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Hardship across North Carolina requires immediate federal action

As members of our North Carolina congressional delegation return to Washington to develop additional responses to COVID-19 and its public health and economic impacts, it’s essential that they closely examine evidence of the devastation the pandemic is wreaking here and around the country and shape a legislative response accordingly.

This is particularly true of our U.S. Senators Burr and Tillis, who have yet to vote on a relief package since the early days of the COVID-19 crisis.

In analysis release today, the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities demonstrates the staggering need that has arisen across the country (including North Carolina) in the face of COVID-19 and its public health and economic impacts. As the authors write:

“Hardship is high among families for varied reasons. Many have lost jobs or seen their earnings fall. While many jobless adults qualify for unemployment benefits, some do not. For example, those who were out of work prior to the pandemic often do not qualify for jobless benefits. This includes those who left employment because they were ill or needed to care for a new baby or ill household member and those who lost employment during the normal labor market ups and downs that occur even during good times. It also includes people who recently completed schooling or training and now can’t find a job. Households are also facing rising food prices and higher costs as children are home and missing out on meals at school and in child care and summer programs. And with widespread job losses, getting help from extended family members and friends can be more difficult.”

Data from the report on the hardships afflicting North Carolina include:

  • 713,000 households (including 522,000 children) didn’t have enough food to eat during the last week of June through July 7′
  • the number of households receiving food assistance from February to May 2020 increased by 13%; and
  • 1 in 5 North Carolinians are behind on rent.

And while these indicators point toward families struggling to meet basic needs, they don’t fully capture the compounding effect this moment is having in blocking communities of color from the opportunity to survive and thrive. As the report authors note:

“Hardship, joblessness, and the health impacts of the pandemic itself are widespread, but they are particularly prevalent among Black, Latino, Indigenous, and immigrant households. These disproportionate impacts reflect harsh inequities — often stemming from structural racism — in education, employment, housing, and health care. Black, Latino, and immigrant workers are likelier to work in industries paying low wages, where job losses have been far larger than in higher-paid industries. Households of color and immigrant families also often have fewer assets to fall back on during hard times. Immigrant households face additional unique difficulties: many don’t qualify for jobless benefits and other forms of assistance, and those who do qualify for help often forgo applying, fearing that receiving help will make it harder for them or someone in their family to attain or retain lawful permanent resident status (also known as “green card” status) in the future.”

Given this backdrop, swift and bold action from Congress — particularly from of our U.S. Senators — is essential in order to build a legislative package that will respond to the crisis and secure an inclusive recovery. In particular, new legislation must shore up supports for families and communities in need and sustain public infrastructure at the state and local levels until this crisis is under control.

The bottom line: Hardship left unaddressed will stall our recovery, worsen health, education and economic outcomes for individuals and communities and signal a rejection of the humanity of all people across North Carolina. It is time for the Senate to act.

Click here to read the full report.

Alexandra Sirota is the Director of the N.C. Budget & Tax Center.

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