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Robeson County officials settled a complaint with the federal justice department this week, saying it would take steps to improve access for disabled residents to public resources.

The federal agency had found the county had numerous violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (which was passed 25 years ago) , leaving those with disabilities unable to access county services and programs as easily as other citizens.

A news release from the U.S. Justice Department about the settlement noted that Robeson County, on North Carolina’s border with South Carolina, has a poverty rate of over 30 percent, and nearly 40 percent of its population identities as Native American, and 25 percent are African-American.

According to the settlement, the county agreed to make changes to buildings and county property so that parking, building entrances, restrooms, service counters and drinking fountains can be accessed by those with physical disabilities. The sheriff’s office will also have to devise a plan so that its deputies and emergency responders can communicate with those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, and accommodations will be made at voting sites so that those that use wheelchairs or who are blind or with vision issues can cast votes without hindrances.

The settlement comes the same week the N.C. Auditor’s Office released an audit that found the public school system in Robeson County misused $3 million in Medicaid funds meant for children with special needs.

From an Associated Press article about the audit:

The audit issued Monday says for three fiscal years starting in 2011, the school system did not use about $1 million per year in Medicaid reimbursements to provide services for special-needs students as required.

The school system said in a letter to the auditor’s office that it wasn’t told by state education officials that the money was required to be used for special-needs students. It acknowledges that reimbursement money went to other district needs.

State schools Superintendent June Atkinson said in a letter that education officials will work with Robeson County and districts statewide on how the reimbursements are used.

Click here to read the entire audit.

Robeson County officials settled a complaint with the federal justice department this week, saying it would take steps to improve access for disabled residents to public resources.

The federal agency had found the county had numerous violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (which was passed 25 years ago) , leaving those with disabilities unable to access county services and programs as easily as other citizens.

A news release from the U.S. Justice Department about the settlement noted that Robeson County, on North Carolina’s border with South Carolina, has a poverty rate of over 30 percent, and nearly 40 percent of its population identities as Native American, and 25 percent is African-American.

According to the settlement, the county agreed to make changes to buildings and county property so that parking, building entrances, restrooms, service counters and drinking fountains can be accessed by those with physical disabilities. The sheriff’s office will also have to devise a plan so that its deputies and emergency responders can communicate with those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, and accommodations will be made at voting sites so that those that use wheelchairs or who are blind or with vision issues can cast votes without hindrances.

The settlement comes the same week the N.C. Auditor’s Office released an audit that found the public school system in Robeson County misused $3 million in Medicaid funds meant for children with special needs.

From an Associated Press article about the audit:

The audit issued Monday says for three fiscal years starting in 2011, the school system did not use about $1 million per year in Medicaid reimbursements to provide services for special-needs students as required.

The school system said in a letter to the auditor’s office that it wasn’t told by state education officials that the money was required to be used for special-needs students. It acknowledges that reimbursement money went to other district needs.

State schools Superintendent June Atkinson said in a letter that education officials will work with Robeson County and districts statewide on how the reimbursements are used.

Click here to read the entire audit.

NC Budget and Tax Center

For the 2015-16 school year, the NC Department of Public Instruction reports that around 1,200 public schools are eligible to participate in an initiative that aims to fight hunger in high-poverty schools. Referred to as Community Eligibility, this initiative allows eligible high-poverty schools, groups of schools, or school districts to offer breakfast and lunch to all students free of charge.

When children arrive at school hungry, it is very difficult for them to concentrate and do well in the classroom. Accordingly, community eligibility helps ensure that all children in high-poverty schools arrive to class each day fed and ready to learn. Last year, North Carolina got off to a good start with nearly 650 schools (around half of eligible schools) adopting community eligibility to feed more than 310,000 kids. Participating schools note that more NC children are eating school meals because of community eligibility, with a particular increase in the number of children eating breakfast.

The second year of this initiative provides an opportunity for additional eligible schools to join this initiative. With 1,200 public schools eligible for the upcoming school year, this means that hundreds of schools are not currently participating. Eligible schools that are not currently participating in Community Eligibility have until August 31, 2015 to confirm that they will join the initiative.

The impact of Community Eligibility extends beyond ensuring that children arrive to class fed and ready to learn. By eliminating the need to collect school meal applications, schools are able to use their staff more effectively and reduce administrative costs. These cost savings are likely welcomed by local schools amid limited financial resources and tight budgets.

This is not to say that the transition is easy. For example, a key feature of community eligibility is that schools no longer have to collect school meal applications; however, this paperwork has long been key to determining school funding mechanisms and poverty estimates, among other things. However, the USDA and US Dept. of Education have issued a variety of rules intended to address this issue and viable solutions exist for other particular challenges.

North Carolina has an opportunity to build upon its initial success with fighting child hunger through community eligibility. The overall health and prospects for the state will largely depend on the care and attention given to one of our most valuable assets – our youth. Supporting participating schools and getting more eligible schools to join community eligibility helps promote opportunity for all children.

NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina is losing ground on key economic indicators such as child poverty and family economic security. A new report from NC Child  paints a bleak picture of how children are suffering from the fallout of an economy that is downright broken for many North Carolina families, as well as state lawmakers’ recent policy decisions. Genuine progress is within the state’s reach if lawmakers make smart investments and enact better policy choices.

More than a half of a million children belong to families that are living in poverty and struggling to pay the bills, even though the state just entered into the sixth year of the official economic recovery. In fact, child poverty is higher now than it was when the recession hit: 1 in 4 children currently live in poverty compared to 1 in 5 children in 2008. And, poverty has the fiercest grip on children of color and children under age five here and across the United States.

Previous research shows that three-quarters of these children have at least one parent that works, but low wages and unstable employment keep families in the economic struggle. This economic reality is further confirmed in the NC Child report, which finds that nearly 1 in 3 children live in families that lack secure employment, an increase since the recession hit. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

Within the last month, policymakers in three states approved tax changes that will strengthen family economic security and support a stronger, more inclusive economy. Policymakers in New Jersey and Rhode Island approved expansions in their state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) and California officials adopted its first state EITC, which goes to people that work but earn low wages so that they can better make ends meet and avoid raising their children in poverty.

North Carolina is no longer among the 26 states that have a state EITC. Our state lawmakers allowed the state EITC to expire in 2013 when they enacted deep tax cuts that primarily benefited the wealthy and profitable corporations. The result was a tax shift—away from the wealthy and onto everyone else—that did nothing to improve the financial well-being of people who work hard for low pay and struggle to pay the bills.

On the other end of the spectrum, New Jersey lawmakers approved an increase in its state EITC to 30 percent from 20 percent of the federal credit that will benefit over half a million families. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

Women will join together at the Bicentennial Mall (near the state legislature) at 5pm today to demand better public policies that would improve the lives of women and families. The rally is part of the North Carolina NAACP’s Moral Monday Movement Summer of Moral Resistance, with support from women’s coalitions such as NC Women United.moralwednesday

Speakers will lift up the fallout from Governor McCrory’s and the state legislature’s policies that have been to the detriment—not the benefit—of Tar Heel women. These policy decisions include the underfunding of education from early education and care to college, shifting taxes away from the wealthy and onto everyone else, failing to expand Medicaid, refusing to give workers the dignity of a minimum wage increase, and enacting the nation’s worst voter suppression law.

Just on the economy issue alone it is easy to see why women will show up tonight and use their voices for change. Women have made tremendous economic strides over the last few decades. Yet, women are still more likely than men to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to pay the bills.

The fact that women face more economic hardships than men is well-documented in the data. Here are some quick facts from my latest poverty report, North Carolina’s Greatest Challenge, that put Tar Heel women’s economic struggle into perspective:

  • The poverty rate for women in the state was 19.3 percent in 2013 compared to 16.4 percent for men. That year, Tar Heel women earned just 82.9 cents for every dollar men earned.
  • Nearly 156,500 women in the state would have to be lifted out of poverty for women to have the same poverty rate as men.
  • Women of color face particularly high rates of poverty. In 2013, Latina, American Indian, and African American women were more than twice as likely to live in poverty as Asian and white women.
  • Three in four children who were poor lived in families with at least one worker.
  • Gender inequality extends into retirement age too: older female adults are far more likely to struggle to make ends meet than men.

Put simply, from Murphy to Manteo the economy is just downright broken for many women and their families. North Carolina needs policies that create equal opportunity and ensure that prosperity is broadly shared so that all North Carolinians can reach their potential. Yet, the policies that lawmakers are prioritizing are not aligned with the research and fail to meet this standard. Women and allies will join forces tonight to demand better choices to help ensure a better future for us all.

Your silence will not protect you—as Audre Lorde declared. Details are here if you want to join them.