More than 300,000 people moved to North Carolina from another state during 2018, new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show.
While some 200,000 people moved away from North Carolina during the same period, that still left North Carolina a gainer in interstate migration.
Many movers didn’t go far: Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia were among the top states of origin and destination during the year.
Other trends are more dramatic: after decades of booming growth in the Sun Belt, almost 500,000 people born in New York had made their home in North Carolina by 2018.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey also rank high on the list of states that have seen their native sons and daughters come to North Carolina over the years.
“I have helped quite a few people who could go to anyplace who have looked at North Carolina” and relocated here, said Winston-Salem Council Member Jeff MacIntosh, who sells residential real estate. “The boxes they check off are health care, four seasons, cost of living, quality of culture and low traffic.”
In 2018, Florida was the single state that saw the most residents moving to North Carolina, while only a relative handful made their way here from the distant reaches of North and South Dakota.
It was hard to tell from the 2018 estimates whether most states were net gainers or losers in migration to and from North Carolina, but certain patterns were unmistakable:
For all the moving about, most North Carolinians stayed put during 2018, the Census Bureau said. Of the state’s 10.3 million residents, 8.7 million were living in the same house that they had lived in the year before. Another 1.2 million moved to another place but stayed in North Carolina.
The Census Bureau survey also picked up 50,000 people who moved into the state from abroad in 2018, although no detail was available on what places people came from.
The estimates showed that in 2018, some 35,000 people moved from Florida to North Carolina, while around 25,000 went the other way. Around 25,000 people both came from and went to the states of Virginia and South Carolina.
While some 25,000 people came to North Carolina from New York in 2018, only 10,000 or so went the other way. Exchanges between North Carolina and both Texas and Georgia were about balanced, some 17,000 to 18,000 going either way.
Where almost 18,000 people came from California to N.C., only 11,000 or so were going the other way, the estimates suggest.
Meanwhile, all that migration has created a mix of origins for people in the Old North State, which in 1940 had a population that was 90% native to the state.
According to the estimates, 5.7 million people born in North Carolina still lived here in 2018. There were 3.6 million people living in North Carolina who were born in other states: 1.1 million from the Northeast, about 625,000 from the Midwest, 1.6 million from other states in the South and some 340,000 people from the West.
A smaller number of people, some 140,000 or so, were born in Puerto Rico, other U.S. island areas or born to U.S. parents abroad.
Geographer Keith Debbage, a professor at UNC Greensboro, said New York’s status as a leading source of in-country migrants to North Carolina has been a trend so long that many know the joke about what “Cary,” outside Raleigh, actually stands for:
“Containment Area for Relocated Yankees,” Debbage called it. “You see a lot of high-skilled talent there, not just from New York but from other northeastern states. The fact that we know that acronym in North Carolina shows the perception and the reality of their contribution.”
Debbage said he’ll be worried about North Carolina if it becomes a state of net-outmigration, as California has become.
“I’ve often thought that people vote with their feet,” he said. “People move. People arrive in places. Despite all the challenges the state faces, if you look at how people behave in terms of how people move, we have been a winner for decades. I view that as the ultimate metric.”
If the percent of residents born outside North Carolina is a measure of economic health, it is clear that Forsyth County lags behind places like Mecklenburg and Wake counties in N.C.
Where 58% of the people in Forsyth were born in North Carolina, only 40% of the residents of Mecklenburg were born in the state, the 2018 estimates show. Wake County was 43% born in state.
While New York has been a top state for sending folks to North Carolina over the long haul, 2018 saw the state of Florida clearly in first place for the year.
A lot of those Floridians may be people who originally moved south from New York, Debbage said, then tired of the flat landscape and lack of four seasons.
Rich Geiger, the president of Visit Winston-Salem, is one of those people who grew up in New York, later on found himself in Florida, where he met his wife, and is now happy to call North Carolina home. In between Florida and North Carolina, though, there was a 14-year stay in Buffalo, N.Y.
Geiger said that when he was in Buffalo he thought about returning to Florida, but that his wife wanted four seasons.
In many cases, Geiger said, the parents of younger people working in North Carolina are moving here, too.
“We have quite a few people who come into the visitor’s center who are looking to relocate,” he said. “It is anecdotal, but you hear them saying, I have a family member who works in Charlotte ... or Raleigh ... we want to be close but not too close.”
North Carolina continues to make progress toward meeting a U.S. Justice Department requirement for moving 3,000 qualified individuals from adult-care homes into independent housing, according to the sixth annual review of the initiative.
At 2,114 placements as of June 30, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said Friday it is “positioned to exceed its goal” by the end of the settlement on July 1, 2021.
Eligible to participate are people living in adult-care homes whose symptoms have been diagnosed as a serious and persistent mental illness, or those who have been in treatment for more than 90 days at a state hospital.
The moves are part of a court settlement spurred by claims made by Disability Rights NC in November 2010 that the state was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by placing individuals with mental illness into adult-care homes.
The integration aspect of the act is intended to provide those individuals with the opportunity to live their lives like those without disabilities.
The agreement, known as the Olmstead settlement, was put into place in August 2011. The transitioning of individuals began in the spring of 2013 with modest progress over the past five years.
There was a 34% increase in placements statewide compared with June 30, 2018, according to the report.
Cardinal Innovations is the state’s largest managed-care organization covering 20 counties, including Alamance, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Rockingham and Stokes counties.
Cardinal had the most placements at 615, or 29% of the state’s total.
An additional 110 were in the transition planning stage as of June 30. Cardinal had set a goal of placing an additional 585 individuals during fiscal 2018-19.
However, making placements and stabilizing participants in independent housing remains a significant challenge.
DHHS said that 3,038 individuals were placed into housing at some point during fiscal 2018-19.
“The program is key to our Behavioral Health Strategic plan (released in 2018), which aims to integrate care and increase the richness of our community levels of services,” Kody Kinsley, deputy secretary for DHHS’ Behavioral Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities division, said in a statement.
“Our vision is for all persons with disabilities to live, work and thrive in their communities to the fullest of their abilities.”
The news was not all good with the initiative.
There were 116 participants who experienced a significant physical or behavioral health episode, threat of physical or mental harm, including sexual assault, or died during fiscal 2018-19, including 28 in the Cardinal network.
Some deaths occurred because of natural causes and terminal illness. Some incidents led to what DHHS called “permanent physical or psychological impairment.”
Some individuals were suspended and/or expelled from participating.
DHHS cited a new referral, screening and verification process tool for “removing a barrier to community integration by diverting people from settings that may be inappropriate for their needs.”
On Oct. 26, the program’s independent reviewer released a separate review of the program.
The reviewer noted that DHHS met its annual housing requirement for the first time since 2014. The reviewer noted DHHS “has provided leadership to improve the management, budgeting and oversight of the program.”
DHHS was tasked by the reviewer to continue to make improvements in services, discharge and transition planning, quality assurance and performance, and underlined delays in pre-admission screening and diversion.
The settlement is measured through six thresholds: supported housing; supported employment; discharge and transition planning; quality assurance and performance improvement; pre-admission screening and diversion; and community-based mental health services.
DHHS said in its annual report that it made “substantial progress” in three areas while “acknowledging that significant effort continues under all six areas.”
By comparison, the 2017-18 report found that DHHS had made some compliance improvements, “but none of the six areas with substantial progress.”
The overall initiative was aided during 2018-19 by the N.C. Housing Finance Agency helping to secure an additional 3,100 new housing units for people with disabilities, Kinsley said.
Cardinal spokeswoman Ashley Conger said the MCO focuses “on both transitioning individuals and helping them stay living independently.
“We are actively connecting with individuals in housing to ensure they have supports and services in place to help them be well and stable, and are also transitioning almost 20 new members each month.”
Laurie Coker, president of statewide advocacy group NC CANSO and a local behavioral health advocate, said supportive services remain the key to successfully sustaining individuals in their new independent surroundings.
“With the appropriate support services that have not been embedded in this settlement ... more people would want to transition out of facilities and more people succeed in their communities,” Coker said.
“Since we do not have an adequate array of services, families begin to feel helpless and eventually do allow placement of loved ones in (adult care) settings because they feel there is absolutely no alternative.
“They assume that this is the next step for care because the community system has nothing new to offer and, by golly, we do have a whole lot of these facilities in our state.”
In January 2017, U.S. Justice officials asked a federal judge to compel North Carolina to meet the settlement requirements.
According to Justice officials’ motion, the state “has repeatedly failed to comply with the agreement’s housing and employment services provision, lagging far behind schedule.”
“As a result, halfway through the agreement, hundreds of North Carolinians remain unnecessarily segregated in adult care homes.”
In January 2018, state regulators disclosed potential penalties for the behavioral health MCOs if they fail to meet new standards.
For not achieving annual full performance standard in placing eligible and qualified behavioral health residents into community housing, the fines would be $600,000 annually.
Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, and a leading legislative health-care expert, said her main concern with the settlement remains the lack of comparison between the insured mentally ill and the uninsured mentally ill.
“I have been told by staff that there are adequate services and adequate providers for the insured mentally ill, while the uninsured mentally ill have very few resources and often end up in adult care homes or in state institutional beds,” Insko said.
“In 2001, the year mental health reform was passed, we had more than $400 million in the budget to provide services for the uninsured mentally ill.
“This year, that fund was about $325 million with part of that being dedicated to the three-way bed contracts and another part set aside for another services.” Three-way beds involve contracts between local facilities, the state government and behavioral health MCOs.
“The uninsured mentally ill is the population that most needs our help,” Insko said.
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools has hired additional bus drivers since school started in August, but as of last month the district was still short 37 drivers.
At the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, the district was short 45 bus drivers. Most of those were part-time positions.
Wayne Loflin, chief operating officer of operations for WS/FCS, said that the school system is looking at different ways to recruit and retain drivers.
“We’re really looking at the whole model and looking at what we can do differently and thinking out of the box with that,” Loflin said.
Although Loflin said he could not share all the possible ideas until bus drivers had been told about them, he said that a focus is routing for full-time positions.
School officials hope to increase the number of full-time bus drivers to 255 and have the remaining drivers work part time.
“That is what we would like to have but that could fluctuate a little bit as we dive into the data,” Loflin said.
Still, he said that the district will always need part-time bus drivers.
The district considers full-time employment for bus drivers as 6.25 hours daily for five days a week. Full-time status would give the drivers benefits. The starting salary for a WS/FCS bus driver is $13.64.
In October, there were 181 bus drivers working full time, 94 part time and 37 as substitutes.
Bus accidents rose significantly during the 2018-19 school years to 74, compared with 61 in the 2017-2018 school year. So far for the 2019-2020 school year, there have been 10 accidents involving buses.
The average student ridership was down 4.4 percent, or 26,009 riders, in October 2019, compared with 27,208 riders in October 2018. Although the average bus ridership rose slightly in October 2018 from October 2017, average bus ridership has been flat or declining since 2014.
Loflin said that the district is trying to figure out why students are not riding the buses.
“Is it because of the lack of drivers?” he said. “Is it because of the lack of drivers we’re not able to get to schools on time or we’re not getting to the stops on time? Are parents getting frustrated with that and deciding to take their own child to school or is it today’s jobs and the environment of our jobs that people have more flexibility to have the time to take their kids to school?”
Loflin said there have been complaints from some schools and parents about late buses.
“When you’ve got the shortage we have, we’re going to have late businesses,” he said. “We do have some schools that have a legitimate complaint.”
The number of bus routes is also down. This year, the school system has 1,831 routes compared with 1,866 the previous school year. There were 1,913 routes in 2017-2018.
Loflin said that current part-time employees are being polled about their interest in working full time.
“So far, we have had 52 respondents internally that are interested,” he said.
Angela P. Hairston, WS/FCS superintendent, said that the district’s bus shortage is something that every district across the country is experiencing.
“That’s really due to the increase in trucking because a lot of our bus drivers leave bus driving to go into the trucking industry and delivery industry,” Hairston said.
She said that prior to her arrival as superintendent, Kenneth Simington, retired interim WS/FCS superintendent, had a consultant work with the district on transportation to come up with some ideas and strategies, which included moving to additional full-time status for bus drivers.
She said that nobody wants to look into changing school starting times, but they do drive a lot of the district’s challenges when it comes to increased traffic in different areas.
“So we have to use some of the other strategies,” Hairston said.
Over the next three to four months, the district will work on routing drivers full time, but a lot of factors go into the routing process.
The district tries to route drivers full time, Loflin said, but because it doesn’t always have enough drivers to do so it then takes a look at the part-time drivers.
“You have some people that can only drive in the mornings because they have a job in the afternoon,” Loflin said. “You have some people who can only drive in the afternoon due to jobs in the morning.”
He also said that some drivers might be able to drive two days one week then three days the next.
Loflin said that the district is faced with a number of challenges when it comes to filling open positions for bus drivers.
“Unemployment is down,” Loflin said. “I think the job market is really good.”
Then there’s the fact that some people prefer working a straight 8-hour job rather than a split shift as many drivers do for the school system.
“Even as a full-time driver, a lot of drivers are getting off at 9 or 9:30 in the morning and not coming back to work until 1 o’clock,” he said. “That can pose some potential problems for some people. Some people just want a full 8-hour workday, and we can’t accommodate that for everyone.”
Loflin said some drivers work close to 8 hours a day, but those are the ones who do mid-day runs, including those for the district’s Career Center and the Exceptional Children’s division.
“We don’t have enough of that to have everybody full time,” he said.
Loflin spoke of how manufacturing industrial jobs have been on the decline for years, saying that a lot of people who used to work second and third shift in that job sector, as well as retirees, would often drive a bus during the day.
“A lot of the jobs these days are pretty much just daytime during the time that we need folks,” he said.
In addition, part-time drivers don’t get benefits.
“I’m sure it does not appeal to a lot of folks that are looking for jobs with benefits,” Loflin said. “That’s really another reason we’re looking at more full-time jobs.”
The cost for people to go through the school system’s bus driver classes if they are not employed by the district is on average $300.
“A lot of people that are looking for jobs simply can’t afford that,” Loflin said.
Along with three days of classroom training, bus drivers are required to have their minimum Class B Commercial Driver’s License as well as S and P (school bus and passenger) endorsements.
Candidates must also meet DOT physical/medical requirements to hold a CDL. They also have to pass the school district’s background check and a drug test.
“They have to have their behind the wheel training with DMV before they can ever become full time or even a driver period for our students,” Loflin said.
Currently bus drivers are required to renew and pay for their own medical DOT and CDL’s.
To speed up the process, the district is researching ways to help applicants with some of the costs.
The district is also considering bringing in a medical provider that would provide a mobile clinic in a district staging lot to do drug tests and the DOT medical requirements.
Loflin said the mobile unit could help lessen the inconvenience for new hires as well as current bus drivers.