(Originally published in The Progressive Pulse, a blog from the NC Policy Watch)
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, with not enough jobs for North Carolina’s job seekers, many North Carolinians are still struggling to find work. But many workers who managed to hold onto their jobs during the recession are continuing to find it difficult to make ends meet.
U.S. Census bureau data show that in 2010, there were over 350,000 low-income working families in North Carolina. This means that over 1 in 3 working families in the state were earning less than 200 percent of the official poverty threshold, much less than it actually takes to make ends meet. North Carolina is not alone – nationally, the share of low-income working families increased to 31 percent in 2010.
States around the country are responding in a number of ways to ensure that by working, a family can actually pay the bills. Legislators in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois, for instance, are pushing to raise their states’ minimum wage. Job retention policies are also on the table. This past year has seen an unprecedented number of successes in getting paid sick days legislation passed, with Connecticut leading the way on the state level. Moreover, states and localities are working to pass wage theft legislation to ensure that workers are actually paid for the work they perform. Finally, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) — which is crucial for low-income working families and infuses communities with millions of dollars each year – is slated to be restored in New Jersey (though, gradually).
Economic impact analysis shows that a higher minimum wage creates jobs and strengthens the economy; paid sick days and family leave insurance increase economic security while cutting health care costs and boosting employers’ bottom line; and paying workers their earned wages is both a moral and a legal imperative. Moreover, the EITC is a crucial tool to assist working families in meeting basic needs and helps communities statewide. Creating and maintaining jobs that pay a living wage and providing benefits that ensure job stability puts us all on the right path toward shared economic prosperity and creates much-needed economic growth for North Carolina.