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Falling Behind in NC

Despite a contracting economy over the course of the Great Recession, North Carolina has continued to grow. Yet at the same time, state investments in areas vital to the future workforce of the state such as early care and education has plummeted over the last several years.  Funding for programs such as Smart Start, subsidized child care and NC Pre-K (formerly known as More at Four) has obviously completely failed to keep up with demand as the figure above shows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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News headlines have made it seem as if the recently-passed House budget for the upcoming fiscal year restores budget cuts included in the legislature’s budget last year.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Case in point—the Health & Human Services portion of the House budget proposal for FY 12-13.  This is the area of the state budget that touches the lives of virtually every North Carolinian from birth to old age and makes sure our food is safe, our children thrive early, seniors have access to prescription drugs and quality, affordable health care, and people with disabilities have the supports they need to contribute to our communities.

The House budget passed this week adds back in funding to the Health & Human Services budget for FY 12-13 to the tune of a 3.65% increase over the continuation budget passed in 2011.  While any expansion funding for areas hit deeply by cuts is better than no expansion, a funding jump in the single digits is not a resounding victory.  It’s just a small salvo for a few program areas and too little, too late.  For most programs, the expansion items fall far short of making up for the cuts in their entirety.

To dive a little deeper:

Early Childhood: the House budget includes a $15 million recurring increase for NC Pre-K, which should open up at least 1,700 new slots.  However, this funding just goes halfway in making up the $32 million cut for NC Pre-K included in the continuation budget.  Smart Start, which was cut by $37 million in 2011 saw a minor expansion of $3.5 million to test literacy programs in some of its local programs. Read More

The State of Working North Carolina

A job saved is as good as a job created these days.  That’s what a brief released today reminds us as we think of ways to put our state and our workforce on a path to recovery.

Released as part of a series examining the State of Working North Carolina, the brief walks through the significant shifts our workforce has faced over the last thirty years, including the growth of women in the labor force as well as the booming numbers of workers who wield major caregiving duties for family members.  And how our workplace policies have utterly failed to keep up with these changes that working families know all too well.

The result?  Families teetering on the edge of keeping their jobs when common occurrences like a cold strikes them.  That’s because nearly half of North Carolina’s private-sector lack a single paid sick days to care for themselves or a sick family member.

Similarly, working families have very few supports to aid them in dealing with another set of common life experiences—birth and long-term illness.  The only law on the books, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, that is supposed to allow families to take leave time to care for a newborn child or a parent with Alzheimer’s is inaccessible to the majority of North Carolinians (and Americans) because the leave time is unpaid and it only applies to workers in larger businesses.

As we know, in today’s economy, losing a job can be catastrophic and caregiving responsibilities are increasing become a reason workers are seeing their paychecks shrink or even losing their economic livelihood.

There is no reason families should have to choose between caring for their families or a job.  We’re in the 21st Century afterall.  And it’s time policymakers start recognizing that and looking at common-sense measures like paid sick days to ensure that our workers can hold on to the jobs they’ve got.  There’s no better time than now.

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Today marks the 15th anniversary of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, also known as “welfare reform”.

In 1996, under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PWRORA), TANF replaced such welfare programs as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and ended federal entitlement to assistance.

The idea behind welfare reform at the time, of course, was to end families’ dependence on AFDC and create a program that would move families into work and economic security.  Read More

Read the Fine Print: Special Provisions

This morning, several House appropriations subcommittees “reported out”, or voted on, their budget proposals and the remaining ones are expected to this afternoon. After weeks of work, public meetings, and many behind-closed-doors meetings, we now have a sense of what the House budget will look like once the full Appropriations Chairs (or the “Big Chairs”) make their tweaks. The full House is expected to vote on and pass a budget on May 2nd and 3rd and then it’s up to the Senate to take the budget from there. Read More