2018 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

The word is in: It is up to NC policymakers to lead on Hurricane Matthew recovery

When Hurricane Matthews hit North Carolina on October 8, severe flooding impacted more than 800,000 homes, more than 300,000 businesses, displaced 3,744 residents, closed 635 roads, and 34 school systems causing an estimated $2.8 billion in damage and another $2 billion in lost economic activity. The North Carolina General Assembly responded by allocating $200.9 million in what would be the first investment towards recovery. The Federal government kicked in an additional $332 million. Since then, no additional funding has gone to help Eastern North Carolina rebuild.

Rather than choosing to dedicate funding to help Eastern NC recover, policymakers have taken a “wait and see” approach, waiting to see how much additional federal funding the state will receive before allocating state dollars. In April, Gov. Cooper and the NC Congressional Delegation requested $929.4 million in Federal help.

We waited for nearly six months after the storm to see where help would come from. Yesterday, we saw. The Trump administration authorized just $6.1 million.

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. At that time more than one-third of the entire effort, $286 million, was pulled from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

Yesterday’s Senate bill allocates just $70 million dollars to fund unspecified activities in the rebuilding effort, an additional $80 million was intended to be a state match for federal dollars that are not coming.  Both figures combined still fall woefully short of the $2.8 billion worth of damages.

While our leaders must do everything to urge a greater federal response to our state,  they must also prepare our own response for if the federal government truly abandons us in our time of need.

The North Carolina Senate can lead the effort by drawing from the more than $1 billion in the state’s Rainy Day fund and stopping any further tax cuts proposed that reduce available revenue by at least $800 million when fully implemented.

After six months, far too many families and workers are still displaced from their homes and jobs. Far too many communities are still not rebuilt despite the approaching Hurricane season.  After nearly an entire school year, many children are still yet to return to their home schools and many more have lost learning time and experienced a trauma.

Life, for many, in the east, has not yet returned back to normal and without any type of recovery support, it’s hard to believe that it ever will.

NC Budget and Tax Center, Trump Administration

Three ways Trump’s “America First” budget puts hungry Americans last

When it comes to hunger, North Carolina stands out. Each night, almost 630,000 North Carolina households do not have enough to eat. With 15.9 percent of households being food insecure, North Carolina has the highest rate of hunger on the East Coast, and the 8th highest in the nation. Even amongst North Carolinians, hunger does not impact everyone equally. We know that children, households led by women, and seniors are far more likely to face issues of hunger.

While our state still has a long way to go in eliminating food insecurity, we have made strides in recent years. From 2013 to 2015, the state’s food insecurity rate dropped from 17.3 to 15.9 percent, largely in part to critical federal programs that help put food on the table for North Carolina’s most vulnerable. But with Trump’s proposed budget, these very programs are at risk for cuts and even elimination.

Here are three ways Trump’s budget threatens to increase hunger in North Carolina:

1. Cuts to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children

Trump’s budget cuts the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC, by $200 million per year (from $6.4 billion to $6.2 billion). WIC provides healthy foods, formula and baby food, and health care support for pregnant and breastfeeding women, their infants, and children under the age of five. While this cut won’t kick off current participants, it will inhibit WIC’s ability to provide additional programming and services and could prevent WIC from serving new mothers and children in the future.

Last year, WIC served over 240,000 North Carolinian women and children each month and provided more than $123 million worth of food. In North Carolina, WIC has contributed to a drop in newborn Medicaid costs, increasing the likelihood of children receiving regular and preventative health services; lowered infant mortality rates; and is responsible for improved education performance for children.

2. Elimination of the Community Services Block Grant

The proposed budget completely eliminates the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), a $718 million program, which supports local organizations working to alleviate poverty, hunger, and joblessness across the nation. In North Carolina, CSBG funds 35 Community Action Agencies that service 97 of NCs 100 counties, funneling nearly $21.5 million into high need rural, urban, and suburban communities. While CSBG funding supports a wide array of activities, one critical service is its role in providing emergency food assistance. These funds are used to organize and operate food banks, support North Carolina’s Meals on Wheels program, fund nutrition and food preparation counseling services, and even support community and urban gardens.

Nearly 40 percent of the 120,000 North Carolinians who are supported through CSBG funds are children, 20 percent are seniors, and more than 10 percent are individuals with disabilities.

3. Elimination of 21st Century Community Learning Centers

The budget seeks to eliminate 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), a $1.2 billion program that provides before-, after-, weekend-, and summer school academic enrichment. In North Carolina, this would mean a loss of $22.3 million to 68 school districts, local governments, and non-profits that currently operate these academic enrichment programs. Although increasing nutrition and access to food for children is not an explicit goal, these learning centers play a critical role in eliminating the food gap many children in North Carolina face. Last year, nearly 750,000 children in North Carolina received free or reduced-priced meals. Before and after school and during the summer, many of these children and their families are at risk of being food insecure. Meals provided at after school and summer enrichment programs are an extremely important and efficient tool at addressing childhood hunger.

The Trump Administration argues that 21st CCLC “lacks strong evidence of meeting its objective, such as improving student achievement.”. That’s not true. A 2014 evaluation of North Carolina’s 21st CCLC program proved that students who participated in the program saw larger and faster improvements on standardize testing scores than students who did not participate.

If we really want to make America great, we have to ensure that no American goes to bed hungry. Investing in these important and proven programs is critical for the health of our children, our economy, and our nation.

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