NC JUSTICE NEWS: Poverty in Rural North Carolina + Immigration Debate + State Earned Income Tax Credit

January 31, 2012

POVERTY IN RURAL NC: Counties plagued by "persistent poverty"

The Truth & Hope Tour of Poverty in North Carolina passed through Halifax County, an area where more than one in every four individuals is living under the federal poverty line, defined as a household income of $23,000 for a family of four. Halifax is one of 10 counties in the state that have “persistent poverty,” meaning they had poverty rates of over 20 percent for more than three decades. Counties in Eastern North Carolina have had the least diversification in employment, fewer adults and teachers with advanced degrees, a lack of affordable, adequate housing, and poor access to health care. In turn, individuals have struggled to find work and rise above the poverty line.

One of those individuals is Kenneth Moore, who moved back to Scotland Neck in November 2010, hoping to find the proud, working-class community he had left behind years before. Instead, he found a skeleton of the town he remembered, rattled by collapsed manufacturing and staggering poverty. Moore and his wife are currently living off the $9.40 she makes each hour deboning chickens at a nearby poultry processing plant, as Moore has been unable to find a job in the restaurant industry. Former mayor James Mill estimates that 40 percent of Scotland Neck’s population is impoverished. Read more about Moore's story and Halifax county here.

The Truth & Hope Tour of Poverty aimed to highlight the harsh conditions that individuals such as Kenneth Moore face in North Carolina, and how the neediest communities often end up dismissed by the powers that be, said Rev. William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP. “It’s not a sin to be poor,” Barber said. “But it is a sin to see our brothers and sisters in poverty and ignore them.”

The second leg of the Truth and Hope tour will visit southeastern North Carolina – including Goldsboro,Greenville, and Fayetteville – in early March, following the Historic Thousands on Jones St. (HK on J) event on February 11.

Watch a video from the tour’s stop in Scotland Neck here. Follow @truthandhopenc on Twitter for updates, and “Like” the tour’s Facebook page for access to photos, video, and articles about the tour.

IMMIGRATION DEBATE: Potential policies would cost state

During a special House panel last week, activists packed into a committee room at the North Carolina General Assembly to debate on immigration. The legislative committee heard a variety of potential policies, many of which would only waste vital state resources and harm families while expanding the most intrusive parts of government.

Lawmakers should be focusing on creating opportunity, not constructing roadblocks to prosperity for all individuals. There is currently one proposal circulating that would require state agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, to report undocumented individuals or face being charged with a crime. Such a law would only create new levels of bureaucracy, increase costs, and waste resources on an issue that practically does not exist. Even U.S. citizens would be at risk of being reported, and face delays getting much-needed services. Under such a law, many individuals would choose not to request services for their children due to fear of being targeted, leaving children at risk.

The numbers show that undermining access to services only costs taxpayers more money in the long run. Preventing access to prenatal care, for example, is substantially more expensive than providing the service. DHHS is already facing a multi-million dollar resource shortage – putting money into training DHHS workers to detect unauthorized immigrant applicants for services would be extremely expensive and time consuming.

Demonizing undocumented immigrants is already vicious and unacceptable behavior. To do so while also increasing costs and expanding bureaucracy is incomprehensible.

STATE EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT: Supports working families

The State Earned Income Tax Credit is instrumental in supporting North Carolina’s working families and economic recovery. It has never been more important to strengthen this vital resource.

The EITC, which is equal to 5 percent of the federal EITC, is available to low- and moderate-income workers who have worked in the past year and earned less than $36,000 to $49,000 in 2011, depending on marital status and number of children. The EITC encourages and rewards work, as well as offsets these workers’ substantial state and local tax contributions, leveling the playing field for these workers. Taxpayers who receive the state EITC pay a greater share of their incomes in total state and local taxes than wealthier families.

Research has found that the EITC encourages parents to enter and stay in the workforce, creating a clear pathway to the middle class. In 2010, the income boost provided by the federal EITC lifted 5.4 million Americans out of poverty. The state EITC also provides a much-needed boost to local economies by putting nearly millions of dollars into the pockets of low-income working families. This money is more likely to be spent quickly and close to home, injecting funds into local businesses.

HKonJ: Save the Date - February 11, 2012

Five years ago, the North Carolina NAACP began building a multi-racial, multi-issue alliance of progressive organizations in North Carolina to form the Historic Thousands on Jones Street People’s Assembly Coalition (HKonJ-PAC). The movement – made up of over 125 member organizations –will continues its anti-racist, anti-poverty and anti-war agenda with its annual march this February.

The 6th Annual HKonJ march will take place on Saturday, February 11, 2012. Armed with the historic shout, “We the People Shall Not Be Moved: Forward Together Not One Step Back!”, HKonJ aims to unite individuals from all walks of life. Citizens will march in support of voting rights, equitable education, a fair state budget, job creation, health care and community investments, and the protection of the rights of immigrants.

Assembling will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning at Shaw University on South Street in Raleigh. The march will begin at 10:30. Visit the HKonJ website for more information and details on the HKonJ 14-point agenda. We’ll see you on Saturday, February 11.

CAMPAIGN FOR BETTER CARE: Lunch for older adults, caregivers

Join the NC Justice Center and AARP NC on Thursday, February 2 in Goldsboro for the next Campaign for Better Care community luncheon and make your voice heard on one of the most important, complex issues in North Carolina today.

The Campaign for Better Care aims to make improvements in the health system for older adults and build a strong, lasting consumer voice for better health care. Come and share your experiences about what you think needs to be changed in our health system and take advantage of the expertise offered from the AARP and the Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) and more. Anton J. Gunn, Regional Director (Region IV) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will be speaking at the event.

The free event will be held from 11:30 am - 2:00 pm at the Wayne County Services on Aging in Goldsboro. To reserve your seat, contact Services on Aging at 919-731-1591 or Nicole Dozier at nicole@ncjustice.org or 919-856-2146.

CRUCIAL CONVERSATION: What's next for politics in 2012?

It looks like 2012 is going to be a huge year in North Carolina politics and public policy. Between the General Assembly’s “midnight madness” fiasco, other special legislative sessions, a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment to restrict marriage, a presidential primary, a court fight over redistricting, a legislative “short session,” chronic economic and fiscal crises, a presidential/ gubernatorial/ council of state/ legislative election and the most aggressively reactionary state legislature in decades, it’s hard to imagine how things could be much crazier. So what does public opinion tells us is going to happen? What ought to happen?

Don’t miss a chance to gather some answers to these questions from two of the state’s leading experts. Join NC Policy Watch at noon on Thursday, February 2, for a Crucial Conversation lunch featuring Tom Jensen and Chris Fitzsimon. Tom Jensen is the Director of the nationally recognized polling firm, Public Policy Polling and oversees its day to day operations. Chris Fitzsimon is the Director of N.C. Policy Watch and North Carolina's leading progressive media personality. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear from these two experts at this critical time.

The event will be held at the Marbles Kids Museum at 210 E. Hargett St. in downtown Raleigh. Pre-registration is required. For more information contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com.

 

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