This has been an unparalleled election season for many reasons, among them occurring during a global pandemic and national protests for racial justice. We now know the outcome of our national and state elections. Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy applauds those who have fought so fiercely to protect the democratic process, register others to vote, and cast their own ballot. Despite numerous obstacles, North Carolinians voted early and by-mail in record numbers yielding this historic administration. Kamala Harris is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be elected to national office—an incredible achievement for Harris and the United States as a whole. This is a historic end to an historic year.
Now, more than ever, our country needs strong leadership to overcome the socio-economic consequences of this pandemic. We hope that the Biden administration will implement policies that expand services and protections to low-income families and all United States residents during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Among these issues include universal healthcare, raising the federal minimum wage, ensuring the availability of asylum relief for immigrants, and expanding access to our legal system.
The Advocacy Center also acknowledges the important role of the state legislature in passing policies that impact our community and our clients. Here are a few key issues affecting North Carolinians that our organization encourages the state legislature to pass and for our community to support:
- Medicaid Expansion: Access to affordable care is critical during the COVID-19 crisis. North Carolina is just one of twelve states not to have expanded Medicaid eligibility so that all state residents have affordable healthcare options. Without Medicaid expansion, it is estimated that over 500,000 people fall into the coverage gap—even more since the start of the pandemic. Learn more about the coverage gap here.
- Fixing our broken unemployment insurance system: Over one million North Carolinians have applied for unemployment benefits since March. The overwhelming volume of applications paired with implementing new assistance programs has caused significant delays, making the process more confusing for applicants. These funds are critical to families trying to recover from this pandemic.
- Expanding food assistance programs: The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program expanded food assistance for North Carolinian families during this pandemic. Families receiving SNAP benefits (food stamps) have been receiving the maximum eligible benefits through October 2020. To ensure individuals can feed their families, these programs and expansions must continue without work requirements.
- State funded rent and mortgage relief: The CDC Eviction Moratorium expires on December 31st, 2020 with no adequate plan to keep all North Carolinians safely housed. The state legislature must act quickly to increase program funding for rent and mortgage relief by allocating nearly 1.5 billion unreserved dollars toward assistance for families affected by COVID-19.
While these issues have a distinct urgency during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also necessary social safety nets beyond this global crisis. As federal and state protections expire, programs must be implemented to ensure there is support for all North Carolinian families to endure this pandemic and put our state on the road toward economic recovery.
While we celebrate the incredible work of activists, voters, and elected officials across the country, the fight for safety, security and stability in our society continues. Call your state and federal representatives regularly to show your support of low-income North Carolinian families and pandemic relief efforts. Volunteer with community organizations, exercise your constitutional right to protest and petition, and practice empathy and compassion. Our community’s influence does not end after we cast our ballot: looking beyond electoral politics is integral to lasting change.
This year has certainly presented challenges to our communities, but Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy will continue to serve and affirm low-income families, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, veterans, disabled people, and immigrants. We strongly believe that diversity of life and experience is what makes our country great and we will persist in fighting for access to justice for all people. Our vision is to build a just community, where all people are treated fairly, which does not, and will never, end after an election.
The staff at Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy