NC JUSTICE NEWS: "American Winter" + The Looming Unemployment Cliff + Tax Saga Continues

May 29, 2013

UNEMPLOYMENT: 33 days until thousands go over the unemployment cliff

There are just 33 days until July 1 — just enough time to keep thousands of North Carolina families from going over the unemployment cliff.

North Carolina has the 5th highest unemployment rate in the country, with three unemployed job-seekers for every available job. There is no doubt that NC families need help, but instead they find themselves under attack simply because they are out of work. Governor Pat McCrory and the NC Legislature implemented unprecedented, extreme and damaging changes to NC’s Unemployment Insurance system earlier this year — the most severe Unemployment Insurance cuts of any state in the nation. This is not a legacy we want to carry on for future generations.

North Carolina cannot wait on action for the unemployed. Hundreds of thousands of jobless workers thrown out of work through no fault of their own will face deepening poverty as a result of changes in the unemployment system that go into effect on July 1. Tell lawmakers that it's time to make Unemployment Insurance work for North Carolina again.

CRUCIAL CONVERSATION: The truth about North Carolina's Medicaid program

NC Policy Watch and the North Carolina Justice Center's Health Access Coalition are proud to announce a very special and timely Crucial Conversation luncheon on the truth about North Carolina's Medicaid program.

Hardly a day goes by of late in which some politician doesn’t allege that Medicaid, North Carolina’s health care program for poor people, is “broken.” In speech after speech, conservative state leaders repeat the same mantra: To rein in “out-of-control” spending, Medicaid must be fundamentally altered so that it is a program based on “choice,” “efficiency” and “competition.” Yet the truth of the matter is that despite its many imperfections, North Carolina Medicaid remains a model for the nation.

The event will feature one of the nation’s most knowledgeable experts on health care policy: Ron Pollack, Executive Director of the Washington, DC-based research and advocacy organization, Families USA. Families USA’s numerous reports and analyses are frequently cited at Congressional hearings, in state legislatures, by the media and by consumer organizations that Families USA works with all across the country.

Join us as Pollack uses his formidable experience in this critical field to debunk the Medicaid mythology and explain how all of us can be a part of the effort to set the record straight. The event will be held on Tuesday, June 11, at noon at the Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. at the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets. Click here to register.

"AMERICAN WINTER": Documentary screening highlights poverty, safety net

The NC Justice Center and Durham People's Alliance will host a screening of the documentary film "American Winter" next week on Tuesday, June 4, in order to raise awareness of poverty, economic security, and the importance of the safety net in North Carolina.

American Winter follows the personal stories of families struggling in the aftermath of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Filmed over the course of the winter months of 2011-12, the film presents an intimate snapshot of the state of the nation's economy as it is playing out in millions of American families, and reveals the human consequences of cuts to social services, the decline of the middle class, and the fracturing of the American Dream. Woven into the film are interviews with economic experts, policy analysts, and religious leaders, as well as interviews with social workers on the frontlines of the economic fallout.

The event will be held at Motorco Music Hall in Durham. Come early at 6:00 p.m., grab food from Kokyu, the International BBQ inspired food truck, and visit our host organizations’ tables. The film begins at 7:00, followed by a brief panel discussion with Gene Nichol, Director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity. Click here for more information and to register for the event.

TAX SHIFT: House plan continues trend of shifting load on to low-income families

North Carolina's tax shift saga continues with the unveiling of the NC House's new tax plan, which increases the tax load on middle- and low-income tax payers while providing tax cuts for the wealthy a profitable — continuing a damaging pattern for our state's tax system and the broader economy.

The House has proposed to convert the state's personal income tax to a flat rate, a proposal that would make North Carolina more reliant on the sales tax and shift the tax load to the majority of North Carolinians. In short, it asks more from taxpayers who are already struggling in our slowly recovering economy at a time when the state already asks more of middle- and low-income families than those with the highest incomes.

Such a plan also jeopardizes our future by undermining the long-term ability of our state to maintain the building blocks of a strong economy. The bill's sponsors said their plan will result in $1.2 billion less in revenue over five years, but in fact, the annual revenue loss could amount to as much as $573 million upon full implementation. To think about it other terms, that amount is roughly the equivalent to the state's annual investment in funding for early education, child development, aging and adult services, and social services, just one area that affects each and every North Carolinian, regardless of their income.

For in-depth research about the tax proposals facing North Carolina, go to www.ncjustice.org/taxreform.

"RECLAIM NC": Bill harms immigrant community, increases racial profiling

House Bill 786, the “RECLAIM NC” Act, will be up for a vote soon on the NC House floor. In spite of the restricted driving permit that could be offered to some immigrants, it is on balance a bill that will be harmful to the immigrant community in North Carolina, and will increase racial profiling even among US citizens. In the midst of so much going on at the General Assembly, this sweeping immigration legislation has not received the attention and scrutiny it deserves.

Recently, House Bill 786 was amended so that undocumented immigrants wishing to obtain a “restricted driving permit” have to show that they have pre-paid one year of car insurance, which could cost over $1,000 on average in North Carolina. Few undocumented families are going to be able to pay that amount of money up front. They will also face a myriad of other hurdles, including passing a strict criminal background check, proving their presence in North Carolina for a year, and paying costly fees for the permit itself.

The proposal could also prove a threat to public safety for all North Carolinians, since many immigrants will be left out of this new system for licensing and insuring NC drivers. One of the sponsors of the bill has said the bill intends to welcome “good immigrants” and to make life very difficult for “hardened criminals.” But there are many who will not be able to afford the overall cost of the permit or be able to prove their residence before April 1, 2013. People who move to North Carolina in the future will automatically be considered “hardened criminals,” regardless of their life experiences.

The North Carolina Justice Center has introduced a new infographic that explains whether immigrants are likely to be successful in getting a restricted driving permit under this Arizona-copycat bill. It is particularly disheartening that such legislation has arrived at the moment when there is finally Congressional action on immigration reform. North Carolina's leaders seem to be out of step with the rest of the nation.

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