(Winston-Salem Journal) The N.C. Commerce Department said Thursday it has achieved a $1 billion surplus in the state’s unemployment insurance benefits fund for future economic downturns. The surplus, achieved a few months ahead of projection, triggers the suspension of a 20 percent surcharge that N.C. employers pay as a tax on each worker — a potential $240 million to $270 million in annual savings. The surcharge will end in January. Employers had been paying that surcharge since 2005, according to the governor’s office.

Reaching the surplus goal comes after the state finished paying off in May — also ahead of schedule — a $2.8 billion debt to the U.S. Labor and Treasury departments. The state borrowed the money to pay extended state UI benefits from 2008 to 2011. (About $2.5 billion of the debt payback occurred under Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration.)

“The trust fund has gone from bankruptcy to solvency in 30 months,” said Dale Folwell, assistant Commerce secretary who is responsible for the N.C. Division of Employment Security (pictured). “Thanks to changes in policy, process and the innovative ideas from DES employees, I’m certain that North Carolina will never have to deal with this again.”

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