NC Budget and Tax Center

How can North Carolina make sure students are eating breakfast?

The benefits of school breakfast participation are clear — reduced hunger, improved academic achievement and test scores, elevated health and nutrition, and reduced absenteeism, tardiness, and behavior referrals. In 2016-2017, more children participated in the school breakfast program nationally than ever before, according to the Food Research Action Center’s (FRAC) School Breakfast Scorecard. This report measures the reach of the School Breakfast Program in the 2016–2017 school year — nationally and in each state — based on a variety of metrics, and examines the impact of select trends and policies on program participation. While participation from year to year has continued to increase nationally, the rate of growth has slowed.

We want to ensure a thriving North Carolina by providing everyone with the resources to have a sufficient childhood development. North Carolina is the 10th hungriest state in the nation, meaning many families face high levels of food insecurity. These families do not have access to the nutritious foods necessary to safeguard their children are healthy. For children, poor nutrition is associated with anxiety, diet-related diseases, learning difficulties, and health problems, that can affect them throughout their K-12 education journey and as they continue to grow into adulthood. The school breakfast program plays a critical role in filling voids for low-income families. Here are some ways NC schools can continue to increase breakfast participation: Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center

Evil or just bad policy? Trump’s budget leaves hungry North Carolinians to fend for themselves

On Monday, the President released his 2019 budget, which included devastating cuts to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formally known as food stamps). The plan aims to cut one of the nation’s most important safety net programs by nearly 30 percent, or $213 billion over 10 years.

Although the cuts would have devastating effects nation-wide, the brunt of the cuts would be felt in states like North Carolina, which is the 10th hungriest in the nation and is where 1 in 6 residents receive SNAP.

In order to reduce the SNAP caseload, the Trump administration proposes programmatic changes that would limit who could qualify for SNAP and what benefits they could receive. Right now, adults under 49 years of age without children are subject to a three-month time limit. This proposal would expand that limit to adults without children up to age 62. The plan would also get rid of categorical eligibility, a program which helps many low-income North Carolinians, especially those with children and high child care costs. Additionally, the proposal would punish families with more than six household members by capping benefits and would eliminate funding for SNAP-Ed, a program which helps educate on healthy eating choices.

One of the most absurd proposals in the budget is a major provision which would replace SNAP benefits with a Soviet Union-era government-issued food box. Rather than automatically receiving benefits via an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card, families that receive $90 or more in benefits a month (about 80 percent of participants nationally) would receive a “USDA Foods package” which would include “shelf-stable milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, and canned fruit and vegetables.” The plan would also rely on states to figure out how to package and deliver these boxes.

There is more than one flaw with this concept. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center

Three important ways in which President Trump’s proposed budget shifts costs to North Carolina

On the heels of a federal tax plan that provides tax breaks to the wealthy, foreign investors and profitable corporations, President Trump has released a budget that will make it more difficult for people to get back to work and strengthen their quality of life and ensure thriving communities.

It is unlikely that North Carolina will be able to absorb these federal cuts and, in so doing, ensure that North Carolinians aren’t hurt by them.

North Carolina has scheduled another $900 million in tax cuts to begin on Jan. 1, 2019, and already has identified the need to prioritize class-size reductions, pre-Kindergarten for 4-year-olds, and ensure seniors have health care and food, among others.  Additional needs generated by the failure of the President and Congress to truly connect people to opportunity will not be met with resources under the current tax code.

Here are just three ways in which the President’s budget will push costs to the states: Read more

Education, NC Budget and Tax Center

Class-size reduction funding will remain uncertain with scheduled tax cuts

The NC General Assembly moved forward a proposal this week to address their unfunded mandate to reduce class sizes in Kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Its problems aren’t just its inclusion of various non-educational items irrelevant to the class-size debate, but also its failure to acknowledge that an adequate tax code will be required in order to fund the class-size reductions beyond Fiscal Year 2019-20.

Rather than putting a stop to the scheduled tax cuts that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019, the NC General Assembly’s plan is to allocate unappropriated balances at year-end in the next year and hope for available revenue in years past 2019.

That is another risky bet for North Carolina’s children and communities.

The sure thing would have been to stop the January 2019 tax cuts, which in a full fiscal year would mean an estimated $900 million to pay to reduce class sizes and make other investments in children’s educational success, such as funding NC Pre-K and addressing the school nurse shortage.

As it stands, reductions of just $400 million are planned for in the final budget passed this summer.

This means that it is unlikely that the revenue necessary to fund the class-size mandate will materialize without cuts to other investments in children and families.

A true commitment to our children’s educational success would put their well-being ahead of tax cuts.

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Policy Matters

December 2017 local labor market release: A closer look at the Sandhills

Amid rosy data showing that 98 counties had unemployment levels lower in 2017 than in 2016 there is plenty of evidence that many North Carolinians are still hurting. Over the broader period since the start of the Great Recession, 57 counties still have fewer employed workers than at that time, and 27 counties have unemployment levels at least one percentage point above the state average. The pain felt in these communities, that are in many ways worse off now than they were before the Great Recession, prove that the tax cut only approach has failed much of North Carolina. We must focus on an economic strategy that supports a recovery for the unemployed and their families throughout all the state’s communities.

A closer look at the metropolitan and micropolitan places in the Sandhills, a region that includes Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Richmond, and Scotland counties, reveals some troubling spots. While micro areas like Sanford (4.9%), Dunn (5%) and Pinehurst-Southern Pines (4.5%) have relatively low unemployment rates, peer places like Laurinburg (8%), Lumberton (6.4%) and Rockingham (6.1%) fare much poorer. The metropolitan area Fayetteville, which serves as an economic engine for the Sandhills region, is hamstrung by an unemployment rate at 5.5%, higher than the state average at 4.4% in December 2017. For many bedroom communities such as Hoke, Scotland, Harnett and Lee, Fayetteville’s lack of a full recovery from the Great Recession could pose a drag to their economies as jobless workers hold back on spending and face challenges in paying bills, staying in their homes.

“Beaver Creek” Photo Credit: Gerry Dincher

Other highlights from this month’s labor market data include:

• Labor force shrinkage: Nearly 60 percent of all North Carolina counties have experienced a decrease in their labor force from 2016 and pre-recession levels. Duplin and Alleghany counties have seen their labor force diminish at the state’s highest rates year over year, – dropping 5.2% and 5.3% respectively. While there are several possible reasons for this decline, it is plausible that citizens are dropping out the search for work or out-migrating to other counties.

• East of I-95 metropolitan areas continue to lag behind the rest of the state. While improving, 6 out of the 7 metropolitan statistical areas east of Interstate 95 still featured unemployment rates higher than the state average for the entirety of 2017. For 12 consecutive months, Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Greenville, Jacksonville, New Bern and Rocky Mount experienced joblessness rates higher than other metropolitan areas throughout the state.