Tax day seems to bring out the Scrooge in some people. Take for instance the gentleman who wrote into the Hendersonville Times News with a letter entitled “Pretty soon, we’ll all be on the dole.” His letter reflects an attitude held by many that our state government is wasting money, and the services the state provides are only benefiting lazy people who don’t want to work. These perceptions couldn’t be farther from the truth.
A breakdown of our state budget shows that approximately 60% of the budget goes to education. One fourth of the budget is spent on health and human services to care for poor children and the disabled, blind or mental ill in our state.
North Carolina’s cash assistance welfare program ended ten years ago. Work First, which now provides Temporary Aid to Families in Need for a limited period of time and requires recipients to work, has reduced the number of people ‘on the dole’ by 85%.
Many of the people seeking assistance from state health and human service programs are working full-time but do not have access to employer-provided health care and do not earn enough to afford private insurance. This chart prepared by the Cecil G. Shep Center, shows over 50% of adults earning less that 200% of the Federal Poverty Level are uninsured; 68% of children in this income level have no health insurance. These children, like tiny Tim Cratchit, cannot afford to see a doctor when they are sick.
Figures for the State Earned Income Tax Credit show the same thing, people are working hard but are not earning enough to keep pace with the rising costs of necessities like housing and child care. This year, one out of five NC families claimed an Earned Income Tax Credit on their federal tax return. Of these families, 69% earned less than $20,000 for the year.
Programs like the Health Choice for children, the High Risk Insurance Pool and the State Earned Income Tax Credit are not a waste of tax-payer money but proven, effective programs that can help lift millions of North Carolinians out of poverty.
Scrooge found his redemption in helping others. Now that tax day has passed, maybe those begrudging North Carolina taxpayers can soften their hearts and open their eyes to see that government programs that help the poor ultimately benefit all of us.