70,000 North Carolinians to lose unemployment benefits tonight

The rally outside Grandover Resort. By Eric Ginsburg.
In 70,000 households across the state tomorrow morning, people will wake up to a difficult conversation about how they're going to make ends meet.

That was former state labor commissioner Harry Payne's message at a rally in Greensboro on Thursday, as he drew the distinction between those going without and those dining "in splendor" at a $5,000 a plate event featuring Gov. Pat McCrory in the background. McCrory stopped in the Gate City for a dinner hosted by the Renew North Carolina Foundation at the Grandover Resort, bumping elbows with well-off attendees.

"It's hard to hear [the people]  when you're that high up," Payne said.

Outside on the street corner, about 30 people held signs decrying the unemployment cuts, saying North Carolinians will be "kicked to the curb" while McCrory refuses to meet with or listen to citizens unless they're ponying up a donation.

Phil Diehl (above right), who was laid off with 334 other workers from his job in Cleveland, NC, said the contradiction between staff raises and slashed unemployment for people like him should be obvious, calling on the governor to lead by example. Other speakers argued against the cuts by pointing to the state's high unemployment rate — the fifth highest in the nation — and saying that the reduction to the deficit didn't justify the means.

Greensboro resident Gin Reid Hall (above left) said her husband has been unemployed since May 2012 and will lose his unemployment benefits tonight. Hall and her husband, who worked as a university level track-and-field coach, aren't sure how they'll make it without his unemployment check of about $400 a week. Hall said her husband has been looking since the first day he knew he needed to find work, and said one of their three adult kids is in college.

Critics said the Renew North Carolina Foundation is headed by the governor's close friend, supporting McCrory's policies and giving high-dollar donors access to him. Greensboro lawyer Bob Singer, who works at Brooks Pierce and is the foundation's president, could not be reached for comment.

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