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The future is being built today: Little moments from 2022 that give us heart

Ever notice how time changes seemingly tiny moments into the hinge points of our lives?

That time a missed turn turned into a lifelong friend, or that time a small kindness from a stranger restored your faith in humanity when it was being sorely tested, or that time a teacher took the extra time to unlock a vital piece of understanding you rely on to this day.

As it is in our personal lives, so it is in the social realities of our shared existence. Economic and policy transformations are rooted in small moments, often nearly imperceptible in the moment, but clearly momentous with the benefit of time.

We saw a lot of moments with that kind of potential this year.

We saw across North Carolina as people pressed their elected leaders to heed voices in their communities on decisions on how to spend funds provided for COVID recovery through the American Rescue Plan. With $3.4 billion in Local Fiscal Recovery Funds available to drive every community toward a more equitable recovery, we’ve already seen local leaders exploring transformative investments, engaging community members, and exploring ways to ensure people who are so often left out, like immigrants and refugees, can share in the benefits. This ongoing experiment is revealing what can happen when communities receive flexible resources and when local advocates elbow their way to a place at the table where spending decisions are made.

We’ve seen federal assistance keep families in their homes and with food on the table even in the midst of a global pandemic. The unprecedented federal response to COVID-19, through stimulus checks, expanded Unemployment Insurance and Child Tax Credit benefits, and rental assistance kept families out of poverty, stabilized the economy, and saved lives.  Child poverty dropped by two percentage points in North Carolina, laying the foundation for what the research shows is needed to improve economic mobility over time.  The significant work by community-based organizations and leaders in Alamance, Robeson, and Pitt counties and all across the Eastern region of North Carolina made sure that the benefits reached more of the people who needed support at a critical time.

We saw it in Raleigh when our friends with EveryChild NC brought parents, teachers, and students together to demand the legislature make good on our children’s constitutional right to a sound public education. Continuing a decades-long fight, both in court through the Leandro case and beyond, tireless champions for children have never given up on our shared future.  North Carolina has the funds to deliver on our obligation to our children: $3.2 billion in public funds is available to give schools the resources they need to hire and retain teachers, better serve students with learning disabilities, and upgrade crumbling school buildings.

There have been plenty of times in the past few years when it feels like everything is coming apart, when the forces of greed and violence appear impossible to resist, and when the prospect of justice seems out of reach. The hardships are real, but they’re not predestined or set in stone.

As the year comes to a close, we see and celebrate the work that so many of you are doing to make North Carolina a place where everyone can thrive.