NC JUSTICE NEWS, June 8: Budget, FMAP, and more


A Message from
NC Justice Center Executive Director Melinda Lawrence

New national joblessness numbers released on Friday paint a grim picture for working families in North Carolina and nationwide. The unemployment rate remains high (9.7 percent), and the slight decline in the unemployment rate is largely due to workers leaving the labor force rather than finding a job. Long-term unemployment reached its highest rate since 1948.

These numbers aren’t abstractions. Every job lost represents a family struggling to make ends meet, to pay the rent, and to save up capital so that the next generation has some opportunity.

Worth noting: while the private sector added jobs this month, states, localities, and school districts cut 22,000 jobs. State and local governments have cut 231,000 jobs, including 100,000 local education jobs, since the peak in August 2008. And believe it or not, there are still people out there arguing that we need fewer local jobs, not more.

We at the Justice Center believe that preserving and creating local jobs in North Carolina is the best way to get out of this recession and create an economy that works for everyone. That’s what we’ll continue to fight for.



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Job Openings at the Justice Center:

Investigative Reporter, NC Policy Watch

New Media Director, NC Policy Watch

Public Policy Advocate, Education & Law Project

Bilingual Administrative Assistant

Litigation Paralegal

Policy Analyst, Budget & Tax Center


The latest publications from the Justice Center

LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN - Health Choice: Keep this essential program open

BTC REPORTS - The Senate's Budget: No big surprises in spending but some major policy shifts proposed

BTC REPORTS - North Carolina Jobs Plan: Connecting working families to economic opportunity now

LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN - Protect North Carolina's homes from predatory practices




SUPPORT THE JUSTICE CENTER in its work to secure opportunity and prosperity for everyone in North Carolina.


Progressive Voices:

Penny-wise but "pounds-foolish" by Betsy Vetter and Pam Seamans of the NC Allians for Health

The Role of the Church in Modern Politics and Social Change by Willona Stallings of NC Council of Churches

Why We Still Need a new New Deal by David Zonderman, NC State Professor of History

How the Recession is Undermining Common Good Solutions by Elaine Mejia of the NC Budget & Tax Center



Catch NC Policy Watch's radio show News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon

This week’s topics:

The state budget with State Sen. Rick Glazier

Rep. Bob Etheridge on FMAP, COBRA subsidies, and the BP oil spill

Linda Harrill of Communities in Schools NC on the dropout rate and growing demands on nonprofits

Catch News & Views in Raleigh each Sunday at 7:30 a.m. on WRAL-FM (101.5) and WCMC-FM (99.9), or find a station near you.








Budget: States Need Fiscal Relief From FMAP

Before the Memorial Day holiday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a jobs bill that failed to include a 6-month extension to increase federal responsibility for Medicaid costs. This is referred to as FMAP, which stands for Federal Medical Assistance Percentag).

Without this fiscal relief to states, North Carolina faces a loss of $500 million. This, writes policy analyst Alexandra Forter Sirota, would imperil North Carolina's economic recovery and have profound negative consequences for job growth.

A loss of these federal dollars, at a key point in the early stages of economic recovery, will have a significant impact on the availability of essential public services and the preservation and creation of public- and private-sector jobs.

Economic growth is necessary for job creation and fiscal health. One of the most important drags on economic growth comes from the dire fiscal situation facing states. 

This is a critical moment for federal support of states like North Carolina. Extending FMAP is an essential piece of that support.


Jobs: North Carolina Needs More Economic Medicine, Not Less

The biggest mistage policymakers could make on jobs is to quit when the work in only half-done. The lessons of history -- and the lessons of the past few years -- teach us that lesson.

"One of the biggest problems confronting state budget writers at present is the current state of inertia in Congress," writes Rob Schofield this week. "Unless federal lawmakers get moving and renew crucial programs to extend unemployment insurance, COBRA subsidies and aid to the states, North Carolina's fiscal situation (as well as its nascent economic recovery) could be plunged into crisis once more."

Economic growth, not spending cuts, holds the key to reducing debt. In order to keep growth coming, we need more economic stimulus. The earlier stimulus packages have worked beyond any question -- Congressional Budget Office estimates, among others, show that millions of jobs have been created or save.

We need more jobs now, not fewer. Which means we need more economic medicine, not less.


Rev. Barber, HK on J Partners Call For a "Just Budget"

Following the annual People of Color Lobby Day at the North Carolina General Assembly, more than 250 people from the NC NAACP and the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HK on J) Coalition called for what Rev. William Barber termed "a just budget."

Cuts to vital public investments like education, Barber said, are "not only impractical, but immoral."

Proposals to cut $10 million from pre-school programs for low-income children, $15 million more from Smart Start, $9.2 million from mentoring programs, $4 million from programs that teach English to children for whom it is a second language (ESL); $3 million from dropout prevention programs, and $1.9 million from the Disadvantaged Student Supplemental Fund were disturbing.

All of these are proven programs that give the children of the hardest hit tools to escape the cycle of poverty.

The partners have provided 35 specific investments that would make North Carolina stronger and how we could pay for them. Applying these principles to education would "protect teachers salaries, safeguard our public schools against the trend toward resegregation, defend children against the worst ravages of poverty and help them become productive and independent," said Barber.

The proposals are available online at and


Thousands Lose Benefits: Tens of Thousands More Could Be Affected

When Congress failed to extend emergency unemployment benefits, we knew that North Carolina would be hit hard. With unemployment still just below 11 percent, families are suffering.

Last week, more than 21,000 people stopped receiving checks. These are just the first people afftected by the benefits phaseout. Ultimately, more than 164,000 North Carolinians face a loss of benefits over the next seven weeks.

As a Budget & Tax Center analyst told the News & Observer on Monday:

“Without this money, many families obviously would face significant financial hardship in terms of their ability to pay bills, the potential risk of foreclosure, and bankruptcy,” said Alexandra Sirota, public policy analyst at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center, a nonprofit that advocates for low-income families.

Congress must act to extend these unemployment benefits. If not during the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, when?



Work at the Justice Center

NC Policy Watch is a special project of the Justice Center and North Carolina’s leading progressive public policy think tank. It seeks to improve the quality of life in North Carolina by helping to create an environment in which state leaders are empowered to adopt progressive public policy solutions that address the state’s most pressing problems.

NC Policy Watch is seeking to hire two positions to join its communications team. One position is for an Investigative Journalist to expand the project’s timely reporting and analysis of important issues facing North Carolina. This position will focus on producing in-depth and investigative stories on issues often ignored by the mainstream media, particularly ones that address the needs of low-income communities.

NC Policy Watch is also seeking a New Media Director to join its communications team and expand the project’s timely reporting and analysis of important issues facing North Carolina. This position will focus on all aspects of online and social media, including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and YouTube.


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