- The Progressive Pulse - http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org -

Working and not getting by – states are taking action

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, with not enough jobs for North Carolina’s job seekers, many North Carolinians are still struggling to find work [1]. But many workers who managed to hold onto their jobs during the recession are continuing to find it difficult to make ends meet. [2]

U.S. Census bureau data show that in 2010, there were over 350,000 low-income working families in North Carolina. This means that over 1 in 3 working families in the state were earning less than 200 percent of the official poverty threshold, much less than it actually takes to make ends meet [3]. North Carolina is not alone – nationally, the share of low-income working families increased to 31 percent [4] in 2010.

States around the country are responding in a number of ways to ensure that by working, a family can actually pay the bills. Legislators in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois, for instance, are pushing to raise their states’ minimum wage [5].  Job retention policies are also on the table. This past year has seen an unprecedented number of successes in getting paid sick days legislation passed, with Connecticut leading the way [6] on the state level. Moreover, states and localities are working to pass wage theft legislation [7] to ensure that workers are actually paid for the work they perform. Finally, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)  — which is crucial for low-income working families and infuses communities with millions of dollars each year – is slated to be restored in New Jersey (though, gradually [8]).

Economic impact analysis shows that a higher minimum wage creates jobs and strengthens the economy [9]; paid sick days and family leave insurance increase economic security [10] while cutting health care costs and boosting employers’ bottom line; and paying workers their earned wages is both a moral and a legal imperative. Moreover, the EITC is a crucial tool [11] to assist working families in meeting basic needs and helps communities statewide. Creating and maintaining jobs that pay a living wage and providing benefits that ensure job stability puts us all on the right path toward shared economic prosperity and creates much-needed economic growth for North Carolina.