Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., left, and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., right, walk from a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Thom Tillis, Richard Burr
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., left, and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., right, walk from a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

A spokesperson for Tillis said this week that extending unemployment benefits ‘could make the problem worse.’

A weekly check of $600 for NC’s unemployed people will disappear at the end of this month if the Republican-controlled US Senate doesn’t take action.

A new editorial, published by the WRAL-TV ownership at Capitol Broadcasting Company, says NC’s Senate representation, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr need to move, noting the federal coronavirus relief has pumped more than $2.8 billion into the state’s economy since Congress approved it in March.

From the editorial:

“Even with these added funds, more and more residents still are facing foreclosures and once a moratorium ends – evictions and utility cutoffs. Without these funds, it could become a pandemic of poverty.

It is money that keeps others on the job – processing and preparing food sold at supermarkets and for restaurant take-out; getting fuel to gas stations; and providing other essential services.

It is money that keeps families in their homes, puts food on the table and better positions workers to return to jobs – or find new ones – when the COVID-19 pandemic is under control and public safety assured.”

Additional coronavirus relief is expected to be a top-line item in the US House and Senate in the coming weeks, although there have been clear demarcations between Republican and Democratic priorities.

RELATED: Tillis, Facing Weak Support From His Base, Trails Cunningham by 8 Points

The healthcare advocacy group Piedmont Rising noted in a report Thursday that more than 1.1 million North Carolinians have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment since the pandemic began. The state’s unemployment benefits are already considered one of the least generous in the nation, and GOP leaders in the state legislature have been reluctant to talk expanding benefits. 

Federal unemployment relief was included in the CARES Act this spring passed by Congress, but what comes next is still up in the air. 

A spokesperson for Tillis, who trails his Democratic opponent Cal Cunningham in most polls, reportedly expressed concern this week though that extending unemployment further could “make the problem worse by disincentivizing Americans from returning to work.”

That spokesperson’s statement to CBS17 in NC:

“Senator Tillis believes we need to help North Carolinians who lost their jobs due to the pandemic and have been hurt the most and his top priority is getting them back to work as soon as possible. It’s important that Washington doesn’t make the problem worse by disincentivizing Americans from returning to work, a concern Senator Tillis has repeatedly heard from North Carolina small business owners and something he will keep in mind as Congress evaluates the ongoing economic recovery and considers additional relief legislation.” 

Burr reportedly did not respond to requests for comment.

Piedmont Rising Executive Director Casey Wilkinson blasted Tillis’ camp for the statement.

“North Carolinians continue to face unprecedented pandemic-related job losses, and in just three weeks they will face financial disaster if Senator Tillis and Senator Burr don’t extend federal unemployment insurance,” said Wilkinson. “North Carolina’s state unemployment payments are some of the worst in the nation and won’t even cover the monthly cost of housing and health insurance for most families. Cutting federal unemployment income will force North Carolinians to make choices between paying for groceries, prescription drugs, or other basic living expenses in the middle of a global pandemic. Tillis and Burr cannot cut North Carolinians’ income on July 31.”