Michelle Ford hasn’t received food stamp allotments since December, and the Greensboro mother says she’s out of options in trying to feed herself and her three children.

“We don’t have anything to eat,” Ford said. “This the way it’s been for the last two months, it seems like it’s just getting worse and worse.”

Ford usually receives $692 in food stamps a month to keep her family fed, but her January benefits never appeared. She said she’s neglected paying her light bill, car payment and other bills in order to keep her family fed.

“It’s been horrible,” she said, her voice clenched with tears. Her 18-year-old daughter stays with friends in order to get meals at night and was fired from a job at a McDonald’s stemming over a dispute about food she was taking to share with her family.

Ford’s problems come despite the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services declaring it has “reasonably achieved” an April 1 deadline set by federal officials to resolve a backlog of federally-funded food stamps cases statewide that had been in the tens of thousands for needy families.

A backlog of food stamps cases persisted for most of 2013 in the state when DHHS fully implemented a complicated benefits delivery system called N.C. FAST (Families Accessing Services Through Technology). County-level workers struggled to get the system to work, and cases piled up with some going weeks or months without needed food assistance. ncfast

In Guilford County, where Ford lives, the state discovered in the week before the April 1 deadline that workers had been keeping as many as 8,1000 recertification cases in a separate system then the N.C. FAST benefits delivery system. The head of the county’s social services director resigned shortly after the backlog became public.

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voteGone are the days of registering to vote during early voting! If you want to take part in the fast-approaching May 6th primary, take note that today (Friday) is the deadline for getting registered to vote.

North Carolinians can stop by their county elections office to register. Registration forms can also be completed and turned in at the DMV or other public assistance agencies. Finally, forms postmarked by today’s deadline will be accepted for the upcoming election.

Click here  to download a voter registration form, and here for more info on where you can get registered.

Early voting for the May 6th primary begins April 24 and ends May 3.

Earlier this week the Budget & Tax Center released an analysis of the economic and fiscal impacts of providing all drivers a license regardless of immigration status.  The findings suggest that more than 250,000 undocumented immigrants could be eligible for a license and their children too.  The net fiscal impact of issuing these licenses would be minimal, based on experiences in other states, and estimated revenue from fees could likely cover the cost of providing the licenses completely.

For years, North Carolina has been at the forefront of adopting measures that improve safety on the roads, from graduated driver’s licenses for first-time drivers to texting bans to strict requirements on the transportation of children. But one simple measure has been ignored: ensuring all drivers have a driver’s license, regardless of their immigration status.  In fact, since 2006, North Carolina has adopted more stringent identification requirements that effectively banned undocumented immigrants and others from obtaining a license.  This movement is in the opposite direction of the now 12 states that have expanded access to driver’s licenses recognizing the public safety benefits to having all drivers tested and insured.

Beyond providing greater assurance for all drivers that those on the road are tested, licensed and insured, driver’s licenses provide an important ability for workers to get to their jobs particularly as car travel is the dominant mode of transportation in North Carolina.  This increased mobility will likely lead to greater consumer spending, a more reliable workforce for employers, and a net benefit to the economy.

Medicaid efficiencyThe wonks at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released an outstanding little report this week about America’s health insurance program for low-income people and some of the biggest myths that have been perpetuated about it.

The overarching message: Despite the far right propaganda, Medicaid remains an efficient and flexible program that dramatically improves the lives of participants, promotes work and is an outstanding deal for states that expand it under the Affordable Care Act.

Read the entire report by clicking here.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for the  inside political scoop on the Medicaid battles and the real reason the right refuses to allow its expansion in states like North Carolina, Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman had the answer in yesterday’s New York Times: Read More

Gay marriage 3It’s been less than two years since North Carolina officially enshrined discrimination in its constitution by passing the execrable Amendment One. Now, less than 24 months later, just as Speaker Thom Tillis famously/infamously predicted, the law seems fast on its way to obsolescence and, ultimately, the dustbin of history.

Yesterday, lawyers with the ACLU of North Carolina asked a federal court to block enforcement of the law on behalf of three same-sex couples seeking recognition of their marriages – a result that developments in other states makes increasingly plausible.

Now, today, new polling shows that a sizable majority of North Carolinians opposes the substance of the discrimination amendment. According to one of the nation’s most accurate polling shops, Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling, not only do 40% of voters (62% of young voters) favor total marriage equality, but:

“There is increasingly little division among voters in the state about whether gay couples should at least have some sort of legal rights in the form of civil unions. 62% support either marriage or civil unions for same sex couples to only 34% who think they should have no legal recognition at all. 68% of both Democrats and independents support at least civil unions, and even Republicans narrowly do by a 50/48 spread.”

The discrimination amendment, of course, bars even civil unions for same-sex couples. All in all, it’s hard to see how the amendment survives the decade — and maybe even the year. Stay tuned.