Commentary, COVID-19, News

New report: NC one of the lowest ranking states in which to work during the pandemic

As it is in so many other areas, North Carolina is one of the lower ranked states in the nation in terms of  what it’s like to work and survive during the pandemic and the economic recession it has spawned. That’s the finding in a new report from the group Oxfam America entitled “The Tattered Safety Net: How states are helping working families cope with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to the publication, which represents an updated version of the group’s annual “Best states to work” report, North Carolina ranked 38th of the 52 jurisdictions rated — the 50 states plus D.C. and Puerto Rico.

This is from the report:

When COVID-19 delivered a shattering blow to the economy in 2020, it put millions of working families at risk of illness, homelessness, and hunger. The federal government response was slow and halting. In the face of great and urgent need, many states took action to shore up safety nets and to catch working families at risk of falling, while others have failed to respond at all.

Oxfam has produced an annual Best States to Work index since 2018. This version of the index assesses and ranks how states are supporting residents during the pandemic.

These responses—large and small—matter. Sometimes, they can keep a family above water: in their home, with food on the table, with healthcare. For example, a moratorium on eviction means families can rest easy in their homes even when the paycheck stops; increased food assistance provides families with vital nutrition; a face mask requirement slows the spread of the virus; mandated paid sick leave means that workers can stay home when they are ill (and further slows the spread of the virus).

The index examines three dimensions, and 27 data points, that capture how states are helping working families cope—and survive:

  • Worker protections: Are states taking proactive measures to protect workers and their communities amidst a pandemic that involves a deadly airborne virus?
  • Healthcare: How are states protecting their residents’ health during a pandemic, especially given the limitations of a health insurance system often linked to employment?
  • Unemployment supports: How are states accommodating the millions who are suddenly, through no fault of their own, unemployed and without a steady income?

Not surprisingly, North Carolina received the lowest marks for its stingy unemployment insurance system. Only six locales received a lower ranking in this category.

The report offers several recommendations to help struggling workers and their families (all of which would make a real difference in North Carolina). They include passing paid sick time and paid family and medical leave programs that cover all workers, funding childcare for all workers, expanding Medicaid, and increasing unemployment payments.

Click here to explore the full report.

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