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This Friday, approximately 1.7 million North Carolinians—including 51,000 veterans—will see their food assistance cut when a temporary boost in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits ends, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Such cuts will be another blow to Tar Heel families trying to make ends meet and get a foothold on the economic ladder. Of those receiving SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) in North Carolina, 85 percent are households with children, older adults, or people with disabilities (see this chart).

SNAP benefits are very modest now, with an average monthly benefit of $121.37 per person in North Carolina. The looming benefit cut will vary depending on family size, ranging from $36 a month for a family of four to $11 a month for a single person. These are deep cuts, equating to about 16 “thrifty” meals per month for a family of three, according to the CBPP report. Read More

The government shutdown finally ended last week, but the fight for a balanced approach to the federal budget continues. As part of the deal struck last week, Congress agreed to negotiate a comprehensive budget agreement that addresses sequestration and opens the door for new revenues. Perhaps the best potential source of new revenues comes from reining in the special tax loopholes, deductions, and outright giveaways that allow too many corporations to avoid paying their fair share in taxes.

Over the last year, we’ve profiled some of these tax loopholes, along with the corporations that use them to avoid their responsibilities. This month’s issue takes a look at IBM, which earned $45 billion in profits over the past five yeas, and managed to shelter almost $20 billion of those profits in offshore bank accounts to avoid US taxation. As a result, Big Blue managed to lower its actual effective tax rate to 5.8 percent, well below the statutory corporate tax rate of 35 percent.

As long as corporations like IBM are able to avoid paying their taxes, the rest of us will be asked to pick up the tab for addressing our nation’s budget challenges through spending cuts to key investments that grow our economy and protect our most vulnerable.

For more details, see the profile on IBM.

As multiple news outlets are reporting, Congress appears poised to secure a deal that re-opens the federal government, allows the US Treasury to pay its bills by lifting the debt limit, and establishes formal talks to develop a long-term strategy for putting our nation’s fiscal house in order. Assuming Congress passes the deal, these new negotiations set up the opportunity for a new approach to the federal budget—one that includes new revenues to support our economy rather than new spending cuts that increase poverty.

The deal itself is straightforward and includes no significant policy concessions to members of the US House of Representative who precipitated the government shutdown as part of efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. For details on the deal, see below the fold:

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While rumors swirl about a deal to re-open the federal government, the impact of the shutdown on North Carolina is becoming ever more apparent. In this week’s issue of Prosperity Watch, Tazra Mitchell looks at the consequences of the federal government shutdown on children, the most vulnerable residents of our state, and specifically at the suspension of child care subsidies that are hurting kids and forcing their parents to choose between caring for their kids and going to work. For more, see the latest issue of Prosperity Watch.

It appears that North Carolina is the only state to stop processing applications for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, formerly known as welfare, due to the federal government shutdown. This news comes just days after the Governor’s Administration was the only one in the nation to turn away low-income mothers and infants from food assistance via the WIC program. Fortunately, state officials quickly reversed course last week and accepted federal contingency funding to keep WIC assistance for hungry families.

In a new editorial, the Charlotte Observer rightly points out that it is “unnecessary” for the Governor’s administration to push the stop button on applications because North Carolina can float the money, continue assistance and services, and then request reimbursement by the federal government thereafter:

“Last month, the U.S. Health and Human Services Family Assistance Office wrote a pre-shutdown letter to states, promising to reimburse money states had to spend to cover federal TANF benefits. That’s probably why so few states have yet to talk about shutting down their TANF programs. Read More