May 14, 2013
UNEMPLOYMENT: Four bills could help unemployed workers across NC
As the May 16th "cross-over" deadline for legislative action approaches, it has never been more urgent for lawmakers to take action on bills currently pending at the North Carolina General Assembly that could aid those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
As long as unemployed workers outnumber available job openings by 3-to-1, North Carolina cannot wait on action for the unemployed. Despite dropping last month, North Carolina’s unemployment rate remains stuck above 9 percent—the fifth highest in the country. There are simply not enough jobs for North Carolina’s job seekers, a challenge made worse by the passage of House Bill 4 in February. HB 4 slashed maximum benefit amounts and the maximum number of weeks of benefits, and will cut federal funded extended benefits for North Carolina workers on July 1.
Four bills are being considered at the General Assembly that would correct the glaring problems with HB 4 and help provide unemployed workers with the support they need to make ends meet until more jobs become available:
- Providing work sharing options for employers (SB 645) would establish a work sharing program in North Carolina
- Protecting and supporting the unemployed (HB 737) would protect unemployed workers against discrimination and provide a tax credit to employers who hire unemployed workers
- Banning the use of credit history in hiring and firing (HB 815) bars discrimination in hiring and the terms of employment based on credit history or a credit report
- Extending federal emergency benefits (HB 922) changes the effective date of changes made to the unemployment insurance structure through HB 4 from claims filed on July 1, 2013 to January 1, 2014
Unless the General Assembly acts on these bills prior to Thursday’s deadline, they will become ineligible for consideration through the remainder of the legislative session, effectively killing these important measures — and badly needed assistance for our state’s unemployed.
CONSUMER FINANCE BILL: Hikes rates, fees, traps North Carolinians in debt
Senate Bill 489, which would increase rates and fees on the vast majority of loans under the Consumer Finance Act, passed the North Carolina Senate earlier this month.
This bill will increase the likelihood that individuals will be trapped in debt by hiking rates on installment loans and adding new fees, and moves our state in the wrong direction. These loans are already abusive in the way that they're made. In 2011, 66% of loans were made to people who already have them, an incredibly harmful process called "flipping." High amounts of credit insurance that only pays the lender are also packed into these loans. This "insurance packing" is yet another means of harming vulnerable families.
The NC Justice Center, the Attorney General's office, AARP, and the Center for Responsible Lending have all rallied against this toxic legislation. Instead of harming already vulnerable North Carolinians, lawmakers should be addressing predatory loans and the abusive tactics of out-of-state companies attempting to expand their profits by targeting working families. With interest rates at historic lows, making loans unnecessarily expensive is bad for borrowers and bad for the state's economy.
"AMERICAN WINTER": Documentary screening highlights poverty, safety net
The NC Justice Center will host a screening of the documentary film "American Winter" on Tuesday, June 4, in order to raise awareness of poverty, economic security, and the importance of the safety net in North Carolina.
American Winter follows the personal stories of families struggling in the aftermath of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Filmed over the course of the winter months of 2011-12, the film presents an intimate snapshot of the state of the nation's economy as it is playing out in millions of American families, and reveals the human consequences of cuts to social services, the decline of the middle class, and the fracturing of the American Dream. Woven into the film are interviews with economic experts, policy analysts, and religious leaders, as well as interviews with social workers on the frontlines of the economic fallout.
The event will be held at Motorco Music Hall in Durham. A pre-film reception will be held before the screening, which will be followed by a moderated panel discussion about the social safety and needs of the community. Stay tuned for more details!
TAX SHIFT CONTINUES: Senate tax plan will harm working families and economy
Last week, the Senate leadership has released a proposal to cut income taxes and expand the sales tax to more goods and services — a move that will harm working families and the broader economy and continue the Great Tax Shift by forcing middle and low-income families to pay more while giving a tax cut to the wealthiest individuals and corporations.
The plan reduces the state's ability to invest in a foundation for economic growth by cutting state revenues by $1 billion each year. This will result in cuts to vital public investments that are critical to jobs and economic growth in our state like our world-class higher education system, our renowned medical centers, and public safety. And by expanding the sales tax base to make up for cuts in the personal and corporate income tax, low and middle income families who already pay a higher portion of their income in taxes than high income families will pay even more, and the wealthiest will pay even less.
Cutting personal and corporate income taxes won’t grow the economy or help create jobs in North Carolina. Our state promotes real economic growth by investing in quality schools to educate the future work force, efficient transportation so companies can transfer goods and services and people can commute to work safely. It's time to tell North Carolina lawmakers to stop shifting the tax load to hardworking North Carolinians in order to fund tax cuts for the rich and big corporations. Learn more about tax proposals in North Carolina at www.ncjustice.org/taxreform.
CRUCIAL CONVERSATION: Judge James A. Wynn on why courts matter
NC Policy Watch and the North Carolina Justice Center are proud to announce a very special Crucial Conversation luncheon featuring the Honorable James A. Wynn, Jr., Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, for a special discussion on why on courts matter and why North Carolinians should be paying a lot more attention to them.
If there’s one branch of modern government that’s, at once, more important and more neglected by caring and thoughtful Americans than the federal judiciary, it’s hard to say what that would be. Despite its enormous importance and influence in shaping our society, the judiciary — the cases before it, the decisions it renders, and the people who comprise it — receives far less attention than it (and they) deserve.
For almost three years, Judge Wynn has served as a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia. Prior to his current position, Wynn served on both the North Carolina Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. A veteran attorney with nearly four decades of legal experience, Wynn is a North Carolina native and a graduate of Marquette University Law School and holds a Master of Laws degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. Judge Wynn’s remarks will be followed by comments from Andrew Blotky, Director of the Legal Progress project at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC.
The event will be held on Tuesday, May 21, at 12:00 p.m. at the Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh. Click here to register.
BUILD A HEALTHIER HIGHLAND: Conference feat. health screenings, sessions
The Highland Health Center of Gastonia, NC and the Gaston County Health Department will host the "Building a Healthier Highland" Conference on Saturday, June 8.
The free event will feature complementary health screenings, blood pressure checks and breast exams, breakout sessions for teens and individuals interested in nutrition, an information session on the Affordable Care Act, led by the NC Justice Center's Health Access Coalition
The Event will be held from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. at the Highland Health Center, located at 609 N. Highland Street in Gastonia. For more information call 704-853-6134.
DEFENDERS OF JUSTICE: Thank you to our sponsors and attendees!
Thanks to the 300-plus attendees and supporters of the 15th Annual Defenders of Justice Awards Dinner. Contributions in support of our mission are greatly appreciated and will be used to further the work of creating a state where everyone has the opportunity to prosper and be successful.
On behalf of the Justice Center’s board of directors and staff, thank you for your support, and know that we will work hard to move North Carolina in a direction we can all be proud of.
Click here to see photos of the event. We'll see you in 2014!