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When Hard Work Doesn't Make Cents -- Surviving Student Loans and Unemployment         (thumbnail)

If you’re not scared, you should be. The news coming out of Raleigh these days doesn’t bode well for Charlotte or the state’s working poor. If the recent action happening in a Republican-led Raleigh is any indication of direction the state is going we’re in trouble. Here’s what happened in the last week:

• Governor McCrory criticized higher education programs that don’t lead directly to jobs.

• Governor McCrory issued a memo threatening Charlotte’s light rail funding if the city builds a streetcar. The street car would eventually service East and West Charlotte, less affluent Charlotte regions. Whether you agree or disagree with the streetcar, the former mayor of Charlotte and now Governor has no business issuing decrees about the matter. It’s a local, not a state issue.

Be sure to read: JCSU Town Hall Meeting to Discuss Community Issues in East and West Sides which will also focus on the streetcar.

Republicans have filed bills to reject the expansion of Medicaid and setting up an insurance exchange. These are two aspects of the federal Affordable Care Act. These programs would help individuals earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level – $15,415 for an individual or $26,344 for a family of three in 2012 – would qualify for Medicaid. Under the Republicans bills our state’s most vulnerable would still be at risk of not being able to afford medical insurance.

• The biggest whopper is the state assault on unemployment. State legislatures have proposed cutting maximum unemployment benefits to $350 from $530, and reducing the number of weeks recipients are eligible to 12 from the current 26, depending on the prevailing jobless rate, according to the Charlotte Business Journal. We all pay into unemployment insurance the same way we pay into Social Security. Yet, we don’t see our lawmakers trying to limit our Social Security. Why are state lawmakers punishing people who can’t find a job or can’t find a job earning livable wages? Instead of punishing people who’ve paid their fair share into unemployment, lawmakers should be pushing more businesses to pay their employees better wages.
In 2012, African-Americans once again rallied on behalf of President Obama. We volunteered, lobbied and paid attention to the national election. We had an opinion about every policy the President put forth and defended him when Republicans attacked. Now North Carolinians need to hear those voice regarding local and state issues. We’re only a month into a new year and we’ve seen legislative efforts that are making the state look like the backwater South we see on reality TV.

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