How Republican Plans to Cut Obamacare and Medicaid Hurt Older Americans

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Over the last twelve months, my colleagues and I have spoken at length with close to one hundred Native American seniors across the state of New Mexico about their health care and health insurance. Since November 2016, these seniors have expressed profound apprehension about the future of health care and insurance coverage under President Donald Trump’s administration, both for themselves and for their friends and relatives. As one elderly woman put it, “I have care, but is [Trump] going to take that away from us?”

Most Americans assume that regardless of any changes to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the healthcare needs of seniors will be covered by Medicare, which serves individuals who are 65 years of age or older and who have paid into the Medicare system via payroll taxes. In fact, even if the current Medicare system remains in place, Obamacare repeal will have profoundly harmful effects on older people, especially those under 65 who have low-incomes, live in rural areas, or are in need of long term care or help to stay in their homes. In fact, seniors are among the most likely people to be hurt by plans to replace Obamacare.

How Obamacare Has Benefited Seniors

Seniors age 55 and over make up an increasing part of the U.S. population and their healthcare needs are extensive and complex. The National Council on Aging estimates that 92% of older adults suffer from a chronic illness, such as diabetes or heart disease. Seniors also have high rates of cognitive health problems, including Alzheimer’s and dementia. A growing number of older adults experience mental health and substance use problems. Even as they face such health problems, many seniors have limited incomes and struggle with the costs of housing, food, and health care.

Although Obamacare is often seen as an effort to increase insurance coverage among younger and healthier people, it has also provided numerous benefits to seniors. These benefits are not only endangered by current replacement plans, they appear to be specific targets of Republican proposals. For instance, Obamacare’s prohibition of annual and lifetime limits on insurance coverage – as well as its limits on the ways insurance companies can raise prices for people with preexisting conditions – have made it possible for older adults with a variety of health problems to get affordable insurance and care.

Seniors have also benefitted from Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, which extended eligibility to adults at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than six million seniors have received new coverage from Medicaid, including older adults under 65, Medicare beneficiaries with low incomes, and seniors who do not qualify for Medicare because they did not pay enough into that program during their working years. This last group includes elderly adults who are homeless or disabled, as well as those who were previously farmers, ranchers, and homemakers.

What is more, Medicaid covers long-term and in-home care services not covered by Medicare. These services allow seniors with serious medical concerns to receive high-quality care, either in a nursing facility or their own homes. In fact, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 6 in 10 nursing home residents are covered by Medicaid.

In addition to extending these critical benefits to seniors, the Medicaid expansion has generated new revenues for providers of healthcare services that many elders need – including mental health and substance addiction services, transportation services, and help to purchase medical equipment needed by adults who wish to remain at home throughout their elder years. These improvements are especially important for seniors in rural areas, where service providers are sparse and patients must travel long distances to find care. As our research in the rural state of New Mexico reveals, healthcare providers report that Obamacare has helped them address the complex health issues faced by aging patients.

Obamacare has also significantly improved Medicare – by ensuring access to no-cost preventive care and screenings and expanding prescription drug coverage. Crucially, Obamacare addresses the previous Medicare gap in prescription drug coverage, where insurance did not pay for drug costs after an individual reached a certain level of costs. Obamacare discounts drug prices for seniors who fall into that coverage gap and aims to close the gap by 2020. Repeal of the law would significantly increase the cost of prescription drugs, disproportionately affecting seniors.

How Republican Plans Will Hurt Seniors Overall

Not only will repealing or reducing core benefits of Obamacare disproportionately hurt seniors, Republican proposals include provisions that will specifically penalize seniors, such as those that would let insurance companies charge older people up to five times more for insurance than younger adults. Families USA estimates that this could put marketplace insurance financially out of reach for 3.3 million people over the age of 55. Proposed caps on lifetime benefits and the elimination of regulations regarding the essential benefits that insurance plans must cover will put seniors at risk of “running out” of coverage as they age or being unable to afford insurance that will actually cover their medical needs.

Whether or not Obamacare is ultimately repealed, cuts to Medicaid – a core part of U.S. health insurance since 1965 — remain likely and will have especially harmful effects on the numerous seniors who rely on the program for long-term care, including the estimated one-third of American seniors who fall below 200% of the federal poverty line. In addition, reductions or caps to federal funding for state Medicaid programs will serve to deepen existing inequities in care for poor, older, and disabled people in the poorest and sickest states.

Better Care for Seniors Helps Everyone

Ultimately, while seniors have specific and complex needs, ensuring their health is important for everyone in all parts of the United States. When older people cannot get health insurance or adequate care, the burdens are often shifted to their adult children and grandchildren. Many seniors also care for their children and grandchildren, many of whom get help from Obamacare’s benefits for all low-income adults and children. Although Obamacare has very real limitations, the prospect of repeal is already plunging seniors into a state of fear and uncertainty. All Americans should join senior citizens in worrying about the drastic downsides for families and communities, especially in rural areas, if current Republican plans become law.

No Hungry Kids: Congresswoman Lee & 110 Members Call on Congress to Have a Conscience

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Earlier this week, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, along with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Congressman Tony Cárdenas (D-CA)  led a letter, signed by 111 Members of Congress, raising serious concerns about the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill. The letter also urges House leaders to protect critical food assistance programs.

“Once again, Congressional Republicans are balancing the budget on the backs of poor children, to the detriment of their health and well-being,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “Ensuring children have access to healthy and filling meals should be a top priority for every Member of Congress. With more than one in five American children living in poverty, we should be expanding opportunity to poor kids – not taking it away. I hope House Republicans will remember the struggling families in their districts and help us strengthen vital child nutrition programs.”

The letter identified many concerns that House Democrats have with the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, including the draconian cuts to the Community Eligibility Provision and the Summer EBT Program. Under the proposed legislation, many low-income students would no longer receive free school meals. In fact, 19 of 23 schools in California’s 13th district that participate in the Community Eligibility Provision would lose federal resources.

Additionally, the letter detailed concerns about the updated nutrition standards, which would erode recent successes in expanding access to healthy meals for low-income students.

“There are more than 46 million Americans living in poverty right now,” added Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “We owe struggling families a real plan to end the cycle of poverty in America. Instead of actively working to undermine child nutrition and safety net programs, I hope my Republican colleagues will join us in empowering families and children living on the edge.”

Failure to Expand Medicaid: Are We Failing Our Most Vulnerable Citizens

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We often hear politicians make promises about what they will do their first day in office if elected, but how often do we actually hear about them keeping those day one promises after being elected? Newly elected Democratic Louisiana Governor, John Bel Edwards, on his first full day in office reversed the decision of his Republican predecessor, Bobby Jindal, to not expand Medicaid for the state’s poorest citizens.

As illustrated by the map above, there are currently 16 States primarily located in the South, and they all have in common Republican-led state legislatures that are still refusing to expand Medicaid and adopt the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Despite winning two Supreme Court challenges and being signed into law six years ago, Congressional Republicans have voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act approximately 60 times as recently as August 2015.

According to the United States Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Affordable Care Act is working despite not being implemented in all 50 States as it was originally designed. DHHS states the ACA is “working to improve access, affordability and quality in health care.” Additionally, DHHS states the ACA has helped 16. 4 million Americans who were uninsured gain access to insurance and affordable health care.

According to Kaiser,

In states that have not expanded Medicaid, 3.1 million poor uninsured adults fall into a “coverage gap” and will likely remain uninsured. These individuals would have been eligible under the Medicaid expansion. However, in the absence of the expansion, they remain ineligible for Medicaid and do not earn enough to qualify for premium tax credits to purchase Marketplace coverage, which begin at 100% FPL (Figure 2). Most of these individuals are likely to remain uninsured as they have limited access to employer coverage and are likely to find the cost of unsubsidized Marketplace coverage prohibitively expensive.

Over 1.7 million adults of color fall into the coverage gap, and uninsured Black adults are disproportionately likely to fall into the gap. Overall, about one in ten (11%) or 3.1 million of the total 27.5 million uninsured adults fall into the coverage gap in the 20 states that have not adopted the ACA Medicaid expansion. This group includes over 1.7 million adults of color. Uninsured Black adults are more than twice as likely as White and Hispanic uninsured adults to fall into the coverage gap. Read the Full Report

Researchers have found five medical conditions that are higher in non-Medicaid expanded states which include high blood pressure, heart problems and cancer.

Also, if you fall into the Medicaid expansion gap and ACA plans are too expensive for you, you may be able to access an income based community health clinic in your area. You can look up local resources using this link.

What Can We Do

First, we must advocate to ensure our most vulnerable citizens are protected. The National Health Care for the Homeless Council has put together an extensive resource list and tool kit to help you better advocate on behalf of citizens in your state. Secondly, we must encourage social innovation within our current health care models.

The links between poverty and poor health are well known: Food insecure children, now numbering 17 million in the United States, are 91 percent more likely to be in fair or poor health than their peers with adequate food, and 31 percent more likely to require hospitalization.5 Children under age 3 who lack adequate heat (another 12 million) are almost one-third more likely to require hospitalization.6 And families with difficulty paying rent and housing-related bills face increased acute care use and emergency room visits.7 – Read Full Article

Most of the time, our first responders who tend to the social needs of patients such as social workers and case managers are overloaded due to a shortage of manpower, funding and resources. According to the National Association for Social Workers (NASW), social workers provide 60 percent of the mental health services in the United States. Currently, the NASW is proactively seeking to “promote the inclusion of social workers as essential members of health care teams in coordinated care models” through advocacy and policy initiatives.

Most importantly, we must work collaboratively for collective impact in an effort to add protective factors and increase outcomes for our most vulnerable citizens.

The New Koch: Anyone Buying?

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Charles and David Koch

Back in April of 1985, the Coca Cola Company sensing a decline in its leading share of the cola market, tried to rebrand its soft drink by tweaking the secret formula that had been successful for nearly a century. Thus we got the “New Coke.” Unfortunately, consumers were not convinced that the New Coke was better than the old Coke. In fact, they saw through the marketing ploy and demanded that the Coca Cola revert to its true self. Less than three months later, Coca Cola began restocking shelves with what became classic Coke.

Now, it seems Charles and David Koch (pronounced “coke”) have grown weary of their characterization as villains. They are tired of being viewed as fat cats who are making a mockery of our election process by spending millions to support Republican candidates who have become the pawns of the rich and well-to-do—the job creators.

Supply-side Republican tax policies have been very favorable to the rich while efforts to shrink government by scaling back resources for social welfare programs have hurt the middle class and the both the working and non-working poor. Reductions in Pell grants make it harder for middle and low-income families to afford college education. Assaults on unions and a 16-year freeze on the minimum wage have exacerbated wage stagnation.

So during their retreat last weekend in Dana Point, California, the Koch brothers began their campaign to rebrand as champions of the poor—zeroing in on criminal justice reform as a particular concern. Fellow donors and beneficiaries like the five Republican presidential candidates attending the retreat embraced this new brand of Koch. But will it sell to the general public? United Negro College Fund (UNCF) president Michael Lomax warmed up to the brothers last year when he accepted $25 million from them. Former Obama administration official Van Jones became another strange bedfellow when he teamed up with the Koch brothers to push for passage of the SAFE Justice Act.

frabz-The-Media-mentions-koch-brothers-I-picture-Randolph-and-Mortimer-16c057The Koch brothers would like us to believe that policies promoted by the Cato Institute—the think tank they created—have negligible negative impact on the poor and middle class but are advancing their principles of limited government.

For them and other patrons of Ayn Rand, smaller government means more freedom. Taken to its logical extreme—the smallest government results in the greatest freedom—but for whom?

They would have us accept that unfettered, unregulated capitalism would create a more just society, but only if you buy into social Darwinism and have no problem discarding the poor and less fortunate.

It’s the kind of thinking that empowered anti-tax maven Grover Norquist who said he did not want to abolish government but to “get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” Depriving the government of revenue would surely shrink it.

Norquist’s organization Americans for Tax Reform boasts on its website that nearly 1400 elected officials—including 49 Senators and 221 Members of the House of Representative—have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge—avowing not to raise taxes. It is a silly pledge. The cost of living does not stop increasing because taxes are frozen. The population continues to grow and our infrastructure continues to wear down.

Then, there are those annoying expenses like war. The idea of conflating smaller government and freedom doesn’t wash. Dictators can have small governments. The government should be as large as needed to efficiently promote the general welfare. Libertarians and conservatives believe government assistance promotes dependency and makes us slaves of the government.

The purpose of the pledge was to reduce government revenue until there was little choice but to begin dismantling the welfare state through block granting of social service programs and attacking the solvency of Social Security and Medicare. It’s not about freedom; it’s about ideology.

The results have been disastrous. By not taking in adequate revenue through taxes, future generations will be saddled with 18 trillion dollars in debt and counting. Our system of government is corrupt beyond belief because the wealthy are able to finance policies that increase their wealth.

Economic inequality is off the charts. Millions of Americas, particularly children languish in poverty with minimal hopes of escaping. Thousands forgo college because of the enormous expense and concomitant burden of student loan debt. Who knows what inventions and cures are being lost because we live in a society where only the haves can optimize their talents and skills.

The new Coke was a flash in the pan, and I am not buying the new Koch either. We’ve seen this before with compassionate conservatism. It has a nice ring to it, but it’s the same old song.

Getting Social Workers Involved in Social Justice: Who Will Take the Lead

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If you’re not sitting at the table, you’re on the menu. This pithy bit of wisdom was offered as a reminder by University of Illinois Springfield social work professor David Stoesz in a discussion thread on a social work policy listserv about the profession’s paltry participation in policy and politics. Social workers on that listserv are concerned about our level of effort on social justice issues in order to bring about societal change as our code of ethics mandates. Helping people cope with policies that have disproportionately favored the wealthy over the past several decades is not enough.

However, we must do more to change those policies and create a more egalitarian society. Two interesting articles caught my attention last week. One that was posted on Social Work Helper’s Facebook page had appeared in the Guardian. The article featured young social workers in the United Kingdom who expressed concern about their futures and the future of the profession of social work. One young man, Justin, who became a social worker after serving in the British military in Afghanistan, worried about the absence of a strong voice to represent the interests of social workers.

The other article was published in Al Jazeera by Sean McElwee, a young Demos research associate, titled: “Inequality is a disease, voting turnout is the cure.” This is an idea I have been preaching recently. He provides research to support this hypothesis. The questions are: Can social work can be the x-factor that helps propel a movement leading to full voter participation? And who will be the leader(s) of that effort?

What McElwee is stating is quite simple. The 2016 election will not turn so much on who votes but on who stays home. Non-voters are more likely to be low income and lean significantly towards Democrats. Registering these potential voters and getting them to the polls could have significant effects on the outcomes of elections at all levels of government.

Unions traditionally mobilize voters and got them to the polls. However we have seen the number of members and the power of union decline in recent decades.

Will social workers help fill that gap? I believe we can. Social workers can help would-be voters break through barriers such as voter identification. Republican strategist Chris Ladd says it’s time Democrats stop whining about voter ID laws and begin to help people get the documentation they need. Sounds like good advice.

Mildred “Mit” Joyner proposed this idea several years ago when she was president of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). She believes this is something social workers at every level can participate in. Direct service workers can assist clients in understanding the particulars of voting regulations and ensure they have proper documentation when they go to vote. Administrators of agencies can make it a matter of policy to inform clients about exercising their right to vote.

However, according to WRAL News in North Carolina,

Local social service agencies are not giving poor residents adequate opportunities to file and update voter registrations as required by federal law, a letter sent by a group of voting rights advocates warned the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Department of Health and Human Services. Read more 

On the macro level, social workers can work with churches, tenant organizations, and other community-based groups to organize and implement voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. Joyner suggests social workers engage the League of Women Voters for information and support. Agencies can learn more from organizations like Nonprofit Vote. Social work students can work with Rock the Vote to encourage young people to vote.

At the same time social workers can continue efforts to overturn misguided laws that restrict voting. We can continue to press Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act. Social workers have a responsibility to work for a more just society that permits and promotes the self-actualization of everyone.

Policies, laws and systems that restrict one’s ability to be all that one can be should be the object of intervention on the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. While social workers must pay attention to licensing, research, and building reputation as a fully scientific profession, we also have a mandate to pursue social justice.

Richard Nixon galvanized a large swath of voters who he saw as being neglected and appealed to them as the silent majority. There is a new silent majority today—voters who have been demoralized by the vast sums of money that are gaming the political system. They see the rich getting richer and not much being done to expand opportunity and prosperity for the vast majority of Americans. They are turned off by the negative campaigning and believe voting is an exercise in futility.

Social workers should be participants in the effort to restore hope to these voters—to help them understand that staying away from the polls is exactly what those protecting the status quo wants you to do. Social workers need to be involved politically and be at the policy table. If you’re not sitting at the table, you’re on the menu.

Democrats Are In a Policy Funk

After losing the House in 2010 and now the Senate four years later, Democrats seem bereft of ideas about how to reconnect with the electorate. Democrats seem to have a grip on the White House and Hillary Clinton appears to be the odds on favorite going into 2016. Yet, with Republican policies blatantly favoring the rich, you have to wonder why so many middle class voters are casting votes for the GOP.

Republicans now hold majorities in both chambers of the legislatures in 29 states—their most since 1920—compared to just 11 states for the Democrats. In 23 states, Republicans control both chambers of the state legislatures and the governorship, compared to just six Democratically-controlled states. Republicans are now governors in 31 states including the very blues states of Maryland and Massachusetts, and President Obama’s home state of Illinois.

Quotes About Moving Forward 0001 (5)Republicans gained nine seats in the Senate in the 2014 midterms for a total of 54 seats, They picked up another 14 seats in the House to increase their majority to 247 to 188 over Democrats—their largest majority since 1928. Much of the Republicans hold on the House is due to gerrymandering.

However, only a strong appeal to the middle class can challenge their advantage, but questions remain on whether this recent surge is truly a swing to Republicans or a warning to the Democratic Party that it needs to get its act together. A recent essay in the New York Times by Thomas Edsall raised the question of whether the Democratic Party has failed working class whites.

Democratic support for affirmative action and comprehensive immigration reform turned off many working class white voters. Edsall argues that white working class voters see these policies as limiting their own prospects. Even though blacks had long been denied minimal opportunities because of Jim Crow laws and other state-sponsored constraints, whites viewed the gains of blacks as coming at their expense. For them, the economic pie is a zero-sum game.

Having fought successfully for New Deal policies, civil rights for African Americans, equal rights for women and gays, Democrats have spent recent years defending their achievements against the backlash of a Republican Party that grew in numbers as conservatives—particularly those in the south—fled the Democratic Party. In recent years Democrats have largely been seen as defenders of the social safety net—social security, Medicaid and Medicare, food stamps, unemployment insurance—all programs erroneously perceived to be benefiting more blacks than whites. While a larger percentage of blacks rely on the social safety net, far more whites are the recipients of these benefits, many of them in red states.

The Republican Party has branded itself as the party of low taxes and small government while enacting supply-side tax cuts that disproportionately benefits the wealth, policies that have only worsened income and wealth inequality. Economists differ on whether inequality slows economic growth. However, the preponderance of economic gains has gone to the wealthiest Americans while wages continue to stagnate, leaving the middle class with diminishing purchasing power. Democrats have offered few ideas for improving economic outcomes for middle class families outside of raising the federal minimum wage. They offer no broad vision of policies that would tilt more economic gains from the very top to the middle and the bottom quintiles. Americans want a social safety net, but only as a last resort. Nobody wants to depend upon it for their existence.

Though not by design, President Barack Obama’s presidency was the best thing that could have happened for the nation’s most wealthy. Republicans are able to place the blame on his administration for the economic malaise of the middle class while blocking his policies in the House and Senate. When the President or other Democrats try to remind Americans that the policies responsible for the nation’s economic woes preceded his time in office, he is chided as trying to avoid taking responsibility while blaming his predecessor. That Republicans were able to raise campaign contribution limits and weaken provisions in the Dodd-Frank bill during this last budget negotiation demonstrates how much they believe that they have the upper hand in the public relations war.

Future elections like most elections will be about what have you done for me lately and what will you do for me going forward. It is not just about getting people to the polls. The 2014 election should have taught Democrats that they must give voters a reason to vote for them. It is not just about keeping Republicans out of office, it is about electing Democrats with ideas and policies that will restore hope in the American dream for many who believe it’s nothing more than a myth.

Should Republicans Gain Control of the US Senate

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Should Republicans take control of the United States Senate there will be many political pundits faulting Democrats for their inability to get black voters to go the polls. Why won’t black voters go to the polls in large numbers? Well, it’s a non-presidential election which typically leads to low voter turnout by the party in the White House.

However, this year there is another subplot—black voters are disappointed with President Obama because they have been overlooked during his first six years. Former Harvard University professor Cornell West continues to be an ardent critic and excoriates the President’s record on black issues in his new book.

Dr. West and others point to efforts made by President Obama on behalf of other voting blocs. They rail about what he’s done for gays and lesbians because of his support for gay marriage and the significant legal battles won in recent years. However, the President’s support for same sex marriage was rather tepid during his first term in office. Some say he’s done more for Latinos with his commitment to immigration reform and his executive actions on behalf of Dreamers.

Yet, he passed on any further executive action and the numbers of immigrant deportees remain significantly high. It’s difficult to make the case that President Obama has completely ignored the concerns of black Americans with the aggressive actions taken on their behalf by Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department on the issues of voting rights and criminal justice reform. Did not the President recently launch “My Brother’s Keeper”, an initiative for boys and men of color?

In contemplating these “what have you done for me lately” propositions, it occurred to me that social workers might have some concerns as well. How are social workers feeling about the President? What should social workers expect from President Obama? It is well documented that African Americans and Latinos voted for President Obama in large numbers in both the 2008 and 2012 elections. In 2012, he received 71 percent of the Latino vote and 93 percent of the African American vote.

I have not found any data on the percentage of social workers who voted for President Obama, but I would believe that most social workers are progressive and that he received the majority of our votes. But we are not a large constituency, so why would Democrats care? At about three quarters of a million strong, social workers are not a voting bloc to be feared. However, with our skills at organizing and persuasion, we could easily be a force to reckon with. But right now, that’s potential.

Gay and lesbian voters have a clear agenda—equal rights, freedom to marry, and freedom from discrimination. Latinos have an agenda that is less clear but generally focused on finding a path to documentation if not citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. They have more social and economic concerns, but providing some peace of minds for millions in this country illegally is a high priority.

Likewise, the are many social and economic problems plaguing African Americans, from high unemployment, to disproportionate criminal justice involvement, to low performing schools. However, it is unclear where the President should begin. What are the priorities? What are the policy prescriptions? Someone should have been working on these before President Obama was elected.

There are many social and economic challenges awaiting the next President who just might be Hillary Clinton. Now is the time to set priorities and identify potential policy remedies. What do social workers want from the President? Which issues are most important? But understand, while the President might be willing to support our initiatives, he or she will not do all the work for us.

We must be willing to provide policy ideas, the political strategy and be willing to take the lead on getting things done. That is what lobbyists do. Of course some lobbyists are able to reinforce their agendas by spreading around money, but nothing prevents social workers from helping to draft bills and nothing stops us from working to get more sponsors.

North Carolina Unemployment Changes Leave Residents Without Safety Net

unemployment-applicationAfter North Carolina’s Unemployment law took effect this weekend, North Carolina is the first state to disqualify itself from a federal long term unemployment program. The North Carolina Unemployment changes, adopted and signed into law by Governor McCrory in February, were to help accelerate the repayment of debt owed to the federal government. North Carolina has the third highest federal debt in the country, $2.5 Billion, and will now be paid back three years ahead of schedule, but at what cost?

North Carolina has the fifth highest jobless rate in the nation, with unemployment above the national average in the majority of its 100 counties. With the new changes to the law, unemployment benefits will last a mere 12-15 weeks and on top of that, the maximum benefits receivable per week is dropping from $535 to $350. It is the reduction of weekly benefits that is responsible for disqualifying approximately 170,000 North Carolina residents from long term jobless funds from the federal government.

The federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program (EUC) kicks in after a state’s designated period of unemployment runs out, in North Carolina, this was previously 6 months. The EUC money is available to jobless in every state, however, a requirement for a state to qualify is that states cannot cut the average weekly benefits of recipients. The North Carolina legislature has cut weekly benefits starting July 1st by around $185.

The disqualification of the 170,000 workers from EUC funds means a loss of $700 million dollars, for those workers and their families. On top of the shortened compensation period for state unemployment, the reduced benefits, and the stricter requirements to qualify for the program, many jobless residents are going to be out of luck.

Ideally, this plan will accelerate the payment of the state’s debt to the federal Government having it entirely paid of by 2015, and not cost North Carolina companies an extra $21 per year per employee until the debt is paid. This legislation was designed and backed by the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, their top lobbyist called the situation unfortunate but said “You’ve got to pick a point in time where you solve the problem. They picked a point in time that allowed us the most time to pay the debt as quickly as we can…”

An Associated Press Article by Emery P. Dalesio on the changes included profiles of  North Carolinians who will personally be affected by the changes in the unemployment law. The section about one of those individuals is below:

“Lee Creighton, 45, of Cary, said he’s been unemployed since October, and this is the last week for which he’ll get nearly $500 in unemployment aid. He said he was laid off from a position managing statisticians and writers amid the recession’s worst days in 2009 and has landed and lost a series of government and teaching jobs since then — work that paid less half as much. His parents help him buy groceries to get by.

“I’m just not sure what I’m going to do,” said Creighton, who has a doctorate. “What are we to do? Is the state prepared to have this many people with no source of income?”

These cuts to unemployment are not only going to have devastating effects on the individual workers losing the benefits, but it will have devastating effects on their families as well. Last year a national report published by the Urban Institute and First focus estimated that 1 in 10 North Carolina children have at least one unemployed parent. NC Policy Watch discussed the report in a piece published on April 3rd, 2013.

As the report highlights, the effects of parental job loss on children can be severe. Economic stress links to parents’ responses to their children and children’s well being. And studies of unemployment and family income show that poverty increases sharply among the long-term unemployed. The adverse effects of children living in poverty can last well into adulthood. – See more here

The number of children with at least 1 unemployed parent increases by 140%.

Opponents of the unemployment changes include state labor groups, democratic representatives, and the North Carolina NAACP. They would like to have had the cuts delayed until the federal program runs out, but the Governor and republican controlled legislature refused. The federal EUC program expires in January. The delay may have given North Carolina workers and families time to prepare for the devastating cuts.  However, supporters of the enacted changes say the sooner the federal debt is re-payed the sooner the legislature can develop a long term solution for North Carolina’s unemployed. Until that solution comes, thousands of North Carolinians are going to find themselves without work and without a safety net.

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