North Carolina is one of 16 states nationwide that still hasn’t expanded Medicaid, even though (or because) Medicaid expansion is a key component of the plan behind the Affordable Care Act. With a major election looming this year, what is the status of the Medicaid expansion debate in North Carolina?
The League of Women Voters of Orange, Durham and Chatham Counties is hosting a discussion on Medicaid expansion this Wednesday, January 20, at 6:30 pm in the Chapel Hill Public Library. (The LWV is a nonpartisan organization, but it’s taken a position in favor of Medicaid expansion.) League president Janet Hoy will speak along with Adam Linker of the NC Justice Center.
Janet Hoy previewed the event and discussed the issue with Aaron Keck on WCHL.
Wednesday’s event is called “Status of Medicaid Expansion: What’s On the Political Horizon?” It’s free and open to the public.
An advocacy group’s analysis shows more North Carolinians are out of work now than before the recession.
North Carolina’s unemployment rate has dropped sharply since the darkest days of the recession. But the state still has more people looking for work than it did before the start of the Great Recession in 2007, according to Patrick McHugh, an economist for the North Carolina Justice Center, a left-leaning advocacy group.
“There are 100 counties in North Carolina and over 60 of them still have fewer jobs than existed before the recession hit,” McHugh said.
This statistic may have you scratching your head if you know that North Carolina as a whole has gained jobs since 2007. But McHugh says those job gains are concentrated in a few counties in the state.
And in the metropolitan areas where there has been job growth, McHugh says employment hasn’t kept up with the rise in population.
“Even if you only look at metropolitan areas—the 15 metropolitan areas that exist in the state—every single one of them actually has seen more growth in unemployed people than in employed people,” McHugh said.
Economists measure Chapel Hill and Durham together as one of the state’s metropolitan areas, and its residents did not escape the overall trend.
“The Chapel Hill – Durham area, if you compare back to 2007, has seen about an 8 percent increase in the number of people who are employed and almost 50 percent growth in the number of people who are unemployed.”
Orange County had a 5 percent unemployment rate for June, which is still higher than it was before the recession. But McHugh says compared to most of the state, Orange County has it pretty good.
“Orange County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, and has seen decent job growth since the start of the recession.”
McHugh says the university presence and the county’s proximity to Research Triangle Park had a lot to do with its ability to weather the recession. McHugh says those employers also kept Chapel Hill and Durham’s wages up, even as wages have fallen in other metropolitan areas.
“If we adjust for inflation and we compare back to 2007, the average hourly wage in Raleigh has gone down by about two dollars, the average hourly wage in Charlotte has gone down just slightly by about 30 cents. In fact, about half of the metropolitan areas in the state have seen wages not keep up with inflation.”
Chapel Hill and Durham have the highest wage growth in the state, with an increase of $4.50 per hour.
McHugh says he believes raising the state’s minimum wage would boost earnings and employment. June was the fourth straight month unemployment has increased in the state.
RALEIGH – More than 1.7 million of our state’s residents will see a reduction in federal food assistance starting this November.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, serves more than 47 million Americans, and the 2009 Recovery Act, also known as the stimulus, temporarily increased the benefits people on SNAP receive.
But, this November, that increase will expire, leading to a reduction of $29 per month for a family of three. Amber Moodie-Dyer, policy advocate with the North Carolina Justice Center’s Budget and Tax Center, says the reduction is disconcerting, especially considering the amount of money a family on SNAP receives now.
“The SNAP benefits are really not enough to help feed working families that are low wage earners,” Moodie-Dyer says. “They have to turn to food banks, and often times, the food banks get strapped and they have to turn people away.”
After the reduction takes place, Moodie-Dyer says the benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal.
“That makes it really hard for families to, number one, afford food period, but number two, afford healthy food,” Moodie-Dyer says. “Fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive, good meat and dairy products can be more expensive than some of the other cheaper products that aren’t as nutritious.”
Moodie-Dyer says this will particularly impact children, who make up half of the 1,708,000 people in the state on SNAP.
“When children don’t get the kind of nutrition that they need at those critical time periods, that’s long-term consequences that can’t ever get turned around, in terms of educational outcomes, in terms of health outcomes,” Moodie-Dyer says.
Moodie-Dyer also makes an economic argument for not cutting SNAP. She says that every $1 increase in SNAP benefits creates $1.70 in economic activity.
“It’s one of the best ways that you can kill two birds with one stone,” Moodie-Dyer says. “You can help struggling working families feed themselves and you can also stimulate economic activity.”
In addition to the reduction in SNAP benefits, the U.S. House is considering a $40 billion cut in the program.http://chapelboro.com/news/health/snap-food-assistance-to-decrease-in-november