North Carolina’s revenues are slowly recovering but still deeply damaged by the recession. Regaining the ground that we have lost will be more difficult in the coming years because state lawmakers are pursing deep and lopsided tax cuts that will put at risk the critical public services that help build the engines of long-term economic growth.
It is unquestionable that there is a lot of ground to be regained—especially when it comes to investing adequately in the health, safety, education, and economic security of families and children. The current state budget for health and human services (HHS) is proof. The HHS section of the budget affects North Carolinians at nearly every life stage and can literally impact their longevity and survival. Among other things, these investments help ensure that older adults remain independent as long as possible and have access to quality and affordable health care.
Providers of services to older adults have already been forced to cut back due to underinvestment in recent years so North Carolina’s older adults know a lot about unmet need and the necessity to make progress.State support for older adults is out of sync with the growth in the older adult population, and deep revenue losses resulting from the tax plans could make the gap even wider. This population grew by nearly a quarter since the recession hit but state funding for community-based services—such as in-home care and group meals, for example—benefiting older adults declined by 6.6 percent over the same period, as illustrated in this chart.
In addition, there are more than 15,000 people on the waiting list for the Home and Community Care Block Grant that provides services that help older North Carolinians, further illustrating unmet need among our seniors. Increasingly, state budgets will be stretched thin by the rising costs of delivering services, especially health care, to older adults who are very expensive to care for but who make numerous economic contributions such as volunteer work and unpaid child care that allow younger family members to remain in the workforce.
And, the steep population growth among older adults shows no sign of slowing down, due to both the aging of the state’s Baby Boomer generation and in-migration of retirees. The Office of State Budget and Management projects that this population will increase by over 70 percent by 2032. As a result, the demand for older adult services will rise as time goes on. But after the implementation of a tax plan that makes deep cuts to revenues, it will be even less likely that the state will be able to keep up, let alone catch up, with the needs of a graying population.
This is the third post of a week-long blog series that will uncover just how far behind North Carolina’s current services levels are compared to pre-recession levels as well as how far behind the state would fall if the House and Senate tax plans were implemented. Previous posts are available here and here.