment insurance benefits received in North Carolina from the onset of the recession to April generated about $3.7 billion in economic activity.
“So basically, our study showed unemployment slowed the recession in all 100 counties,” Shaw said.
In a Monday morning Rose Garden speech, President Barack Obama called for the Senate to move on the extension of unemployment benefits, making no mention of enhance FMAP funding for the states.
“A major part of the need for the FMAP funding is that with people out of work, the number of people who are eligible for Medicaid has gone up,” Purcell said Monday. “In addition to this, according to the Secretary of (the state department of) Health and Human Services, the number of services they’re using has also gone up ... One of the major factors in this is the high unemployment rate, especially in our part of the state.”
Hagan Press Secretary Jack Pfeiffer said the Senator fully supports the enhanced FMAP funding, pointing to a press conference Hagan held June 22 in support of the funding with representatives of the American Federation for Teachers and the International Association of Fire Fighters, and two fellow senators.
“We are working on making sure the FMAP is passed,” Pfeiffer said Monday.
The vote on unemployment extensions will be held after the swearing-in of senatorial appointee Carte Goodwin to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd, a Democrat of West Virginia, because Goodwin’s vote will give Democrats the 60 votes they need to block a Republican filibuster.
Republicans oppose the additional spending on the grounds it increases the mounting national debt.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at email@example.com.