| WILMINGTON, North Carolina
WILMINGTON, North Carolina About 37,000 North Carolina residents lost their unemployment benefits on Saturday when Gov. Beverly Perdue refused to sign a budget bill that extended the benefits for those unemployed more than 99 weeks.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly met in a rare weekend session on Saturday to pass a bill extending the benefits but forcing the Democratic governor to accept a 13 percent cut in the $19.9 billion state budget she presented in February.
After the legislature acted, the governor's office said Perdue will veto the legislation.
"The General Assembly has once again shown they are willing to play games with people's lives in holding hostage some 37,000 unemployed North Carolinians," the governor said in a statement.
"But to sign the bill and suffer the extreme cuts proposed by Republicans would risk the future of this state and the lives of 9.5 million citizens," she said.
North Carolina was one of more than 30 states in which an extended benefits program of up to 20 weeks of compensation was created to provide support for the long-term unemployed affected by the economic recession.
The U.S. Labor Department notified state officials two weeks ago that the extended benefits program had to stop paying out by April 16 because North Carolina's recent three-month average unemployment rate had improved statistically from the depressed rates of 2010 and 2009.
Fourteen states have passed legislation to revise their formula and keep the extended benefits flowing.
(Reporting and writing by Jim Brumm; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Peter Bohan)