Critics say the overhaul is one-sided upon displaced workers. The plan would cut the overall amount of state benefits disbursed to them by half, while the average weekly benefit amount would fall at least 10 percent below the current average of $296, according to a study by the National Employment Law Project.

Unemployment benefits get plowed back into local economies to pay for rent, food and other living needs, project senior staff attorney George Wentworth said at a news conference.

Committee member Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, urged colleagues to look for other options that don't place such a hardship upon displaced workers.

"We need to have some compassion and respect for the fact that people are at probably the most difficult and challenging points in their lives and they're depending on unemployment compensation," McKissick told the committee.

Backers of the proposal say both business and workers share in the burden of fixing the problems with the trust fund, which some say are two decades in the making. Republicans on the committee pointed out the plan would apply to unemployment claims filed after July 1 and argued few people currently receive the maximum weekly benefit.

Rucho and others have said benefit changes bring North Carolina's levels more in line with surrounding states.

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