NC Retail Merchants Applaud First Step to Fix Broken Unemployment Insurance System

Raleigh, NC, January 10, 2013 --( The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA) (, a nonprofit trade association, applauds the first step taken this morning by the North Carolina Revenue Laws Study Committee to return the state’s Unemployment Insurance System to solvency by approving recommendations for lawmakers to enact when the General Assembly convenes later this month.

North Carolina businesses are faced with repaying a $2.5 billion debt to the federal government which is triggering mandatory federal tax increases on North Carolina businesses. Without action from the General Assembly this debt would not be repaid until 2019. Employers - who pay 100% of the unemployment insurance tax - would be forced to pay an additional $186 per employee in 2019 than they paid in 2011. These are the same employers who are working to expand their businesses as we climb out of the recession and add jobs.

The proposal approved this morning expedites the repayment of the almost $3 billion debt by 2015 through:

· Continuing to pay the higher federal unemployment tax;
· Bringing North Carolina's unemployment benefits in line with other Southeastern states; and
· Returning North Carolina's Employment Security Commission to a re-employment agency instead of a benefit agency.

"This is the single most important issue to North Carolina businesses of which the retail industry is North Carolina’s largest private employer,” said Andy Ellen, president and general counsel for the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA). “Just as North Carolina has been saddled with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, North Carolina's businesses have been saddled with this unemployment debt for too long with no light at the end of the tunnel. North Carolinians overwhelmingly are calling for more jobs and increased hiring. Unless the General Assembly makes fundamental changes to the unemployment insurance system in North Carolina, the scheduled increases in unemployment taxes will simply stop any hiring momentum dead in its tracks."

“NCRMA applauds the efforts of Representative Julia Howard (R-Davie) and Senator Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) and the Revenue Laws Study Committee for tackling this issue head-on rather than simply continuing to kick the can down the road,” said Ellen. No one involved – North Carolina lawmakers and North Carolina employers - relishes the choices that have to be made because there are no easy answers. We also know that doing nothing is not an option.”

The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA) is a non-profit trade association that was organized in 1902 to improve the business climate for retail merchants in our state. Over 100 years later, NCRMA is still the voice of the retail industry in North Carolina. The Association’s membership includes more than 25,000 stores from across the state, representing 75 percent of North Carolina’s retail sales volume. About 60 percent of NCRMA members are independent stores. NCRMA serves both large and small retailers from multi-state chains to local “Mom and Pops,” and all types of merchants such as antique, apparel, art, automotive, book, carpet, department, drug, electronics, floral, furniture, grocery, hardware, jewelry, paint and variety stores.
NC Retail Merchants Association
Christie Burris
(919) 832-0811
Andy Ellen, President & General Counsel