NC Budget and Tax Center

The minimum wage doesn’t even come close to what workers need

Today, the Raising Wages NC coalition is at the North Carolina General Assembly urging legislators to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 and $15 an hour by 2022. This modest, common sense ask isn’t just the right thing to do, it makes economic sense. It’s good for workers who are able to pay for basic expenses, for businesses when consumers have increased purchasing power, and for the health of our entire economy.

One tool that can help make clear just what workers need provide for their families and make ends meet is the Living Income Standard (LIS). Using nine different measures, the LIS documents just how much workers need to earn in order to provide for their families based on family geography, food and housing costs, childcare, healthcare, transportation, and many more common expenses.

With this level of detail, we are able to understand how the expenses of workers in a high-cost, urban county may differ from the expenses of a worker in a rural, more affordable county. Despite differences in the costs families incur, one thing remains consistent across the state: In no county are low-wage workers able to cover the basic necessities while earning the minimum wage.

From the report:

The first step in closing the divide between what people actually earn and what it takes to meet basic needs is raising the state’s minimum wage standard. $7.25 is simply too little to support a family and the economic activity needed to sustain jobs across the state.

Work not only allows individuals and families to meet most basic needs, it also opens the door to new opportunities and a sense of dignity and purpose, all of which have driven America’s economic growth for generations. Restoring the promise of work in well-paying jobs with benefits is the central challenge confronting North Carolina as the state maps a pathway to greater economic security that reaches more households.

The Living Income Standard should be one measure of our progress on that path. It can assess how successful the state is at creating jobs that – at the very least – don’t generate greater societal costs. And it can support efforts to build understanding and a willingness to engage based on the simple fact that in order for families to make ends meet, their wages must match the costs of basic household goods.

In order to see how much workers need to earn in order to make ends meet in your county, visit our 2018 County Economic Snapshots and 2016 Living Income Standard.

Brian Kennedy II is a Public Policy Fellow for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

NC Budget and Tax Center

If passed, Farm Bill’s negative effects will ripple through NC economy

For the past few weeks, we’ve been writing about the 2018 Farm Bill, what it does to SNAP, and how it will affect hungry North Carolinians. Much of the debate has revolved around strict changes to existing work requirements, as well as unfunded mandates and the elimination of important rules like categorical eligibility.

SNAP isn’t just one of the most important anti-poverty tools, lifting nearly 175,000 people in our state, including 81,000 children, out of poverty each year from 2011-2014 — SNAP’s benefits ripple through the economy and support a holistic food system.

SNAP serves as an economic stimulus

With more than 9,700 retailers in the state participate in SNAP, the program is an important public-private partnership that brought $2.2 billion into the North Carolina economy last year. It works by ensuring that consumers can purchase groceries in local stores and those stores, in turn, can keep workers on the job and pay them and so on. In every part of the state, SNAP is a critical source of income for grocers, big box stores, and other food retailers. By reducing SNAP participation, this Farm Bill could have very real consequences for retailers, particularly in areas where low-income communities are concentrated. Researchers estimate that this Farm Bill could cost retailers across the nation $57.5 billion over the next 10 years.

Harming SNAP will harm anti-hunger charities and food banks

SNAP does not reach everyone in need of help. Food banks and private charities play a large role in closing this gap. In 2016, it was estimated that only 72 percent of food insecure North Carolinians were eligible for SNAP. Food banks and private charities filled in the more than $770 million need. Changes in the 2018 Farm Bill would sharply increase the number of North Carolinians ineligible for food assistance, placing an impossible burden on food banks and charities already struggling to meet rising needs.

SNAP has longterm positive effects on health and the economy

Addressing hunger also increases productivity in the work place and classroom, in turn improving health outcomes. A recent study showed adults who had access to food supports as children are 18 percent more likely to graduate from high school and are 16 percent less likely to be obese. Receiving SNAP also increases the employment rate of adults. Experts found a 70 percent increase in the number of households that are employed within a year of receiving benefits.

The Farm Bill has long recognized that the interests of farmers and producers and consumers can align.

The history of Farm Bill legislation has been a bipartisan effort and alignment of support for those struggling to eat and those who produce our food. The current SNAP proposal will have a damaging effect on North Carolina’s food system just as regions across the state are recognizing the economic potential of maintaining and revitalizing food supply chains and connecting them to low-income communities.  North Carolina has the potential to improve the connections between consumers and its nearly $11 billion industry of food agriculture, benefiting both those who produce food and those in need of it. This Farm Bill, however, will weaken this balance by underfunding consumption of food and burdening the state with costs that will detract from agricultural investments.

As Congress prepares to vote on the 2018 Farm Bill tomorrow, it’s important that our representatives understand the implications that harming SNAP will have on every facet of our state. Not only are we obligated to help those in need, it’s critical for the health of our economy that we do so.

Brian Kennedy II is a Public Policy Fellow for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Farm Bill is a costly way to make more North Carolinians hungry

North Carolina already ranks 10th in the nation for its high level of hunger.  The proposed Farm Bill from the U.S. House, expected to be voted on later this week, is likely to drive that figure even higher.

Its combination of cuts to the amount and eligibility within the current program will hurt many North Carolinians, not just those receiving food assistance today.  The broader community that benefits when people can eat, lead productive lives, support their children’s healthy development will also suffer. It is also likely to disrupt the state’s vital food system that grows, processes, prepares and provides food through businesses across the state.

Less discussed in the bill is the failure to provide the funding to states necessary to implement new mandates. Without this federal funding, the costs will shift to North Carolina taxpayers or, alternately, North Carolina leaders will be responsible for keeping food off the table of more North Carolinians.

As has been noted in the discussion of work requirements in other programs, the costs can be significant.  From upgrading IT systems to aligning and staffing new work processes to delivering a new range of services, the implementation and ongoing operation of this federal mandate will cost states in a way that is not supported with the small amount proposed for states in the bill.  The implementation of work requirements for TANF in Tennessee cost the state $70 million, while the state of Kentucky estimates that it will cost $180 million to administer new work requirements in Medicaid.

These dollars also aren’t a good investment since work requirements haven’t demonstrated their effectiveness at moving people to work or economic security.  For example, work requirements in TANF have been connected to the exponential growth in deep poverty and been demonstrated to derail progress in finding work and maintaining household well-being.

If this bill passes, North Carolina could be positioned to make investments in wasteful bureaucracies at a moment when its ability to meet much-needed investments in classrooms, health care and rural development is limited. Not only that, but state lawmakers seek to implement a new regional support model for delivering social services but can’t seem to fund it—thus making clearer that the prospects for additional unfunded federal mandates getting the resources they need to improve programming and outcomes is grim.

It’s time to abandon a costly way to make the health and well-being of more North Carolinians worse.

Commentary

Feeding the Bull City: How Durham is ‘In This Together’ on May 16 and beyond (photos)

The YMCA of the Triangle opened its doors on Monday night to approximately 150 volunteers, who packed over 4,000 meal bags.

(Brian Kennedy and Jessica Burroughs contributed to this post.)  — North Carolina is the 10th hungriest state in the nation, and everyday schools and teachers play a vital role in making sure that hungry children, who come from more than 600,000 food insecure households, have enough to eat. In addition to the thousands of free or reduced price lunches that are served each day, teachers are often reaching into their own pockets to purchase food and snacks for kids to ensure they are fed and ready to learn. Addressing hunger is just one of the many things we ask of teachers beyond their duties of educating students. For this and many more reasons, community members are banding together to ensure that our educators receive the respect they deserve.

A hashtag associated with the May 16th NC Public Schools Day of Advocacy  is #InThisTogether – a fitting sentiment to describe the outpouring of community support and the spirit of togetherness on display throughout Durham. Led by volunteers with the Durham Association of Educators and the NC Council of Churches, countless nonprofits and community members have organized to provide every student who needs a meal on May 16th with a healthy breakfast, lunch and snack. While over 60 percent of Durham Public School students qualify for free or reduced price lunch, organizers set the goal early on in the coordinating process to ensure that every student who needs a meal have access to it.

Symone Kiddoo is a Durham Public Schools social worker and leader in the Durham Association of Educators who is helping to spearhead the community-wide mobilization to ensure full coverage across the district. Kiddoo put it this way:

“All the schools in Durham have been adopted and food has been distributed throughout the day on Tuesday May 15th. Our partners are amazing and we couldn’t have done this without the support of the community. Thirteen district sites and several community sites will be open on Wednesday. We’re all in this together.”

The snapshots in this post (see below) represent just a handful of the countless efforts taking place in Durham over the past few days to collect, pack, and deliver the food. For more complete information about efforts in both the Triangle and across the state, check out Feeding North Carolina’s Students on May 16th from our friends at EdNC. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center

Thursday’s vote in Congress would take food away from at least 133,000 North Carolinians

The U.S. House is preparing to vote on the 2018 Farm Bill this Thursday, a bill that drive up food insecurity, damage the well-being of families and hurt communities across the state.

While there are multiple issues with this bill, including imposing even more severe obstacles for North Carolinians looking for work and failing to address the needs of struggling military families. One of the more sinister provisions would get rid of a rule called categorical eligibility. Data from the Department of Health and Human Services from 2017 shows that this change would take food assistance from 133,000 North Carolinians, including more than 51,000 children who would also be at risk of losing their free or reduced lunch. These are largely working families with children whose parents work low wage jobs and critically need this food assistance in order to place food on the table.

In addition to making sure that thousands of North Carolinians don’t go hungry, eliminating this provision could actually cost the state. This change would make FNS rules more complicated and administratively burdensome, requiring the state to alter its FNS eligibility rules, modify NC FAST (the state’s new benefits delivery system) and applications, and retrain staff. By reducing efficiency and increasing workload, this would likely increase administrative costs—the only state costs associated with FNS benefits—and potentially raise FNS error rates.

See how many people would be impacted in your county:

CountyAll IndividualsChildren
North Carolina132,90251,236
Alamance2,010833
Alexander417134
Alleghany12337
Anson453139
Ashe34097
Avery18759
Beaufort677197
Bertie33174
Bladen581197
Brunswick1,354451
Buncombe3,1411,096
Burke1,042353
Cabarrus2,8871,311
Caldwell1,086334
Camden6118
Carteret792248
Caswell27760
Catawba2,334906
Chatham884385
Cherokee32563
Chowan20654
Clay12936
Cleveland1,397419
Columbus670222
Craven1,165393
Cumberland4,3301,635
Currituck20374
Dare361136
Davidson2,246810
Davie523207
Duplin1,034456
Durham4,6082,062
Edgecombe787221
Forsyth5,3072,239
Franklin920338
Gaston2,8401,060
Gates13034
Graham7822
Granville745278
Greene351136
Guilford7,5993,033
Halifax933246
Harnett1,611628
Haywood750238
Henderson1,266484
Hertford34886
Hoke855350
Hyde5919
Iredell1,187471
Jackson406126
Johnston3,0971,274
Jones19151
Lee1,233502
Lenoir868312
Lincoln800280
Macon517164
Madison22768
Martin373114
McDowell699228
Mecklenburg15,6747,003
Mitchell17733
Montgomery455190
Moore831299
Nash1,280505
New Hanover2,638966
Northampton31981
Onslow1,906697
Orange1,207482
Pamlico16546
Pasquotank662231
Pender746259
Perquimans17745
Person524144
Pitt2,427840
Polk19653
Randolph2,066812
Richmond811250
Robeson2,144771
Rockingham1,153346
Rowan1,830634
Rutherford840241
Sampson1,334542
Scotland37999
Stanly679214
Stokes405114
Surry1,135363
Swain13447
Transylvania357111
Tyrrell6320
Union2,5181,149
Vance885301
Wake10,2974,617
Warren30586
Washington15142
Watauga300106
Wayne1,993785
Wilkes1,044345
Wilson1,534573
Yadkin539207
Yancey27189