NC JUSTICE NEWS: Support the EITC + Jobless Workers + Cuts-Only Approach

February 21, 2012

STRENGTHEN EITC: Join the campaign to support crucial tax credit

A key policy to help working families make ends meet is North Carolina's refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). A strong state EITC is especially critical now and we need to send a signal to lawmakers that there is broad support for North Carolina’s EITC from organizations and individuals around the state. That’s why the Budget & Tax Center is collecting organizational endorsements of North Carolina’s EITC – and we need you to be part of this effort. To endorse the BTC's Campaign to Strengthen the EITC, simply click here and sign up your organization online.

The EITC works at the state level works by supplementing the same federal policy that has been in place since the 1970s and been demonstrated to reward work and keep families out of poverty. The credit offsets the greater share of the income paid in taxes by the lowest income North Carolinians, and through the EITC, eligible working families receive a tax credit and a boost to their incomes. At a critical time in North Carolina's economic recovery, more than 880,000 families qualify for the state EITC. These families benefit from the average credit of $100 to pay for groceries, utilities, and transportation to work. The credit also ripples into local economies and maintains spending in communities and businesses.

Take a moment to formally sign your organization up by clicking here and please share with other organizations. For more information, contact BTC Director Alexandra Sirota at alexandra@ncjustice.org.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE: Benefits extended, with a catch

At the Historic Thousands on Jones Street rally on February 11, the NC Justice Center collected stories from jobless workers about their experiences with unemployment insurance. We met a man named George Jeeter, who lost everything in the recession. Since being laid off from his job in early 2009, George has found occasional short-term jobs but not enough to make his mortgage payments. Now, he's at risk of losing his family's home to foreclosure. Watch his story here.

George and countless other jobless workers across the state simply want to get back to work. Yet with a current job shortfall of over 500,000, there are more than four unemployed workers for every available job in North Carolina. Last week, Congress approved a package to extend unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed who exhaust their state benefits through the end of 2012. This is a significant boost for the millions of Americans and thousands of North Carolinians who rely on this meager but vital supplement to meet their families’ housing, food, energy and other basic needs.

Yet the package was not a perfect solution. The bill contained only modest funding for reemployment services, included some troubling provisions regarding drug testing, and in the end, was not a full extension of benefits. The maximum duration of benefits will be reduced in stages during the year, depending on individual states' unemployment rates (which affect the number of weeks available for UI benefits), meaning that many workers may still exhaust federal unemployment insurance before they find new jobs. Until there are enough jobs for these workers to return to the workforce, it’s imperative that lawmakers continue to protect these vulnerable families, and revisit the ongoing unemployment crisis in future months.

For more information about unemployment insurance, visit www.tarheelworkers.org and follow Tar Heel Workers on twitter: @tarheelworkers.

CUTS-ONLY APPROACH: Public structures suffer without revenue

Earlier this week, the Budget & Tax Center’s Edwin McLenaghan wrote about North Carolina’s “cuts-only” approach to the budget in the Raleigh News & Observer.

"Much of what makes North Carolina communities great places to live, work and do business is the result of good schools, well-maintained parks, innovative industries and fair and efficient courts that we have built and sustained together over the course of many decades,” McLenaghan wrote. “These last four years, however, have taken an enormous toll on these public structures. Cuts of the magnitude enacted by state policymakers since 2009 have stymied job growth in the public and private sectors in the near term while simultaneously undermining the investments in education, health and public works necessary to pave the way to a more robust, sustainable economic recovery in the long term.”

Urging comprehensive tax modernization as a long-term approach, McLenaghan also describes several revenue-raising strategies that policymakers could take to help build a bridge to future reforms, including:

  • Raise roughly $200 million in revenue by putting a cap on tax subsidies that, for the most part, benefit wealthy families
  • Raise $1 billion in revenue by reinstating the temporary 1-cent sales tax and doubling the value of the state Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Raise up to $100 million in revenue by requiring multi-state corporations to pay taxes on all profits earned in North Carolina

These strategies wouldn’t restore the billions in cumulative cuts to our state’s precious public investments, McLenaghan points out, but they will demonstrate that state policymakers support investing in children and supporting businesses. Read the rest of the article here, and look for the Budget & Tax Center’s brief later this week for further details on strategies to strengthen public investments in North Carolina.

DEFENDERS OF JUSTICE: Nominations & Save the Date

The Defenders of Justice (DOJ) Awards are given by the Justice Center to honor individuals or organizations that are making significant contributions in the following areas: Litigation; Research and Policy Development; Public Policy Advocacy and Grassroots Empowerment/Community Capacity Building. Recipients will be honored at our annual Defenders of Justice Event on Thursday, May 10, 2012.

Eligible nominees must be based in North Carolina. If you would like to nominate an individual or organization in one of the following categories, please complete this nomination form and return to Lucy Martinez at lucy@ncjustice.org no later than Feb. 28:

  • Policy Research and Advocacy - Conducting and disseminating research and development alternatives to existing policy.
  • Legislative Advocacy – Working with traditionally underrepresented populations to define and shape public policies.
  • Grassroots Empowerment/Community Capacity Building - Developing programs designed to help community based organizations or individuals be leaders within their own communities. These organizations or individuals will have examples of programs that have been successful.

Stay tuned for more details on the Defender of Justice Awards over the next few months.

 

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