Action Alert: Advocate at home for a stronger N.C.

A lot of us may be stuck at home, but we can still advocate for a stronger N.C.

Our state is more vulnerable to COVID-19 than it should be, but our legislature can do the right thing by quickly enacting policies that preserve safety, financial security and family stability for ALL North Carolinians.

House speaker Tim Moore has convened a bipartisan House Select Committee to discuss policy options in response to COVID-19. The committee is soliciting public comments through an online portal to inform their priorities.

Our representatives need to hear from you!

Take a few minutes to submit comments on how the state should respond to COVID-19 in ways that ensure N.C. is better equipped to weather crisis down the road.

There are various ways the legislature could stabilize families and save our economy during these uncertain times, but here are three options we’re emphasizing:

  1. We must expand Medicaid.

    Health insurance and access to health care are more important now than ever before.

    No one should have to make the hard choice between getting critical care and making ends meet. But half a million people in N.C. do not have health insurance and thousands more are losing coverage with their jobs as our economy takes a massive hit. 

    Workers in many “essential businesses” are most likely to be uninsured and in our state’s coverage gap.

    Expansion is available, but our legislature has refused to do it.

    All of North Carolina is at risk when our neighbors are uninsured and unable to get the care they need.

    Medicaid expansion requires no increase in state taxes and can be done quickly to increase access to care and treatment. Federal taxes that we currently pay to fund expansion in most other states would cover 90% of expansion here. The remaining 10% could be paid by insurers and hospitals. 

    Expansion would bring billions to our economy, thousands of jobs and support struggling rural hospitals that need to stay open, at a time when this support is crucial.
     
  2. We must improve our Unemployment Insurance program.

    Our state has the cruelest unemployment insurance program in the country. 

    In 2013, the legislature cut benefits by almost half while making them more difficult to get. 

    The unemployment insurance trust fund has almost $4 billion today, but the program still operates based on those cuts. Before this crisis began, fewer than one in 10 unemployed workers qualified to receive benefits.

    Gov. Roy Cooper’s recent executive order as well as congressional action expanding benefits to workers impacted by COVID-19 are a start, but our state’s program does not go far enough to support people who are out of work.

    Thousands now depend on unemployment benefits for significant financial support. We need to make these benefits accessible to help families and our economy weather this crisis.
     
  3. We must restore state funding for civil legal aid to help people meet basic needs. 

    Life altering decisions are made every day in our legal and administrative systems that directly impact a person’s chance at stability. These systems are not easy to navigate without legal help, but no one has the constitutional right to an attorney in civil legal cases.

    Only those who can afford legal help get what they need.

    Before the recession, state funding for civil legal services was $7 million per year. Now that funding totals about $1 million.

    People who never expected to need our help are now trying to figure out how to manage debt, access health care, avoid homelessness, stop domestic abuse, and file for small business loans to help the economy recover.

    This work stabilizes families in crisis. It reduces the need for emergency services and improves families’ income, health and well-being.

    Legal aid attorneys help families prevent bad situations from spiraling out of control. Restoring this funding would enable N.C.’s legal services organizations to answer more calls for help during this crisis and beyond, ensuring equal opportunity for low-income people.

    We cannot wait another day to provide civil legal assistance to help families preserve their stability and succeed.

Now is the time

Now is the time for our representatives to step up and serve the people of this state, who are the victims of this viral pandemic.

These investments in our community would ensure all residents can reach their fullest potential regardless of socioeconomic background or whatever crisis life throws their way.

Submit your comment

Need more inspiration? 

Check out our 2020 Advocacy Agenda for more ways we can support
safety, security and stability for ALL North Carolinians.

Share this message 

Encourage others to submit comments this week.

Action Alert: New HUD Proposal Would Roll-Back Fair Housing Protections, Enable Discrimination

Joint statement with the N.C. Justice Center

This week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released a notice of proposed rulemaking to substantially change its existing rule on “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH),” an important civil rights regulation implementing the Fair Housing Act.

The NC Justice Center (NCJC) and Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy (CCLA), based on our initial review of the new draft rule, have substantial concerns and believe it will weaken enforcement of fair housing laws as well as the ability for residents to challenge housing discrimination and racial and ethnic segregation here in North Carolina.

HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) mandate was designed to correct discriminatory housing practices as well as the lasting impacts of government and privately sponsored residential segregation. Under the prior AFFH rule, jurisdictions and Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) that receive federal funding must analyze patterns of segregation and discriminatory housing practices for families with children, people of color, people with disabilities and members of other protected classes. They are also required to take actions to address barriers to fair housing. 

HUD’s proposed new rule is a step backwards in three specific areas:

  • First, unlike the prior AFFH rule issued in 2015, HUD’s proposed new rule does not even mention the need to address the negative effects of historic patterns of segregation. Instead, it only focuses on income without consideration of all the other barriers to affordable housing.
  • Second, HUD’s new rule will eliminate the community participation and engagement requirement that provides opportunities for members of local communities to have a say in the AFFH process.
  • Third, the draft new rule will no longer require jurisdictions to determine what barriers to fair housing exist in their areas, instead merely allowing them to determine their own fair housing goals. Public housing authorities, which serve thousands of North Carolinians and can play a crucial role in either reinforcing segregation or promoting integration and improving life opportunities, will no longer have substantive obligations under this draft rule.

As currently written, the proposed rule will undermine state and local efforts in North Carolina to address systemic and unfair racial disparities in housing, as well as the persistent patterns of racial segregation that continue to create unfair and unjust life outcomes for people and communities of color in our state.

A note from Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy about this proposal:

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson was in Charlotte this week to announce a proposed rule change that would effectively roll back fair housing protections against discrimination and segregation.

His choice to make this announcement in Charlotte is an irony not lost on Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. We work with local partners every day to address the systemic inequities that have contributed to the lack of economic mobility in our community as well as the affordable housing crisis.

In 2013, the Equality of Opportunity study ranked Charlotte last in upward mobility among the 50 largest cities in the U.S. Since then, our community has agreed that issues of access, equity and economic opportunity are systemic problems. We must address these problems to ensure ALL in our community have a fair shot at achieving their greatest potential, regardless of income, background, race or zip code.

This rule would permanently weaken enforcement of fair housing laws. Instead of ensuring fair access to housing that is affordable, safe and habitable, this rule would perpetuate the legacy of discrimination and segregation that has shaped the community we live in today. 

This legacy is systemic. When the federal government chooses to ignore its role in that legacy, the opportunity to remedy past wrongs and adequately build a community that is equitable for all its residents is lost.

As an advocate for low-income and marginalized people, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy believes our community deserves better. Join us in opposing this rule and help us protect fair access to housing.

What you can do

Use Your Voice

Submit your comment on this proposal during the 60-day public comment period. Tell the federal government that our community believes in access to housing for all people. 

Share this message with your networks.

Encourage others to submit comments against this rule by March 16.

Learn more about national efforts to preserve fair housing and civil rights protections.

Media Links

“US Housing Chief Unveils Plan to Roll Back Fair Housing Rule” WFAE

“US Housing Secretary Ben Carson in Charlotte to focus on affordable housing” WCNC

“Ben Carson touts relaxed fair housing rule in Charlotte. Critics call it ‘dangerous’” Charlotte Observer


Action Alert: “Show Me Your Papers” Bill Threatens Community Safety

Yesterday, the N.C. House approved a bill that strips local authority from sheriffs’ departments by requiring them to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and assist in enforcing federal immigration law.

The legislation now goes before Gov. Roy Cooper for consideration after the N.C. Senate passed the bill in June.

House Bill 370, the “Show Me Your Papers” law, would require all N.C. sheriffs and jails to comply with immigration detainer requests made by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, even though these detainer requests are not considered valid warrants, which means sheriffs should have full discretion within their local authority to not recognize them.

The bill also requires police to determine the immigration status of any person arrested for a criminal charge and to notify ICE if the person is not a legal resident or citizen and forces jails to wait for federal approval before releasing an individual being held, even if the person is eligible for release under North Carolina law.

It would allow anyone to sue their local government if they believe it is not cooperating with immigration enforcement activities or breaking state law related to immigration.

HB370 is a direct response to local sheriffs across North Carolina, including Mecklenburg County Sheriff Gary McFadden, choosing to end federal 287(g) programs in their counties, which ended the requirement of local law enforcement to cooperate with and assist ICE in detaining undocumented residents.

Mecklenburg County participated in 287(g) for 12 years. During that time, the program diverted our local public safety resources away from protecting our community toward carrying out federal immigration enforcement policies.

Instead of addressing and preventing violent crime, the program incentivized local law enforcement officials to actively seek out undocumented residents with no criminal history through procedures that border on racial profiling and erode trust in the immigrant community.

Mecklenburg County Sherriff Gary McFadden was elected to office on a wave of local support for ending the 287(g) program.

Now the N.C. General Assembly is trying to override the will of Mecklenburg County voters to assert its own control over how our local law enforcement officials do their jobs.

Is this the best use of tax-payer dollars to keep our community safe? We don’t think so.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy believes this bill is a detriment to community safety, local autonomy and family unity for all Mecklenburg County residents.

We urge Governor Roy Cooper to veto this legislation.

287(g) facilitated thousands of deportations by arresting individuals for minor traffic infractions or misdemeanors. This practice has torn families apart, made immigrants vulnerable targets for exploitation and eroded the trust of law enforcement in the immigrant community.

None of these ramifications made our community safer and neither does a systematic dragnet that targets communities of color. Instead, it forces people to withdraw from their communities, from working, attending school, seeking medical care and reporting crime out of fear.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy continues to stand with our immigrant neighbors, advocating for inclusion and fairness under the law to ensure their safety, security and stability in our community.

What you can do

Contact Gov. Roy Cooper’s office by phone
(919) 814-2000 or email or sign this petition to express your concern for HB370 and call on him to veto the legislation.

Our community deserves safety, local autonomy and protected family unity.

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Action Alert: Let’s Give N.C. A Second Chance

For people with a criminal record, second chances are hard to come by.

But the N.C. General Assembly can change that narrative for more than 2 million North Carolinians living with criminal records.

The N.C. Senate unanimously passed The Second Chance Act (Senate Bill 562)earlier this month. The bipartisan legislation, which is now before the N.C. House, would expand eligibility for expungements, a court process that seals criminal records from public view.

“Our neighbors deserve second chances, and our community will be made stronger if we grant them.” 

Natalia Botella, attorney, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy



Why this matters

1 in 4 Americans has a criminal record, including 2 million+ North Carolinians These individuals spend YEARS trying to overcome past mistakes to lead productive lives as law abiding citizens.

Criminal records are barriers to jobs, housing, and opportunity because criminal background checks and stigma automatically exclude where people can live and work, even if an offense is a misdemeanor.

If our community is serious about addressing equity and access to opportunity, we must expand eligibility for expungements. Currently, more than 90 percent of expungements granted are for charges that never resulted in a conviction. 

Expungements expand access to a wider range of jobs and higher wages, which reduces the likelihood to turn to crime out of desperation.

N.C. will gain more tax revenue, make communities safer and reduce the costs of a revolving door criminal justice system.

What the legislation does

Automatic Relief: The Act would automatically expunge criminal charges that have been dismissed or disposed of as “not guilty” after July 1, 2020.

Expands Eligibility: It would also allow people to petition to have certain non-violent convictions expunged after 5- or 10-years good behavior, depending on the offense.

Relief for Juvenile Offenders: The Act would allow people with eligible convictions that occurred when a person was 16 or 17 years old prior to Dec. 1, 2019 to petition for an expungement, giving them the same rights as juveniles protected under the “Raise the Age” law.

Gives Prosecutors Discretion to Initiate Relief: Under the proposal, district attorneys would have the option to initiate certain expungement petitions, without relying on the individual to start the process.

What you can do

Thank your N.C. Senators! Contact your Senators and The Second Chance Act’s primary sponsors, Sen. Danny BrittSen. Warren Daniel and Sen. Floyd McKissick.

Tell your Representatives in the N.C. House to pass legislation that expands eligibility for expungements.

Learn about us. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s expungement project for ex-offenders opens the doors of opportunity for hundreds of Mecklenburg County residents. 

Share this message with your networks.

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