NC JUSTICE NEWS: Paid Sick Leave, School Resegregation, Health Reform and more

November 3, 2009

PUBLIC SCHOOLS : NAACP May Go to Court to Stop Wake Co.
The North Carolina NAACP may sue in order to force Wake County to maintain its policy of busing to create socioeconomic diversity in schools. The three new school board members (and a fourth likely to win today's runoff election) all favor "neighborhood schools" and want to end the system's busing policy. But Rev. William Barber, the NC NAACP president and a Justice Center board member, says that would create high-poverty, segregated schools that would amount to "institutional child abuse."
The resegregration of schools will not only diminish the quality of education in Wake County -- separate is not and never will be equal -- but it will also be a monumental step backward for race relations in our communities.
 
HEALTH CARE: BCBS's Campaign Against Reform Backfires
Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has sent mailers to consumers and community leaders that include postcards addressed to Sen. Hagan that call on her to block health care reform. Folks who support reform that includes a public option have been altering the postcards and sending them to Hagan on Blue Cross's dime.
From NC Health Access Coalition Director Adam Searing's opinion piece in the Raleigh News & Observer:
When one thinks about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and its recent actions regarding national health-care reform, it is often too easy to fosrget the history of the nonprofit company. N.C. Blue Cross today is still a nonprofit. For over 60 years it enjoyed broad tax breaks as a charitable organization -- tax breaks that helped it grow and prosper into the commanding market position it has today. Indeed, Blue Cross would not control 96.8 percent of the individual market for health insurance in North Carolina and over 70 percent of the overall market for health coverage if it wasn't for those 60 years of tax breaks...
Today NC Blue Cross is fighting hard to oppose a public health-insurance plan option as a part of national health reform to give North Carolinians more choice of affordable public and private health-care plans. This plan would compete with the modern Blue Cross and offer alternative health plans for North Carolinians. The insurer's stance against this strategy for affordability would likely horrify many of the prominent North Carolinians who worked so hard to create the nonprofit organization for the greater good of the state.
H1N1: Lack of Paid Sick Leave Puts Us All at Risk
With President Obama declaring the H1N1 flu outbreak a national emergency and forty eight states reporting widespread flu activity, public health officials and leading policymakers are getting the connection between public health and paid sick days.
The Centers for Disease Control, the President’s Administration, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and even the Secretary of Commerce are all echoing the same message to prevent the spread of what is commonly known as the “swine flu”: if you’re sick or your child is sick, stay out of work and the schools. 
But with nearly half of all Americans (and half of North Carolina’s workers) lacking even a single paid sick day, the advice is getting harder and harder to follow.  Workers coming down with H1N1 symptoms are simply having to ignore the standard public health advice because they can’t risk losing a day’s pay or even a job.
That’s causing a growing groundswell of voices who are actively making the case for employers to provide paid sick days to their workers. 
 
RECESSION: The Need for the Unemployment Extension
As we all struggle through this recession, it’s worth noting that the unemployment rate for blacks is much higher the rate for whites. Plus, the rate of increase in unemployment for black workers has been greater than the increase for whites.
The unemployment rate for blacks when the recession began (4th quarter of 2007) was 8.2%. By the third quarter of 2009 that rate had climbed to 14.9%. In comparison, the unemployment rate for whites went from 4.0% to 9.6% over the same period.
As families struggle to make ends meet and find work, it is critical for policymakers to provide basic supports. The good news is they can do that and stimulate the economy at the same time. Congress is considering extending the length of time that unemployed workers can claim unemployment benefits. This would support these families directly and every dime will be spent in local communities, thus boosting economic activity.
 
TAX POLICY: Expanding Homebuyer Credit is a Lousy Investment
We know it's not what all the realtors want to hear, but expanding the Homebuyer Tax Credit is a bad idea. The current credit, which gives up to $8,000 to new homebuyers (singles earning up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000), will expire on December 1st. The National Association of Realtors want the credit to be increased to $15,000 and made available to all homebuyers, not just first-timers. The Senate is now considering a measure that would keep alive the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers and give people who have lived in their current home for at least five years a $6,500 tax credit if they buy a new house.
Extending the current credit may make sense because many of the people who take advantage of the credit would not have purchased a home otherwise. But expanding the credit to people who currently own homes is a waste of taxpayer dollars that would be better spent helping the millions of families currently in financial crisis.
 
LEGISLATIVE BRIEFINGS: Coming to a community near you
Get ready for 2010 at a legislative briefing by local legislators and staff from the NC Budget & Tax Center, NC Justice Center and United Way of North Carolina.
Experts will discuss top issues in state public policy such as:
  • Impacts of current economic conditions on working families and the state budget
  • Updates on key public efforts that support low-income workers and their families, such as the EITC, child-care subsidies, children’s health insurance and affordable housing
  • Discussion of implementation and use of federal economic recovery funds
The first briefing takes place in Fayetteville on Nov. 10. Ensuing events will be held in Raleigh, Durham, Wilmington, Asheville, Rocky Mount, Hickory and the Triad area.
Research & Publications: