NC Budget and Tax Center

Still waiting: Eastern NC needs a greater commitment to rebuild after Matthew

When it comes to helping North Carolinians recovery from the devastating flooding and damage following Hurricane Matthew, North Carolina leaders must commit to a significant investment that ensures communities are made whole and more resilient in the face of future natural disasters and economic downturns too.

After the December legislation that made the first investment of $200.9 million, communities waited for a more ambitious proposal that would move beyond emergency response to focus on rebuilding the region.

The Governor’s budget proposal includes more dollars for the region but remains modest in comparison to the need. The proposed budget dedicates $115 million to address needs in housing, local infrastructure, public assistance, and other recovery efforts.

Legislation will be needed that is comprehensive and reflective of the needs to ensure that Eastern North Carolina is rebuilt to greater resiliency.

Hurricane Matthew was not North Carolina’s first time dealing with major post-hurricane flooding. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd caused what is now considered to be lower levels of flooding and damage throughout the East. Governor Hunt and the General Assembly reacted by allocating $830 million state dollars to ensure a swift and speedy recovery. In 1999, $286 million, more than one-third of the entire effort, was pulled from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

Yet today, in response to Matthew’s, the General Assembly has been unwilling to use the Rainy Day Fund to help struggling North Carolinians get back on their feet. The investments have been too modest to ensure the Eastern part of the state can thrive. Click To Tweet The total investment in rebuilding from Hurricane Matthew by state leaders doesn’t come close to addressing the estimated $1.5 billion in damages spread throughout the eastern part of the state and represents a fraction of what was invested after Hurricane Floyd.

Gov. Cooper recognizes that the allocations in his budget are just a start. The budget also places $300 million into the Rainy Day Fund to be used once the final “unmet need” is assessed.

The problem, however, is that far too many North Carolinians can no long wait for final assessments to be made. While federal and state dollars slowly trickle in, many people remain living in hotels and out of work. They need help now.

The Governor’s Budget’s plan for Hurricane Matthew Recovery:

 

2018 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

Governor’s budget makes important investments in Pre-K and child care

Gov. Cooper’s budget proposes lofty goals to improve North Carolina’s education system. A significant portion of that promise is focused on investing in high quality child care and increasing the number of children attending Pre-K. Investing in our state’s youngest and, often times, most vulnerable children is absolutely a step in the right direction. Here are four things you should know about how the Governor’s budget invests in children. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center

For many low-income North Carolinians, Matthew’s damage is deeper than broken buildings

As the state begins recovery efforts following Hurricane Matthew, we begin to see unexpected damages. These damages are beyond the ruin of physical structures. These damages are not the effects of harsh winds and high waters. Instead, they are the years old damages – the damages of persistent poverty, underinvestment, and systemic neglect.

But what does poverty have to do with recovery from Matthew? While the hurricane itself did not distinguish between the rich and the poor, the ability of communities and families to recover will depend largely upon just that.

A recent N.C. Budget and Tax Center report (“North Carolina’s Greatest Challenge—Elevated Poverty Hampers Economic Opportunity for All”) finds that 1.6 million North Carolinians live in poverty – that’s a poverty rate 15 percent higher than before the Great Recession. North Carolina has the 12th highest poverty rate, child poverty rate, and deep poverty rate in the nation, and people of color, women and children are more likely to be in poverty than their white, male counterparts. Additionally, the report found that in North Carolina in 2014, the 20 counties with the highest rates of poverty were all rural. North Carolina had a serious issue with poverty even before Matthew hit.

In “Poor, Displaced and Anxious in North Carolina as Floods Climb After Hurricane,” New York Times reporter Jess Bidgood highlights the disproportionate impact the hurricane had on our poorest communities. The story notes that families with vehicles, or who could afford moving trucks, were able to evacuate their families and valuables. Additionally, workers with paid time off or savings are able to absorb the financial burden that comes with evacuation and recovery. Families in poverty and without savings or paid leave policies were more likely to lose valuables and essentials and have fewer means to replace them. Families living paycheck to paycheck can barely afford a day off, let alone weeks out of work. Even FEMA admits it will only be able to provide very modest short term support for even the neediest families.

This is from the story:

“But even when state and federal officials work to disburse flood aid, experts said, it is often harder for families living on the margins to bounce back. The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina estimated that 356,000 people in the 21 counties it was monitoring for storm and flood effects did not have access to enough healthy food, even before the floods.”

In “Flooding from hurricane hits lower-income North Carolina residents hard,” Washington Post reporters Chico Harlan and Angela Fritz drew attention to some of the pre-existing inequalities that will impact recovery. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center

SNAP works for North Carolina’s children

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps North Carolina families put food on the table. But we know now that it accomplishes much more than that.

Research increasingly shows that SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps, can ward against the long-term effects on children experiencing poverty, abuse or neglect, parental substance abuse or mental illness, and exposure to violence — events that can take a toll on their well-being as adults.  As a new Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report finds, SNAP helps form a strong foundation of health and well-being for low-income children by lifting millions of families out of poverty, improving food security, and helping improve health and academic achievement with long-lasting consequences.

It’s doing all that across North Carolina. SNAP is improving our children’s futures.

SNAP delivers more nutrition assistance to low-income children than any other.  This year, SNAP will help about 20 million children each month — about one in four U.S. children — while providing about $30 billion in nutrition benefits for children over the course of the year. In North Carolina the impact is even greater. In 2014, SNAP helped about 663,000 children each month, or 29 percent of our state’s kids.

snap-helps-large-shares-of-north-carolinas-children

SNAP’s benefits are modest, but they’re well-targeted to children and families that need them the most. While households across the state receive an average of $255 each month, families with children get $390 on average. Furthermore, families experiencing deep poverty receive higher benefits.[i] In 2014, SNAP benefits lifted over 96,000 families out of deep poverty. It’s no surprise that SNAP helps lift more children out of deep poverty than any other government assistance program.

In fact, much of SNAP’s success can be attributed to its design, including that consistent national structure that effectively targets food benefits to those with the greatest need; eligibility rules and a funding structure that make benefits available to children in almost all families with little income and few resources; a design that automatically responds to changes in the economy; and rigorous requirements to ensure a high degree of program integrity.

SNAP is helping to give thousands of North Carolina’s children the foundation they need to succeed. Efforts to reform or enhance it should build on its effectiveness in protecting the well-being of our children — and those nationwide — and preserve the essential program features that contribute to that success.

[i] Deep poverty is defined as income at or below 50 percent of the Federal Poverty Line

NC Budget and Tax Center

Higher earnings and decreased poverty point to a slow but positive recovery

New data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey sheds new light on the nations and North Carolina’s efforts at economic recovery. Here are a few takeaways from the nation-wide data:

  • Between 2014 and 2015, the national poverty rate decreased by 1.2 percent, bringing the official rate down to 13.5 percent, or 43.1 million people. This is not insignificant as it is the largest annual poverty rate decrease since 1999.
  • In 2015, median household incomes rose to $56,516, 5.2 percent higher than in 2014. This is the first year in which median household incomes have increased since 2007, a year before the recession began.
  • Not everyone has benefited from these positive national trends. Despite an overall increase in income, household earnings in rural communities across the nation remained unchanged. Additionally, income inequality, the gap between the wealthy and the poor, has remained the same.

Although state-level data released today is a preliminary estimate, it too paints a picture of slow, relative progress:

  • The CPS estimates that 15.3 percent of North Carolinians were in poverty in 2015. That is down from 17.1 percent in 2014.
  • While it appears that poverty is decreasing, it is still well above pre-recession levels. Additionally, North Carolina still lags behind its neighbor, South Carolina, which saw a 2.2 percent decrease in poverty from 2014 to 2015.

Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, praises the positive national measures and highlights important policy choices to ensure this growth continues:

“The welcome progress of 2015 reflects both reasonably “tight” labor markets and improved government policies.  As the economy neared full employment, average real earnings rose.  In addition, state and local minimum wage increases gave many low-income workers a further income boost.  And health reform reversed the once-stubborn trend of shrinking health insurance coverage, fueling coverage expansions.  Even so, standards of living still haven’t fully rebounded to where they were before the Great Recession caused income to fall and poverty to rise substantially….

To sustain across-the-board progress, the Federal Reserve should continue to promote tight labor markets, especially given continued low inflation.  In addition, federal policymakers should move forward as planned to implement a new rule making more salaried workers with moderate incomes eligible for overtime, and the President and Congress at long last should raise the federal minimum wage, which has lost considerable purchasing power.  Policymakers also should further expand refundable tax credits for the working poor and expand access to child care for low-income families with children.”

While there is much to celebrate, there is still plenty of work still to be done.

As Elise Gould, Senior Economist at the Economic Policy Institute, points out, “It is certainly a good start. But, we’ll need a run of years like this to restore the income losses suffered during the Great Recession for most American families, let alone make up for a generation of income growth that lagged far behind the economy’s potential.”