News & Announcements

Tobacco: No News Is Good News

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This session was one driven by the constraints of COVID-19. COVID-19 has increased unemployment, decreased revenue, and increased costs to provide basic services, like education. At the same time, COVID-19 has highlighted the need for robust tobacco cessation programs and services, especially as we learn more about the link between COVID-19 complications and tobacco use. Thus, NCAH’s tobacco use prevention-related priority this year has been to avoid having our critical tobacco cessation and prevention funding appropriated for other purposes. In that, we, and our many advocacy partners, have been successful. 

As the session ends, we have the opportunity to start to think about how we can return to proactive, rather than defensive, tobacco advocacy in a state, country, and world changed by COVID-19. One thing these last few months have shown us more than ever is we must actively campaign on the tobacco use prevention policies that will reduce health disparities: zoning and menthol.

Much of the disparate impact of tobacco can be tied back to retailer density, exposure to marketing, and local policies that leave underserved communities and communities of color vulnerable to tobacco’s impacts. While we have some of the strictest rules around preemption in the country, we don’t have to accept this. Addressing preemption and supporting local efforts to reduce tobacco retailer density and implement other zoning strategies that reduce tobacco use could be a vital part of reenergizing tobacco use prevention advocacy in North Carolina.

Menthol is another area where improvements would benefit all of us, but would most benefit communities of color, who are deliberately and disproportionately targeted by Big Tobacco’s marketing machine. From the Menthol Wars of the 1970s, to the flavor restrictions of the aughties, to the need for No Menthol Sunday, what we know for sure is we have consistently prioritized the health of white people at the expense of people of color. Black health advocates are demanding that we support them in their fight to change this, and we must.

We’ll also be paying attention to what other states are doing when it comes to tobacco taxes. Increasing the tobacco tax is an evidence-based strategy, but whether or not there is an appetite for that in an election year remains to be seen.

Resources:

NC Alliance for HealthTobacco: No News Is Good News
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Reduced-Price Lunch Copay Funding: What Is It and What Does It Do?

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Last week, H1023, Coronavirus Relief Fund/Additions & Revisions, passed the NC General Assembly unanimously. Among other things, H1023:

  • Eliminates the reduced-price lunch copay in North Carolina! All students who qualify for reduced-price lunch will receive free lunch starting in August. This impacts more than 63,000 students receiving reduced-price lunch.
  • Requires the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to submit a report that determines the percentage of students who qualify for and participate in reduced-price meals, the total amount of debt each local school administrative unit (LEA) has related to unpaid meal charges, and how LEAs approach unpaid meal charges. The report must also detail options for a statewide policy for a uniform response to unpaid meal charges that does not prevent students from receiving nutritious meals.
  • Includes funding for innovative school meals and to allow School Nutrition Programs to continue to operate yellow buses for meal delivery throughout the summer.

NCAH is pleased this provision was included, but we also want to acknowledge that this is only one step. We know that universal meals are the most equitable option. In no other part of school do we ask for a parent’s income and then determine what the child gets and what the family will have to pay. Many students who need a healthy school meal do not apply for free- or reduced-price lunch even though they qualify. Some families may not know they are eligible, are afraid to utilize a benefit program due to immigration status, or think their children will not eat school meals. Also, some families find it difficult to pay full-price but don’t qualify for reduced-price meals. And, we don’t know the full cost of eliminating the reduced-price lunch copay, so the provision is only for one year, for now.

Still, every student who needs a healthy school meal should have one and we are hopeful this policy will help ensure that happens.

This success was made possible because Senior Appropriations Chairman Representative Jason Saine and Appropriations Chairman Senator Brent Jackson were champions for School Nutrition Programs. NCAH worked closely with NC PTA, Self-Help, School Nutrition Association of North Carolina, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, MomsRising, Food Insight Group, and others to support the work of School Nutrition Programs in North Carolina.

You can see coverage of this important issue here:

  • https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article243788002.html
  • https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article243788002.html
NC Alliance for HealthReduced-Price Lunch Copay Funding: What Is It and What Does It Do?
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Legislative Update, 06/23/2020

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Budget Released

A “mini” budget that includes additional CARES Act expenditures was released in Senate Appropriations this morning. The budget, which was a committee substitute to HB 1023, includes funding for a number of NCAH’s priorities. We expect the General Assembly to pass this bill swiftly and recess with plans to return to Raleigh in the near future to address additional needs and allocate the remaining CARES Act funds.

Here are how NCAH’s priorities fared in the budget:

  • Funding million to eliminate the reduced-price lunch copay – included
  • Funding for food banks – not included
  • Funding for School Nutrition Programs – included
  • No cuts to tobacco cessation services – no cuts are made

In addition to appropriations, NCAH has been working with partners on a number of statutory changes, which are making their way through the legislative process. These include:

  • Giving DHHS the ability to apply for a waiver to the work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents who receive SNAP.
  • Reducing the amount of indirect costs that School Nutrition Programs are required to pay.
  • Protecting the requirement that new jails have outdoor exercise space.
  • Protecting funding for the Rural Operating Assistance Program (ROAP), which is critical to ensuring that older adults and people with disabilities have transportation to access necessary medical services, meals, employment, and other essential resources.

Stay tuned!

NC Alliance for HealthLegislative Update, 06/23/2020
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Legislative Update, 06/15/2020

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A Budget Is Coming
There haven’t been many updates this session, because there hasn’t been a lot to give updates on. The House and Senate have been passing bills, most of which were bipartisan, fairly non-controversial.

Aside from a few bills with funding provisions, we hadn’t seen many appropriations. That seems like it is about to change. House and Senate leadership are meeting today to finalize the spending package, and we expect to see what’s in it later this week. We don’t have many details yet, but here is what we are hoping to see:

  • $5 million to eliminate the reduced-price lunch copay
  • Funding for food banks
  • Funding for school nutrition programs
  • No cuts to tobacco cessation services

In addition to appropriations, NCAH has been advocating for and following a number of bills this legislative session. Here are a few that are making their way through the legislative process:

As always, we will keep you posted as we learn more. 

NC Alliance for HealthLegislative Update, 06/15/2020
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Updated Policy Call Information

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Tobacco Use Prevention Policy Call: Thursdays at 02:00 PM

Register in advance for this meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUlc-Cpqz0oG9VafIqDGHzugYygP2lFqAxd

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Healthy Food Access Policy Call: Fridays at 12:00 PM

Register in advance for this meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYtdO-grjwtE9X2K5zf9Ru-eL5UqQc9pVmV

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

NC Alliance for HealthUpdated Policy Call Information
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A Letter to our Partners

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Dear Partners,

There are two public health crises happening in this country: a novel coronavirus and racism. Both are ravaging communities of color, COVID-19 for months, and racism for centuries, resulting in substantial and measurable disparities in the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of these communities. Public health, healthcare systems, healthcare policies, and advocates like us have not always prioritized the health of communities of color. We must do better. 

In the past few weeks, we have been vocal about the need to stay home, wear a mask, stay six feet apart, fund food assistance programs, support tobacco users who want to quit, and work together to flatten the curve.

We would not be doing service to our mission if we were not also vocal about the need to address systemic racism. To be silent is to accept the status quo, and we do not accept this. We must work toward a world where communities of color can live their healthiest lives.

We denounce the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others. We denounce policies and practices that perpetuate racism.

We stand with communities of color. We will continue to work to advance equitable policies that reduce health disparities, prevent chronic disease, and promote health. We will continue to speak up when we encounter racism; we will continue to read, learn, and advocate; and we will continue to work to address our own biases and the ways in which we perpetuate prejudices.

We invite you to participate in ongoing conversations about how NCAH can best lend our voice to this movement and solidify our commitment to equity. We look forward to continuing to partner with you in this critical work.

Sincerely,
Morgan, Marianne, and Arlene

NC Alliance for HealthA Letter to our Partners
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June Committee Meetings

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We invite you to our June committee meetings. We value everyone’s input and hope you will join us in conversation as your schedule permits. These meetings will be held virtually only.

The Tobacco Use Prevention Committee will meet on June 15, 2020, at 10:00am

The Healthy Food Access Committee will also meet on June 15, 2020, at 1:00pm

Please register separately for each meeting to receive the agenda, updates and other meeting materials. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

NC Alliance for HealthJune Committee Meetings
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Legislative Update, 05/27/2020

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“Be ready to hear ‘no’ a lot.”
Following a joint Appropriations Committee meeting on Tuesday, May 26, Senator Harry Brown said:

“We are looking at a $5,000,000,000 total revenue loss. As Appropriations Chairs we are going to have to say ‘no’ a whole lot in the next few months. It will be tough to balance. but the thing about state and local government is that you have to balance your budget. So just understand that and be ready to hear ‘no’ a lot.”

We had already heard that no “new” money would be spent, but Senator Brown’s comments make clear that the General Assembly will be focusing on providing funding to programs and services they deem critical, and potentially making cuts elsewhere.

Like you, we believe all of our funding requests are critical, and will continue to work diligently to secure funding for these essential programs and services.

This session our priorities include:

  • funding for tobacco use prevention and cessation programs;
  • eliminating the reduced-price lunch copay;
  • additional funding for school nutrition program staff, transportation, procurement, and infrastructure needs;
  • additional funding for food banks; 
  • passage of the FIBER Act; and
  • closing the health insurance coverage gap.

A number of bills have been filed relevant to our priorities, and we are watching them closely. We are still hearing that session will be short. We will keep you posted!

NC Alliance for HealthLegislative Update, 05/27/2020
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Legislative Update, 05/18/2020

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The NC General Assembly is Back in Raleigh
The North Carolina General Assembly is back at work after holding skeleton sessions for a few weeks following the passage of the COVID-19 recovery package. As always, things are changing rapidly, but here’s what we know (for now):

  • Both chambers plan to pass a series of mini budgets, spending mostly CARES Act funds when possible, due to a projected $4 billion revenue shortfall.
  • No “new” money will be spent and essential and COVID-19 related expenditures will be the priority.
  • The Senate hopes to adjourn before the end of June. The House anticipates adjourning around July 4th.

NCAH’s priorities include:

  • funding for tobacco use prevention and cessation programs;
  • eliminating the reduced-price lunch copay;
  • additional funding for school nutrition program staff, transportation, procurement, and infrastructure needs;
  • additional funding for food banks; 
  • passage of the FIBER Act; and
  • closing the health insurance coverage gap.
NC Alliance for HealthLegislative Update, 05/18/2020
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