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ABC INITIATIVES

Asset Building Advocacy

Asset poverty is a community-level issue that requires a coordinated, community-level response.

Advocacy is coordinated public support for specific issues affecting our community.

 

Our Coalition’s advocacy work includes a collection of efforts and strategies that we pursue, together, to address the underlying root causes of Asset Poverty in Forsyth County. This work involves building public will to influence policy and funding decisions at the local, state, or even national levels.

Our Advocacy Committee began work in 2019 by meeting with leaders of organizations (whose work connects them with Asset Poverty) from across North Carolina to understand their advocacy platforms, how they approach the work, the adaptive challenges they’ve faced, and how they facilitate and communicate with community stakeholders. 

The Advocacy Committee of the ABC is tasked with engaging the community to move our advocacy agenda forward.

Advocacy Committee Meetings

First Friday of the month from 9-10 am

Committee Members
  • Committee Chair: Charlie Gardner, Winston-Salem Foundation
  • Adam Hill, Forsyth Futures
  • Amy Lytle, HandsOn NWNC
  • Briley Penner, Swim Smart NC
  • Calvin McRae, Greater Winston-Salem, Inc.
  • Christa Smith, Forsyth County DSS
  • Juante Randleman, Love Out Loud
  • Kellie Easton, Action4Equity
  • Margaret Elliott, Crisis Control Ministry
  • Paula McCoy, Partnership for Prosperity
Contact Us

info@abcforsyth.org

The 2021 Advocacy Agenda

 

Below, we outline strategies and opportunities for advocacy at the grassroots, state, and national levels. It focuses on specific actions that stakeholders of all types can take to begin to shift policies and priorities toward systemic solutions for asset poverty.

Advocacy Tier: Catalyst

Catalyst is our highest advocacy tier. For issues designated at this level, the Asset Building Coalition takes the lead as a local champion.

Mitigating The Benefits Cliff in Forsyth County

The Benefits Cliff describes a situation in which a person who receives public benefits gets a pay raise and, as a result of that pay raise, they experience a net decrease in overall income because of the way that benefits programs are designed. This flaw in the design of our benefit programs has created a complex series of disincentives that keep people who recieve public benefits from getting ahead financially.

If you are new to the Benefits Cliff conversation and want to get up to speed, we recommend starting with the Benefits Cliff Initiative page, which explains this complex issue. Below, you will find information on specific public benefits, as well as key information about relevant policies and key strategies for advocacy.

What can states do?

Since the Benefits Cliff springs from policy decisions, the solution must also be policy driven. Other states are recognizing the cliff’s unintended consequences and are starting to devise solutions to dampen its impact. We’ve outlined some of the solutions below. None are cure-alls, but they do dampen the cliff’s blows by either turning the cliff into a slope or reducing the cliff’s steepness.

North Carolina could use these policies as examples on how it could tackle the benefits cliff...

Colorado

Loss of child care subsidies creates one of the largest cliffs. To turn this cliff into a slope, Colorado authorized the Colorado Cliff Effect Pilot Program (CEPP) in 2012. Under the program, families that exceed the income threshold can continue receiving subsidies for two years, but they must pay a copay. The copay amount is determined by either income, time, or both; depending on county. For example, the copay grows either as income grows or as the family gets closer to the two year mark.

South Carolina

South Carolina offers one to two years of transitional child care subsidies for qualifying families who lose child care subsidies due to increased income.

Vermont & Colorado

Another state-level policy aimed at dampening the child care benefits cliff is a child care tax credit that mirrors the federal Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. It gives households a credit for child care expenses, so the sudden increase in child care costs is partially mitigated by a larger tax refund. Vermont and Colorado currently have such credits.

Illinois

Illinois expanded SNAP eligibility from 135% of the federal poverty guidelines to 165% using broad-based categorical eligibility. This expansion does not just push the cliff out further, it lowers the cliff. This is because benefits decline with income, so pushing the eligibility threshold out further gives the cliff more room to turn into a slope.

Multiple States

TANF programs, called Work First in North Carolina, have no federal asset requirements. States self-impose the requirements and are free to eliminate or raise them. As of 2016, 10 states had no asset limits for TANF.

New Mexico

State policy solutions often start with a seed. In 2017, the New Mexico state legislature created a task force to study the Benefits Cliff.

What can employers do?

Understand how the cliff might affect your employees.

Employers should be aware of the benefits cliff and where the major thresholds lie. Employers are in a position to help mitigate the benefits cliff for their employees, but they cannot do this unless they know where these thresholds generally lie.

Think outside the box.

Most public benefits only consider income in their thresholds, but employers have latitude in crafting their compensation packages. An employer could offer an employee a contribution to a health or dependent care FSA instead of a slight raise if a given employee would make use of the account and if the employee agreed to such an arrangement. In such a case, the employee’s income for benefits purposes would not rise.

What can nonprofits do?

Design supports for those who experience the Cliff.

Awareness of the benefits cliff and where the thresholds lie is key. Nonprofits and foundations can however, structure programs and funds with an eye towards the benefits cliff. They might even create programs designed to target those who abruptly lose benefits.

Index of Public Benefits

This simple guide lists and explains the different public benefits that are involved in the Benefits Cliff conversation.

The Benefits Cliff in Forsyth County: a Core Initiative of the Asset Building Coalition

Benefits Cliff in Forsyth County Microsite

This is an educational microsite built by Forsyth Futures, designed to inform local stakeholders on the conditions around this complex issue.

Local Social Benefits Calculator

The Center for the Study of Economic Mobility (CSEM) at Winston-Salem State University, in partnership with Forsyth Futures, created a digital calcultor to help individuals, families, and employers better understand the impact of potential pay raises.

Advocacy Tier: Participant

For issues designated to the participant tier, the ABC will join with other partners as an active member to develop strategies to influence policy.

Reform of municipal fines and fees

North Carolina General Statute § 20-24.1 dictates that the Department of Motor Vehicles must revoke the driver’s license of a person charged with a motor vehicle offense who failed to appear in court or failed to pay a fine, penalty, or court cost ordered by the court.

Statewide, of the 1.3 million people who had their driver’s license suspended in the state, 21 percent are for failing to pay traffic fines or court fees while 66 percent are for failure to appear in court.

More specifically, approximately 9,693 drivers out of 284,922 Forsyth County residents of driving age have a suspended license for unpaid traffic court fines and fees. Although many driver’s license suspensions in North Carolina are denoted as a failure to appear (FTA), less is known about the causes of FTAs. While some individuals avoid court for problematic reasons, such as willful avoidance of court obligations, there are also potential financial and indigency-related causes for failing to appear. For example, someone who cannot afford to take a day off work lest they lose their job or who cannot afford childcare may not appear.

This advocacy opportunity is at the county level.

The ABC's Advocacy Postion:

Courts should take into account a person’s ability to pay and seek ways to restore driving privileges and remediate late fees.

Court systems impose fines, fees, court costs, and other debts that disproportionately impact low-income individuals, leading to lost privileges, including drivers’ licenses, which cause further economic instability for families.

1. Unpaid fees and fines should be forgiven, especially those that are over two years old.

2. There should be pathways to restoration for people who have suspended drivers' licenses.

3. The court should preemptively assess if a person has the ability to pay and reduce or waive fees accordingly.

Durham and Mecklengberg County have done extensive work in this area

which typically requires understanding fines and fees and then advocating to local officials in the court system to change practices. We can do the same in Forsyth County.

Forsyth County DRIVE Program Logo

The Forsyth County DRIVE Program provides an avenue through which Forsyth County Residents burdened by economic hardship may engage with the court system to have their driver’s license restored.

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Watch Now: DRIVE Program Interview on Facebook Live

Advocacy Tier: Signatory

For issues designated to the signatory tier, the ABC may take a public position to support or oppose policy in this area, lending our name to an effort:

State Earned Income Tax Credit

The North Carolina state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) reduces tax liability for low-income earners and some middle-income families. North Carolina eliminated the state EITC in 2014 and at that time was the only state to eliminate the credit in nearly 30 years. Nearly one million families claimed the credit each year when it was in place. Reinstating the credit would support low-income earners across the state and advocacy would take place at the state level.

This advocacy opportunity is at the state level.

The ABC's advocacy position:

North Carolina should reinstate the EITC.

Student Loan Debt

While pursuing higher education is still a pathway to higher incomes over a person’s lifetime, student loan debt threatens to undermine this promise in North Carolina and nationwide. Outstanding student loan amounts have risen at an alarming rate over the past decade, and North Carolina has not been immune from this trend. Today, students and their families face a difficult decision: take on substantial debt to fill the gap between ballooning college costs and reduced grant support or forgo a college education in the face of a labor market that increasingly demands credentials and degrees. The impact of this choice is particularly severe for some populations: communities of color, rural and low-income communities, veterans and servicemembers, women, and older Americans.

This advocacy opportunity is at both the state and federal levels.

The ABC's Advocacy Position:

Prevent student debt through greater student assistance and develop policy soluations for debt forgiveness. Obtaining an education should never prevent a person from becoming financially stable.

1. Eliminate abusive practices by loan-servicing companies that drive up student loan debt

2. Support policies for student loan forgiveness.

3. Increase state support for affordable tuition.

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Learn more about the student loan debt crisis in North Carolina.

North Carolina’s Student Debt, Dimensions of a Crisis. Center for Responsible Lending, 2019.

  • NC Consumers with Student Loan Debt 20.9% 20.9%
  • NC Borrowers of Color with Student Loans in Collections 18% 18%
  • NC White Borrowers with Student Loans in Collections 11% 11%

Average Federal Student Loan Debt for NC Graduates, 2017

Medicaid Expansion in North Carolina

North Carolina is one of 12 states that has not yet expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If Medicaid is expanded in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration estimates that 624,000 residents would become newly eligible for coverage. A significant number of them (estimates range from 215,000 to nearly half a million) are currently in the coverage gap, with no realistic access to health insurance at all, unless Medicaid is expanded.

Key Takeaways:

  • North Carolina again failed to expand Medicaid in 2020.
  • North Carolina’s Medicaid program is transitioning to a managed care model in 2021 after several delays.
  • Governor Cooper has long pushed for Medicaid expansion, but GOP lawmakers oppose expansion.

Advocacy opportunities for this issue are at the state level.

The ABC's Advocacy Postion:

North Carolina should expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Learn more about NC and the ACA's Medicaid Expansion.

Closing the “Coverage Gap” would help people across North Carolina and in Forsyth County gain access to coverage.

Approximately 25,480 people in Forsyth County would gain access to coverage if we close the coverage gap.

People in the “coverage gap” make too much to qualify for Medicaid but do not earn enough to qualify for a subsidy in the private marketplace. Closing the health insurance coverage gap would provide affordable health coverage to thousands of people in Forsyth County that cannot get the health care they need. Learn more about the coverage gap in Forsyth County.

Recent Committee News

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Blog posts about recent committee news and updates are coming soon!