Commentary, COVID-19

N.C. advocacy groups unite with southern neighbors, call for shared COVID-19 response

Today, the NC Justice Center, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, and other North Carolina groups joined fellow southerners in a shared vision for the region’s COVID-19 response.

Policy organizations, grassroots movements and scholars are collaborating to inform and hold accountable policymakers and stakeholders on the social and economic inequities exposed by the global pandemic. Further, as many take to the streets to express their outrage with police brutality and racism in our country, these organizations are committed to rebuilding an equitable South. The full list of partners can be found at SouthStrong.org.

COVID-19 does not adhere to geographic boundaries. The shared vision for the region’s response is based on respect, dignity, equity and justice to address the public health crisis and mitigate the economic fallout.

Communities must work together with the government for an accurate picture of what is happening on the ground and what improvements must be made as we address racism and the post-pandemic world. Coordination among neighboring states and strong public services are priorities, given the South’s history of structural racism and limited worker protection through discriminatory policies and practices.

“North Carolina’s well-being post-pandemic will depend on how we work together as a region to commit to people-first investments and policies that drive more equitable outcomes,” said Alexandra Sirota, Director of the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center.

“COVID-19 has laid bare the fact that it is on each of us — as individuals, communities, and states — to protect all of us. As the South, we must work together to ensure our future is one that truly leaves no one behind, regardless of race, age, how much money people have, or where folks live,” said Lynne Walter, advocacy and organizing manager of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina.

Each of the southern entities agreed to the below values for a response that is equitable, accountable, and transparent. Read more

COVID-19, NC Budget and Tax Center

Release: Latest labor market figures show devastating blow from COVID-19

The Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center, issued the following summary and assessment of North Carolina labor market data released today. From the media release:

RALEIGH (May 22, 2020) — Labor market data for N.C. released today show April was the worst month of job losses in North Carolina’s history, far surpassing the worst months of the Great Recession. “The scope of the job losses is simply staggering,” said Patrick McHugh, Research Manager with the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center. “Job losses are concentrated in industries and occupations that typically pay the worst wages so a lot of the people who lost jobs in April had little or no financial cushion to fall back on. Many of the jobs that have disappeared likely won’t be coming back anytime soon, which means state and federal leaders have to figure out a way to support people through an economic crisis unlike anything in living memory.”

Economic challenges facing North Carolina include: Read more

COVID-19, NC Budget and Tax Center, public health

State and federal policy responses to the COVID-19 virus

This blog post will be regularly updated to capture key policy responses to the COVID-19 virus. (Last updated 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, March 24)

Reports from Budget & Tax Center Staff

This post summarizes steps taken thus far at both the federal and state levels. Scroll down to see a list of steps taken so far, or click on the following links to bring you directly to a specific section:

COVID-19 provides a sobering reminder of how much we need effective and well-resourced governance at the state and federal levels. Particularly in times of crisis, we need an infrastructure that delivers a coordinated, seamless response and reaches each and every person in the community.

The coming months will test federal and state leaders’ ability to blunt the impacts of this global pandemic and contain the harm to the health, well-being, and economic security of people.

Decades of tax cuts have left us vulnerable to a moment like this. Conservative leaders in Raleigh and Washington have given huge tax breaks to rich people and multinational corporations instead of building the systems we need to respond with a coordinated and collective set of programs.

Years of policies that attacked the very institutions that are so critical now have made the response more fragmented and challenged.  Our public health agencies are under-resourced for the growing complexities and services needed in the face of this new coronavirus pandemic coming on top of a very bad flu season. Our public schools haven’t received adequate resources to provide classroom materials and technology in school, let alone outside of it, and many school personnel are worried about their ability to make ends meet in this time. Indeed, many workers will struggle to make ends meet if their hours are scaled back, they get sick, or they lose their jobs because our policy choices have failed to provide access to affordable health care, paid sick days, and a strengthened unemployment system.

COVID-19 is likely going to have an even broader economic impact going forward and could push the United States into a full-blown recession.  Strengthening our programs that can automatically stabilize the economy by helping people make ends meet is critical, as will be aid for states to maintain balanced budgets without dramatic cuts to programs and services needed now.

In short, North Carolina will need a robust policy response at the state and federal level.

Read more

Commentary, NC Budget and Tax Center, News

New labor market data point to continuing N.C. economic slowdown

The Budget & Tax Center released its analysis of the latest N.C. labor market data, which was published on Friday. Patrick McHugh, Senior Policy Analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center, points to the data as a sign that North Carolina’s economy has been stumbling this year. According to his analysis:

Economic challenges facing North Carolina include:

  • Job growth has slowed in 2019: Employment growth in 2019 has slowed across the country, and the drop-off compared to the strongest periods of expansion since the Great Recession has been particularly dramatic here in North Carolina. Between 2014 and 2016, employment growth in North Carolina regularly exceeded 2 percent a year, still somewhat modest by historical standards, but significantly more robust than what we’ve seen this year. Annual job growth has hovered around 1.5 percent throughout all of 2019, roughly half of the most recent high point of growth set in February 2015. In raw job terms, the first nine months of North Carolina were less productive than several years during the current economic expansion. North Carolina added 45,800 jobs between January and September, well off the first nine months of 2014, 2015, and 2016, when the state added over 60,000 during the first nine months of the year.
  • Number of unemployed North Carolinians has increased in 2019: The number of North Carolinians looking for work has increased during 2019, reversing a long trend of shrinking unemployment rolls. Roughly 17,400 more North Carolinians were looking for work in September than in January of this year, even while the number of job-seekers nationwide declined by over 760,000 over the same period.
  • North Carolina’s unemployment rate is notably higher than the nation: With slowing growth and an increasing number of people looking for work, North Carolina’s unemployment rate has increased during 2019. After largely mirroring the national rate throughout most of 2017 and 2018, North Carolina’s headline unemployment rate is now notably higher than the national average. North Carolina’s unemployment rate stood at 4.1 percent in September compared to a national rate of 3.5 percent. While the national rate has dropped from 4 percent at the beginning of the year, North Carolina’s headline rate increased from the January reading of 3.8 percent.
  • Share of North Carolinians with a job still below pre-recession levels and the national average: North Carolina still has not recovered to the level of employment that existed before the Great Recession. In December 2007, just before the onset of the Great Recession, 62.1 percent of North Carolinians had a job, a level of employment that had been the norm throughout the early 2000s. In September 2019, however, only 59.3 percent of North Carolinians were employed.

Read the full release here. 

NC Budget and Tax Center

The N.C. budget stalemate, explained in GIFs

Earlier this summer, NC lawmakers passed a $24 billion conference budget that missed a number of opportunities to provide basic services and improve the lives of everyday North Carolinians. Within 24 hours, Governor Cooper vetoed the budget, calling it a “failure of common sense and common decency.”

On July 1, the Fiscal Year began and we didn’t have a budget.

No budget??!! While you might be confused about how we’re still running as a state, it’s because there’s a statute that keeps public programs funded at prior year levels.

This means that enrollment growth for schools and health care isn’t funded, pay raises and increases in retirement contributions for teachers and state employers aren’t provided, and emerging needs aren’t addressed.

A couple weeks after the start of the fiscal year, Governor Cooper released a compromise proposal that keeps nearly every major component of the conference budget — except it also includes a clean Medicaid expansion and eliminates tax cuts to corporations, using that revenue to invest in teachers and schools.

Read more