U.S. cuts could hurt N.C. for next decade, study says

U.S. cuts could hurt N.C. for next decade, study says
June 15
05:00 2017

As conferees for the N.C. House and Senate continue their talks to hash out a compromise $22.9 billion budget for the coming fiscal year, the picture has become even clearer that projected cuts to federal anti-poverty funding and programs by the Trump administration are going to profoundly affect North Carolina.

This is where federal funds currently make up 32.7 cents of each state revenue dollar, according to a just-released report from the N.C. Justice Center, and specifically Winston-Salem, where recent statistics show a population poverty indicator of 24.1 percent; the highest percentage of unemployed residents over 16 in poverty at over 50 percent; and where over 50 percent of renters were spending 30 percent or more of their income on housing in the city between 2010-2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Winston-Salem Poverty  Thought Force.

Indeed, the poverty rate in Winston-Salem was comparatively higher than the United States, North Carolina, Forsyth County, and Greensboro between 2006 and 2014, hitting as high as 26.7 percent (blacks at 30.6, Hispanics at 46. 5, and whites at 12.3). And despite a comprehensive report from the Poverty Thought Force issued earlier this year addressing strategies on how to effectively tackle economic destitution in Winston-Salem, that job has just become much harder thanks to federal budget cuts that most likely force North Carolina to restrict its anti-poverty spending.

According to a recent report from the nonpartisan, nonprofit North Carolina Justice Center, “Given the massive cuts to federal funding proposed by the President, North Carolina would have to come up with at least $13 billion in additional revenue over the next 10 years to maintain existing vital programs.”

More importantly, the new report from the N.C. Budget and Tax Center, an arm of the N.C. Justice Center, warns  “… that the N.C. Senate and House budget proposals do not currently plan for what happens if North Carolina has to assume these costs.”

According to that report, “Trump’s budget would require states to pay for 25 percent ($562 million) of SNAP (formerly known as food stamp) benefits by 2023. This would be $3.9 billion over the next 10 years. North Carolina would need to come up with an additional $6 billion over 10 years to maintain Medicaid. In 2018 alone, North Carolina would need to make up $306 million to replace the loss of discretionary grant funding proposed by Trump’s budget. This includes cuts to Social Services Block Grant, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and the Community Development Block Grants.”

The report continues, “President Trump and some in Congress have made it clear that they intend to reduce the role of the federal government and shift costs to the states by cutting federal funding for health care, food assistance, and many other areas,” said Luis Toledo, policy analyst at the Budget & Tax Center, and co-author of the report. “Such a cost shift to states will ultimately mean that North Carolina, and most Southern states, will be left behind and residents will be left out of the benefits of a thriving economy.”

“The state is not only failing to invest at the level needed in skills training, community economic development, and services to poor families – even as communities continue to struggle with mass job loss and high poverty rates – but is also failing to adequately plan for the federal government’s cost shift to states,” said Alexandria Sirota, director of the Budget and Tax Center, and co-author of the report.

Bishop Todd Fulton is a member of the local Poverty Thought Force, knows how bad poverty is in Winston-Salem, and agrees the bad news from Washington is even worse news for those in need in the city. Bishop Fulton says he’s most concerned about the poor having enough to eat, and is concerned about cutbacks to vital services like Meals on Wheels.

If that’s cut, Fulton says, the poor and elderly will have to make critical decisions about purchasing food or medicine with their meager resources, especially if the SNAP food stamp program is also cutback.

“This is really unacceptable at every level,” he told The Chronicle Tuesday.

This is disrespectful on every level, and a shame before God, for Trump to make these cuts that hurt our children and our seniors.”

Bishop Fulton said that Winston-Salem is in the top 10 for “food insecurity” in the country, “… so that means that more people will be going hungry on our watch [once the cuts occur].”

The Poverty Thought Force is still together, but Bishop Fulton agrees that they will have to go back to the drawing board, especially with the promised dismantling of Obamacare.

“It’s going to make our job harder,” he said. “The rich will get richer, and the poor will get poorer.”

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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