US bailout big deal for North Carolina
To borrow President Biden’s well-known statement from then-President Obama from now on, and disinfect it for a polite company – the US bailout is a big deal.
In my lifetime, there has not been such an ambitious response to the hardships or public recognition that our full recovery requires a commitment of our collective resources for the well-being of every person – white, black and brown.
It is only by adopting policies to directly provide people with what they need that we all have the potential to fulfill the still unfulfilled promise of the American Dream.
COVID-19 may have finally catalyzed policy changes that recognize our humanity and our connections. The pandemic has forced us to come to terms with an economy that consolidates income and wealth in the hands of very few and leaves more and more of us in the dark about most of a lifetime. COVID-19 has shown the enormous costs – in lives lost, jobs lost and learning lost – that occur when we don’t have policies in place that can balance public health and the economic needs of our communities.
The US bailout is big business, not only to put people first, but because it took a straightforward, straightforward approach to get it done. It delivers money to people directly and in a timely manner to make sure people can make ends meet. It supports public institutions that directly care for our children, educate our children and provide health care to our elders and neighbors, in other words, preserving our quality of life. This energizes the majority of Americans because when we have what we need, we can spend and sustain a strong economic recovery.
It is estimated that the whole plan will cut poverty in half in this country. This means that 13 million people – more than the entire population of North Carolina – will no longer live on less than $ 25,000 for a family of four. In our state, this reduction would provide hundreds of thousands of people with greater economic security, which will help local businesses and improve lifelong outcomes for the next generation of Northerners.
In North Carolina, the increase in food aid that is part of the US bailout will provide additional dollars to households specifically benefiting those living at half the federal poverty line, a group that has grown exponentially since 1996.
In North Carolina, changes to the income tax credit will extend the credit to individual workers without children who earn low wages. These workers have too often been excluded from political support.
In North Carolina, the expansion of the child tax credit alone will lift 137,000 children out of poverty and affect 2.6 million children through monthly advance payments between July and December. Increasing the income of households with children is a proven tool to improve education, health and development outcomes essential for lifelong success and well-being.
The US bailout not only makes these commitments, but it recognizes that we can and should have the public infrastructure to connect directly with people across the country to provide aid. The ability to send checks to people on a monthly basis, to provide just-in-time assistance, is essential for households and to support the recovery.
Targeting aid to those who need it most is especially important now, as we tackle the current uneven recovery that threatens to increase inequalities in our country and put our economic well-being at risk.
North Carolina’s rulers would do well to consider how their vision for our state can match the bold one set out in the US bailout. A year later, it is time to clarify how our state is reacting now, as well as what we are doing collectively to rebuild better and more equitably.
It is time to accept the reality that our policies can benefit people and, therefore, the economy. It is time to focus on poverty as our main challenge if our state is to compete for any valuable economic distinction.
The US bailout shows us that it is possible to be bold. We can keep America’s promise.
Alexandra Sirota is director of the NC Budget and Tax Center and NC Justice Center.
This story was originally published March 18, 2021 8:55 am.