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Weekend reads: NC’s housing shortage, polluters must pay, and previewing the legislative session


Weekend reads: NC’s housing shortage, polluters must pay, and previewing the legislative session

Apr 21, 2024 | 9:33 am ET
By Clayton Henkel
Weekend reads: NC’s housing shortage, polluters must pay, and a previewing the legislative session
North Carolina State Capitol Photo: Clayton Henkel

“I have no idea what we’re going to do”: Housing shortage leaves NC low-income renters stymied

tenant advocates at a rally outside the U.S. capitol hold a banner that reads: THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH"
U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat and the chair of the Progressive Caucus, speaks at a press event, joining about 100 tenant advocates to call on the Federal Housing Finance Agency to bolster tenant protections and rent regulations on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023. (Samantha Dietel/States Newsroom)

By Greg Childress 

New report identifies a yawning housing gap for hundreds of thousands of NC households

Julia Stokes and her daughter moved into the Helen Wright Center, a Raleigh shelter for women experiencing homelessness, late last year after a family dispute left them without a place to live.

With a monthly income of just under $1,900 — a combination of survivor’s benefits for Stokes and federal assistance for the daughter who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair — Triangle-area rents are well out of the reach for the 70-year-old caretaker.

“You tell me, because I don’t have the answer,” Stokes responded when asked if she knew of a place where one could live on her monthly income. “That’s why this is so frustrating. I take two steps up, and two steps backwards.”  [Read more...]

Bonus read: Winston-Salem tenants want to buy apartments promised to private developer


Polluters must pay to clean up areas contaminated with PFOA, PFOS

EPA administrator Michael Regan
EPA Administrator Michael Regan (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

By Lisa Sorg

EPA announced a new rule today regulating the two compounds as hazardous substances

Industries that discharge toxic PFOA and PFOS compounds into the environment will now be held legally and financially responsible for the contamination, according to a final rule issued by the EPA today.

The Department of Defense is also subject to the new requirements.

PFOA and PFOS are now classified as hazardous substances under Superfund law, which authorizes the EPA to use its enforcement powers to require polluters pay for and clean up the contamination. The designation also mandates new reporting requirements for facilities that release the compounds into the environment. [Read more...]

Bonus read: PFAS found beneath Tarheel Army Missile Plant, military failed to tell DEQ


Student financial aid officers warn of delays as Congress condemns ‘FAFSA fail’

an image of a roll of 50-dollar bills topped by a graduation cap
North Carolina has joined with federal and state partners to announce a “FAFSA Week of Action,” April 15-19, urging high school students and families to finish the FAFSA to become eligible for Next NC scholarship funds and other free financial aid options. (Image: Getty Images/CatherineLane)

By Clayton Henkel 

With FAFSA completion rates down 25%, states focus on week of action promoting college attendance, free financial aid

When Congress passed the FAFSA Simplification Act in 2020, it was intended to make the process of filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form easier and more streamlined for low-income students hoping to attend college. But last week, Republicans and Democrats alike voiced their displeasure with delays and glitches in the U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA rollout.

Rachelle Feldman, vice provost of enrollment at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, told members of the U.S. House Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee that she felt great optimism at how the simplification was originally envisioned.[Read more...]


Appalachian State University chancellor to step down, citing health issues

an aerial view of the Appalachian State campus
An aerial view of the Appalachian State University campus (Photo: www.appstate.edu)

By Joe Killian

Appalachian State University Chancellor Sheri Everts is stepping down, citing health problems. Her last day will be Friday.

“Over the last few months, I have been experiencing significant health challenges,” Everts wrote in a message to the university community early Monday. “And I must now focus on my personal health and wellbeing.”

Everts has led App State for the last decade, during which the campus has significantly increased its enrollment, fundraising and its footprint in Boone and beyond. [Read more…]


NC’s legislative “short session” comes with a long to-do list

the North Carolina Legislative Building
Members of the NC House and Senate convene April 24th for the 2024 legislative session. (Photo: Clayton Henkel)

By Clayton Henkel

People, pay, and persistence set the tone as 2024 session gets underway

Members of the North Carolina House and Senate return to Raleigh next Wednesday, April 24th for the 2024 legislative “short session,” and it may well be one that’s defined by three P’s: people, pay, and persistence.

For weeks now, legislative committees have been hearing about state agency needs, and a recurring theme is the critical shortages of workers.

Mark Benton, chief deputy secretary for health with the state Department of Health and Human Services, told lawmakers earlier this month that while there has been some improvement in state pay over the past year, wages simply aren’t competitive with the private sector. [Read more…]


NC Appeals Court rules Gov. Cooper erred in COVID-19 bar closures

Close up of beer being served. Klaus-Vedfelt/Getty-Images
The Court of Appeals ruled that Gov. Roy Cooper’s closure of bars in the early months of the pandemic was “irrational and arbitrary.” Photo: Klaus-Vedfelt/Getty-Images

By Kelan Lyons 

The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Gov. Roy Cooper’s closure of certain bars, but not restaurants, in the early months of the pandemic was “irrational and arbitrary,” not based on data and science.

“Our careful review of the Record does not reveal the existence of any scientific evidence demonstrating Plaintiffs’ bars, as opposed to the bars located in other establishments serving alcohol, posed a heightened risk at the time Executive Order No. 141 was issued,” wrote Judge April C. Wood, a Republican. “Overall, the articles and data submitted by Defendant entirely fail to address any differences in the risk of spread of COVID-19 between the bars he allowed to reopen and Plaintiffs’ bars which remained closed.” [Read more…]

Bonus read: Meet the volunteers trying to ‘FLIP’ North Carolina’s courts


Inflation-adjusted state spending per child in NC Pre-K declined last year, according to a national report

a young child in a classroom looking at a computer screen
NC Pre-K per student funding declined over the past year, while program enrollment has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Photo: Adobe Stock

By Lynn Bonner 

Enrollment in the state’s public preschool program NC Pre-K increased slightly in 2023 from the previous year, but spending per student declined, according to a report from National Institute for Early Education Research.

NC Pre-K enrollment still has not fully rebounded after the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 31,000 students were enrolled in NC Pre-K in the 2019-2020 school year, while about 25,700 were enrolled last year, according to NIEER’s data.

Preschool enrollment in 28 states remains below pre-COVID levels, according to the report. [Read more.…]

Bonus read:
* Health care works better for North Carolina’s white residents than for everyone else

* North Carolina can do more to help people with opioid use disorder find treatment, a policy expert tells legislators


AI, churn in county directors present challenges for State Board of Elections

Paul Cox, general counsel for the State Board of Elections and Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell
Paul Cox, general counsel for the State Board of Elections (left) and Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell testified before a legislative oversight committee about the March primary and challenges facing the elections process for the General Election in November. (Screenshot: NCGA)

By Lisa Sorg 

Facing hostility and harassment, 58 county elections directors resigned or retired since 2019

There is an acute shortage of experienced county elections directors to oversee the November presidential contest, State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell told a legislative oversight committee today, with 30 officials serving in the position for the first time. [Read more...]


NC legislature sacrifices basic human and constitutional rights on the tax cut altar (Commentary)

(Photo of NC General Assembly by Clayton Henkel)
Any real and long-term solution will require buy-in from budget writers in the state legislature. (Photo of NC General Assembly by Clayton Henkel)

By Rob Schofield

Most Americans take it as a given that prisons and jails are dreadful places in which to spend much time – especially for the people incarcerated there. That said, even those who proudly embrace the “tough on crime” moniker usually acknowledge that there’s a limit to how miserable prisons and jails can be made.

If a state government attempted to maintain a 21st century version of the Civil War Confederate hellhole known as Andersonville, even the most conservative judges in our judiciary would rule it a violation of the prisoners’ constitutional rights and order that they be immediately housed in a reasonably safe and modern facility.[Read more…]