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As of Monday, changes in the unemployment benefits that many Macon County citizens receive went into effect. The new law cuts off extended federal benefits in an attempt to pay off some of North Carolina's $2.5 billion debt in unemployment claims.

North Carolina has the third highest debt in the country behind New York and California and is ranked fifth in unemployment nationally. Lawmakers opted to change aspects of the unemployment compensation laws to try and get a handle on the massive debt to the federal government. Legislation passed and the Governor signed the bill that would reduce the time that citizens can receive compensation from 26 weeks to 19 weeks, as well as reduce the amount being paid out from a maximum of $535 to $350.

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The saga of the Duke Energy rate hikes will continue when the North Carolina Utilities Commission hears expert testimony on July 8 in Raleigh.

Two weeks ago, Duke proposed a settlement of an overall 4.5 percent rate increase that will grow to 5.1 percent in two years, about half of what was originally requested. The higher rate would result in an increase in residential power bills, averaging about $7 a month.

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Granting Progress Energy a 7.5 percent increase in power bills while many North Carolinians are struggling to make ends meet is wrong, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Monday.

“Many people are already hard pressed to pay their bills, and now isn’t the time to ask them to pay more so utilities can make a bigger profit,” Cooper said.

Cooper filed Monday, July 1, with the N.C. Supreme Court to appeal the rate hike by Duke Energy Progress, formerly Progress Energy, which was approved in May by the North Carolina Utilities Commission. Cooper had previously opposed the rate increase before the Commission.

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It seems fitting that the section of Highway 107 from the Grassy Creek Road area be proclaimed the Orville and Kent Coward Highway by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).

Members of the Coward-Hooper family, the Coward brothers’ mother was a Hooper, settled, homesteaded and ultimately owned more than 1, 000 acres of the property along the present Highway 107. The Coward-Hooper property at one time stretched from the Moody Bridge up the Tuckaseegee River to Cashiers Township and to the top of Big Ridge. In the ensuing 150 years, the land has been home to family members, sold off for public use or considered for cultural and historical benefit.

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