McCrory leads in disregard for the poor
RALEIGH — If there were a contest to see which state administration has the most disregard for low-income families in 2013, the clear leader would be the McCrory Administration in North Carolina.
Here is their compelling application for the dubious award for cruelest treatment of families who are struggling.
Last Tuesday, state DHHS officials announced that because of the shutdown of the federal government they were no longer providing nutritional benefits for pregnant women and infants under the federally-funded WIC program.
North Carolina was the only state in country to make the decision to stop providing formula to infants in low-income families. The decision prompted widespread outrage and two days later DHHS officials reversed themselves.
This Monday, officials at the same DHHS said they were suspending the federally-funded Temporary Assistance to Need Families (TANF) program, also known as Work First, that helped more than 20,000 low-income people last month with cash assistance. More than 13,000 of them are children.
North Carolina is also the only state in the country to close down its TANF program.
Last week also brought the news that because of the federal shutdown DHHS was slashing the state's vocational rehabilitation program that provides job training and support for people with disabilities. Reportedly other states are not cutting direct services to clients of their vocational rehabilitation program as North Carolina has done.
It could not be the federal shutdown. Other states somehow managed to keep the federally-funded programs that help the poor running. North Carolina decided to shut them down.
When embattled DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos first announced the suspension of the WIC program last week, she said "…we are following as all the states are following the instructions of the federal government."
But that was clearly not true, as no other state was denying WIC benefits to women and children.
The federal government came up with contingency funds for states based on how much they spend every month. DHHS officials said Thursday when they restarted the program that they had to ask for more money than was allocated and also used lapsed funds from last year and product rebates for formula.
That still doesn't explain why the WIC program was interrupted at all, and why Wos said that North Carolina was following other states when it clearly wasn't.
Governor McCrory is clearly feeling the heat about his administration's inexplicable decision. McCrory, Wos, and State Budget Director Art Pope held a news conference in Charlotte to announce they were speeding up state appropriations to local food banks to offset the impact on the poor of the federal shutdown.
They did not offer any explanation at the event for why North Carolina was the only state intent on immediately cutting off federal programs that help poor families.
If all that's not enough to win the McCrory administration the award for most disdainful of the poor, their impressive application also includes several items from this year's legislative session.
McCrory signed a bill that not only slashed unemployment benefits for laid off workers, it cut off 70,000 people looking for job from federal emergency unemployment benefits.
North Carolina was the only state to deny the emergency benefits that were fully funded by the federal government.
McCrory is especially proud of the unemployment bill. He brags about it in the television commercial his supporters are currently running to prop up his rapidly declining approval numbers.
McCrory also signed a bill refusing to expand the state's Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act and provide health coverage to 500,000 currently uninsured low-income adults.
Several conservative Republican governors supported Medicaid expansion. Not McCrory.
No health care, no jobs support for people with a disability, no help for poor families with children, not even infant formula if they would had their way.
And certainly no federal emergency unemployment benefits for people laid off through no fault of their own who still can't find a job.
It's quite a convincing case indeed. Maybe a new slogan is order for McCrory's next ad.
"Nobody punishes the poor like North Carolina." Congratulations Governor.
Chris Fitzsimon is the Executive Director at NC Policy Watch