WalletHub | Coronavirus isn’t just a danger to Americans’ health. It’s also a menace to our wallets. It’s led to the closing of scores of non-essential events and businesses, hurting the livelihood of many people.
The U.S. stock market has lost over 20 percent of its value, and the U.S. government was forced to pass a $2 trillion stimulus package. Some of the main features of the plan include sending checks to Americans, giving loans to businesses and providing extra funding for hospitals. Hopefully, this aid will start to turn the economic downturn around in a time when the number of unemployment insurance claims being filed is rising sharply.
Some states are better positioned economically to deal with the coronavirus pandemic than others. North Carolina is not among them. In a WalletHub comparison study, North Carolina ranked 15th worst in the nation.
To find out the states whose economies are most exposed to COVID-19, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 10 unique metrics. The data set ranges from share of employment from small businesses to share of workers with access to paid sick leave and increase in unemployment insurance claims. Read on for the full ranking, additional insight from a panel of experts and a complete description of our methodology.
Adam McCann, Financial Writer | WalletHub | Buying a home represents an important milestone for most consumers. But for those who dive in to the deep end of real estate without a financial safety net, the decision could lead to buyer’s remorse in the long run.
Mortgage rates hit an all-time low recently due to the negative effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the U.S. economy. However, while the 15-year fixed-rate average and five-year adjustable rate average have continued to drop, the 30-year fixed-rate average has begun to rise again. In the wake of overall lower rates, many homeowners have looked to refinance, and many other Americans are wondering if now is a good time to buy.
As with any major financial decision, it’s wise to improve one’s credit score before applying for a mortgage in order to qualify for the best possible rates. Using a Mortgage Calculator can also help to determine an affordable monthly payment and realistic payoff timeline, whether borrowing for the first time or refinancing an existing loan. Without a good grasp of how to pay off mortgage debt, consumers might find that debt unsustainable.
In this report, WalletHub determined which cities are home to the most overleveraged mortgage debtors by comparing the median mortgage balances against the median income and median home value in more than 2,500 cities. Read on for our findings, expert homebuying advice and a full description of our methodology.
How did cities in Eastern North Carolina do? Here’s the drill-down:
Cities with the Highest Mortgage Debts
WalletHub Home Overleverage Score**
Median Mortgage Debt
Median House Value
Mortgage Debt-to-Income Ratio
Mortgage Debt-to-House Value Ratio
Most Overleveraged Cities
Least Overleveraged Cities
Dublin, OH/ Powell, OH
Bell Gardens, CA
Ewa Beach, HI
Chagrin Falls, OH
Blacklick Estates, OH
McKees Rocks, PA
St. Albans, WV
Santa Maria, CA
Santa Ana, CA
Chevy Chase, MD
Beverly Hills, CA
West Mifflin, PA
Imperial Beach, CA
Upper Marlboro, MD
Bloomfield Hills, MI
West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, has the lowest mortgagedebt-to-income ratio, 140 percent, which is 7.4 times lower than in Bell Gardens, California, the city with the highest at 1,041 percent.
Bronxville, New York, has the lowest mortgagedebt-to-house value ratio, 19 percent, which is 9.6 times lower than in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, the city with the highest at 182 percent.
East St. Louis, Illinois, has the lowest medianmortgage debt, $42,809, which is 18.7 times lower than in Beverly Hills, California, the city with the highest at $802,098.
Scarsdale, New York, has the highest median income, $211,139, which is 9.6 times higher than in Bastrop, Louisiana, the city with the lowest at $22,021.
Downtown restaurants are providing curbside service following emergency orders to shut down dining rooms because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Here, Cashi Miller of Beer Army, left, delivers an order to Marilu Randolph. Photo provided by Swiss Bear Inc.
While some Downtown New Bern restaurants and shops have opted to shut down temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most are still open for business with adjusted hours and a more limited menu to keep it simple for customers.
DSwiss Bear, Inc. is supplementing the shutdown of downtown restaurant dining rooms and bars.
The organization’s website has been transformed into a gift card purchasing directory and most establishments have created curbside and delivery options for customers.
Downtown business owners jumped into action before the call from Governor Cooper was made Tuesday to shut down dining rooms by holding an emergency downtown meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
They began a gift card initiative and discussed options for takeout, including what to do about parking in the event dining in restaurants was temporarily halted.
Swiss Bear Executive Director Lynne Harakal said, “Our downtown community made these preparations in advance to help sustain the downtown business community. Many businesses are still recovering behind the scenes from Hurricane Florence and that is why it is so important to continue buying local.”
The City of New Bern staff worked on Wednesday evening to provide allotted parking spaces for curbside pickup for each business providing the option.
Ward 1 Alderman and local businessowner Sabrina Bengel said, “I’m proud of how quickly our team responded and got this in motion. We will continue to work together and do whatever we can to help our community through this situation.”
Businesses have been grouped together by location and have been given 1-3 spaces for their curbside service. Downtown parking enforcement will continue normal operations, but the spaces for curbside service will be reserved for the foreseeable future.
Swiss Bear is emphasizing that the community is still able to support downtown businesses even if they don’t feel comfortable going out in public by using the gift card program.
Customers can also continue to help their favorite local businesses by shopping online, tipping well, and sharing their posts on social media.
Swiss Bear, Inc. announced that the state of North Carolina has selected New Bern as the host of the 40th Annual NC Main Street Conference at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center and throughout downtown from March 10-12.
The conference stems from The Main Street Program, which is a proven and successful economic development method that helps renew interest, energy and prosperity in the central business districts of small and mid-sized communities across the state.
The conference itself will explore the impact of the program over the past forty years and will look to the future for forthcoming areas of engagement. The three-day event will consist of keynote speakers, break out session seminars, guided tours around town and a chance for attendees to experience what historic Downtown New Bern has to offer on their own.
Swiss Bear Executive Director Lynne Harakal said, “This is a powerful way to communicate to the rest of the state how Downtown New Bern has recovered since Hurricane Florence and to encourage future visitation to our area. We have bounced back stronger than ever and people are taking notice.”
The event is the largest statewide downtown revitalization conference in the country, and it brings together all individuals and parties interested in economic growth and success for downtown communities. Attendees include over 700 downtown economic development professionals, elected officials and local government staff along with volunteers, business and property owners, consultants, vendors and sponsors that are all involved in the betterment of downtown districts and rural communities across the state.
Swiss Bear, Inc. (SBI) facilitates development of the greater downtown area through leadership and planning that empowers community stakeholders to promote and enhance New Bern’s unique cultural and natural resources. SBI is a 501 (c)3 entity that is led by a Board of Directors composed of volunteers representing specific stakeholders in greater downtown.
Decor: Attractive and comfortable. However, my table was sticky, as were the empty tables to my left and right. Seating includes round tables, a bar table, a square table and conversation circle. Seats range from aluminum to cushioned. The south wall is a cushioned bench with pillows and individual tables.
Menu: Comprehensive and will keep you fed from breakfast through dinner. Vegetarian and children options. Prices are moderate. My large hot tea and home-baked blueberry muffin came to $6.98 including $1 tip. The muffin was competent. Wait staff says all food is homemade.
Service area: Clean and fully functional. Two choices of creamers, milk and half-and-half. Several choices of non-dairy whitener. Choice of diet sweeteners plus white sugar and raw sugar, but no honey. Free ice water including paper cups.
Vibe: Lots of conversations at tables, but no table-to-table conversation. Wide range of ages and genders, but not races; entirely white, which is a common complaint about downtown New Bern.
Service: Friendly greeting as you arrive and bid you well as you leave.
I’ve been coming to this location for a decade, through numerous owners. Of them, the current arrangement is the most professional but least personable. The food is good and there is a wide selection. The restrooms have been redone, which is somewhat of a shame. The men’s room was once decorated by a hand-painted edition of the Sun Journal sports page. Now it is nicely decorated with solid paint and neutral wall hangings. A work of art has been lost. Fun fact: there is a disused door to the left of the women’s room that leads to the basement, which was intended to be used as a Cold War-era fallout shelter.
914 Broad Street, northeast intersection of Queen and Broad streets
7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sundays
Decor: Homey and comfortable. Seating at large and small tables arranged in the front section that is lined with windows and the back section that is windowless. Facilities are immaculately clean.
Menu: Somewhat limited but adequate and deliciously homemade (you can watch them bake pies, cakes, and pastries in the back of the shop). Breakfast includes hot egg and cheese on Carolina Bagel bagels. Lunch includes egg, tuna, or chicken salad on home baked potato bread, Carolina Bagel bagels, or served alone in a cup, topped off with two cherry tomatoes. Daily soup specials. There is a selection of bagged chips and other snacks and sweets. What sets Crema Brew apart is its baked goods. Don’t tell your mother, but her pies don’t hold a candle to Crema Brew’s. Prices range from reasonable to free. Yes, if you need a cup and can’t afford it, ask and they will give you one.
Service area: Clean and functional. Includes half-and-half and non-dairy whiteners, white sugar, honey, and sugar free sweeteners. Free ice water with cups. Stirrers are dried linguini. Straws are cardboard and won’t kill the turtles.
Vibe: The other thing that sets Crema Brew apart is its friendly nature. Customers are a wide range of ages, genders, and races. Lots of inter-table and table-to-table conversations. The mom and pop and daughter who own and run Crema Brew regularly come from behind the counter and socialize with customers. It’s not long before they remember your name. It’s not long before you strike up new friendships from among other customers.
Service: Fast and friendly. Really friendly.
I’ve been going to Crema Brew since the day it opened. In fact I switched my go-to coffee house to Crema Brew and own a Crema Brew cap (gift from a friend) and hoodie sweatshirt (gift from the wife). The owners, Roxanne and Donovan Zook, and their daughter, Regina, will become part of your family if you let them. The coffee house is located within a former filling station-then-dry cleaner that sat empty for a couple of decades. They did all the work themselves that they could that didn’t require a permit.
3182 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. (New Bern Mall outparcel)
5:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
Decor: Industrial. Several small cushy chairs beside small tables, with one large table in the center surrounded by chairs.
Menu: Typical Starbucks fare but not as extensive as advertised. They frequently run out. Nothing is homemade; everything is frozen and, if heat is required, microwaved. Moderate prices.
Service area: Serviceable but often messy. No free water.
Vibe: Typical Starbucks. Don’t expect a social experience unless you bring one with you. Longest hours.
The Starbucks on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is New Bern’s only standalone Starbucks … something the city was once excited to get. It’s on the smallish side as one would expect in a small town at a mall outparcel. There are three in-store Starbucks, at Target and the two Harris Teeters. The Starbucks inside the larger Harris Teeter on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard has more spacious seating than a typical Starbucks, whereas the one at the Carolina Colours location has less seating. Target fits neatly in-between.
New Bern, North Carolina, ranked above its small city peers in Eastern North Carolina, but not so well compared to other small cities in North Carolina or nationally in a new WalletHub report released today.
The study takes into account affordability, economic health, education and health, quality of life, and safety.
Using those measures, New Bern ranks ahead of every other small city straddling or east of Interstate 95, including its closest neighbors considered “small cities,” Greenville and Jacksonville. Smaller towns including Havelock and Kinston were not included in the study.
As for the rest of the state, New Bern falls in the middle of the pack, and in the nation, posted an unremarkable 29th percentile.
New Bern received a mediocre score for family friendliness in North Carolina from WalletHub, a website that produces data-driven articles ranking various subjects in various categories.
In ranking North Carolina cities for “2019’s Best Places to Raise a Family in North Carolina,” New Bern ranked 56th out of 87 cities. The top-ranked city was Cary, while coming in at 87th was Laurinburg.
In Eastern North Carolina, Havelock — you read that right — was the highest rated city in the survey, coming in at 35th. Other Eastern NC cities were Wilmington (44th), Greenville (53rd), Jacksonville (59th), Wilson (70th), Elizabeth City (75th), Tarboro (77th), Goldsboro (81st), and Kinston (84th).
Taking just Eastern North Carolina cities into account, then, New Bern ranked fourth, just behind Greenville and ahead of Jacksonville.
The rankings took into consideration 10 metrics, of which New Bern did better than average in just three: violent-crime rate per capita, unemployment rate, and playgrounds per capita.
New Bern ranked low in several categories, including percentage of families with children under age 17, median family income, and high school graduation rate. It rated near the bottom — 72nd — in housing affordability.
New Bern appears at the top of many lists, from Top Charming Small Towns to Top Small Retirement Towns, but these are typically niche categories. Raising a family is about as fundamental to a city’s purpose as you can get, and New Bern’s ranking, indeed rankings of all Eastern North Carolina cities, should raise some red flags and help policymakers in making decisions.
The data used in these rankings is entirely publicly available, and is the same information that companies look at when determining expansion and relocations.
True, New Bern is constantly looking for ways to up its game. But take one example, the planned Martin-Marietta Park. New Bern already ranks high for playgrounds per capita (24th in the state). Martin-Marietta Park won’t move the bar one iota in rankings such as these, even if it’s a park that is physically larger than most of Craven County’s smaller cities.
The focus should be where New Bern and Craven County are average or weak — median family income, quality of school system, high school graduation rate, poverty rate, and perhaps foremost, housing affordability.
Here are specific rankings for New Bern:
Raising a Family in New Bern (1=Best; 43=Avg.; 87=Worst)
64th– % of Families with Children Aged 0 to 17
57th– Median Family Income (adjusted for cost of living)
Habitat organizations across the country are mobilizing to influence policy and system changes at the federal, state and local levels
Nearly 19 million households across the United States are spending at least half of their income on a place to live, often forgoing basic necessities such as food and health care to make ends meet.
In Craven County, 33% or 13,370 households, are cost-burdened and having difficulty meeting their monthly mortgage or rental payments, according to the 2017 statistics reported by the NC Housing Coalition.
A family needs to earn $33,120 per year in order to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment at $828 per month, while the average renter can only afford a rent of $683 per month. The stability that housing should bring continues to remain out of reach for many people.
On Wednesday, Habitat for Humanity of Craven County joined Habitat organizations across the country to launch a new national advocacy campaign aimed at improving home affordability for 10 million people in the U.S. over the next five years.
Marking significant growth in Habitat’s commitment to ensuring that everyone has a safe and decent place to call home, the Cost of Home campaign seeks to identify and improve policies and systems through coordinated advocacy efforts at the local, state and federal levels.
Cost of Home focuses on improving housing affordability across the housing continuum in four specific policy areas: increasing supply and preservation of affordable homes, equitably increasing access to credit, optimizing land use for affordable homes, and ensuring access to and development of communities of opportunity.
Habitat for Humanity of Craven County already has taken several steps toward these goals. In April, Executive Director Mike Williams and Homeowner Services Coordinator Betsy McDonald spent two days in Raleigh with area State representatives to advocate for policies and funding to support affordable housing in eastern North Carolina. Mike Williams also serves as the chair of a sub-committee on the County’s long-term recovery alliance for housing options.
“The impact of hurricane Florence has made affordable housing a major shelter issue in all of eastern North Carolina,” said Mike Williams, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Craven County. “It will take creative and intentional housing legislation and policies, on local and state levels, to solve this issue.”
More details about Habitat’s Cost of Home policy platform and campaign activation are available at habitat.org/costofhome. For more information or to speak to Habitat Craven County about the campaign, please contact Deedra Durocher or Betsy McDonald at 252-633-9599.
Here are some ways you can support the campaign:
Post to social media.Use #CostOfHome, #CostOfHomeCraven, and tag @CravenHabitat.
Write or call your legislators.Tell them to support policies to improve housing affordability.
Tell three friends about the Cost of Homecampaign. Send them a link to this story and ask them to help.
The current activities towards Environmental Justice and a Just Florence Recovery will be presented by Naeema Muhammad and Ashley Daniels of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network and the Just Florence Recovery Coalition.
Date: Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 6:30 p.m.
Place: The Harrison Center, 311 Middle Street, New Bern
Environmental Justice is the effort to promote health and environmental equity, clean industry, safe work places, and fair access to all human and natural resources, especially for low income communities and peoples of color.
The Just Florence Recovery aims to help these communities get the resources now to continue getting help after the hurricane and flooding devastation, but also to build resilience in affected communities for future climate related events.
Ashley Daniels has been an activist with the NC Sierra Club in Wilmington and a founding member of the NC Sierra Club’s Equity, Inclusion and Justice Committee. She is an organizer for the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network and for the Just Florence Recovery.
Naeema Muhammad has been Organizing Co-Director with NCEJN since 2013. She has served as a community organizer working with communities dealing with waste from industrial hog operations and has co-authored publications regarding community based participatory research. She currently serves on the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Secretary’s Environmental Justice & Equity Advisory Board.
Hosted by the Carolina Nature Coalition, and cosponsored by the Craven County Branch of the NC NAACP and the NC Sierra Club Croatan Group.
All presentations are free and open to the general public. Questions and discussion are always encouraged.
Further Information: carolinanaturecoalition.org or 252-626-5100
National Travel and Tourism Week 2019, the 36th annual celebration of the contributions and accomplishments of the U.S. travel industry, will take place on May 5-11.
This year’s theme is “Travel Matters,” a recognition of the innumerable ways in which travel enriches lives and strengthens communities. Each day of NTTW will spotlight a different example of why travel matters to America.
For New Bern and Craven County, travel and tourism are so vital that “Travel Matters” are not mere words.
“They are the economic engine for the city, the county, the state – the entire country,” said Sabrina Bengel, chairman of the Craven County Tourism Development Authority. “That’s true whether you are traveling to a campground or a 5-star resort.”
Tourism creates jobs that keeps local economies humming, and brings in sales taxes that pay for vital government services.
“‘Travel Matters’ is quite accurate,” said Tarshi P. McCoy, executive director of the New Bern-Craven County Convention & Visitor Center. “Tourism has an enormous effect on New Bern and Craven County and continues to grow each year.”
True, New Bern has been in recovery mode since Hurricane Florence struck in September 2018. Damage to DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel New Bern-Riverfront indefinitely reduced available downtown hotel rooms by 171 and left the city without its only full-service hotel.
Paradoxically, occupancy tax revenues actually increased to record levels since Hurricane Florence, Bengel said.
That’s one of those “silver lining” situations, as construction workers, insurance adjusters, government officials and others descended on New Bern in response to Hurricane Florence.
That surge is expected to subside by the last quarter of the year, about the same time that New Bern Riverfront Convention Center is scheduled to reopen fresh from repairs.
New Bern’s tourism industry continues to market the city’s unique and historic ambience, and there has been an uptick in business for the city’s Bed & Breakfasts. Pollock Street in downtown alone has six B&Bs offering around 43 rooms, all an easy walk from the Convention Center and other downtown attractions.
Having a major hotel and a convention center simultaneously out of commission affects the city’s ability to attract larger conventions, but the city has adjusted its strategies in order to focus on its many other strengths.
While the city may find it harder to attract large-scale conventions, its ambience and unparalleled services still suit smaller meetings and events.
“We can’t have full conventions but we can accommodate boards of directors,” Bengel said.
Case in point: PepsiCo continues to hold its annual meetings in New Bern, where Pepsi was invented.
Tarshi P. McCoy has been creative in addressing recent challenges while continuing to focus on New Bern’s entrenched strengths, Bengel said.
“The New Bern-Craven County Convention and Visitors Bureau works closely with the hospitality partners to ensure that we promote our amenities and educate travelers on everything the area has to offer,” McCoy said.
Downtown New Bern may have 171 fewer hotel rooms, but two other downtown hotels, Courtyard by Marriott New Bern and Bridgepoint Hotel and Marina, are open, and Havelock, a short drive away on U.S. Highway 70, offers 300-350 additional rooms, Bengel said.
Those amenities, coupled with value-added services including shuttle services, keep Craven County in the tourism game.
That’s not all. Downtown New Bern features a growing and vibrant arts and theatre community and a thriving night life. The area’s ambience is well suited for weddings and events, which by nature of their advanced planning provide stability for inn, venue, and restaurant bookings.
What is National Travel and Tourism Week?
Established in 1983 by President Reagan, National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW) is the annual salute to travel in America.
During the first full week in May, communities nationwide unite around a common theme to showcase travel’s contributions to the economy and American jobs.
This year, the travel industry is coming together to celebrate why “Travel Matters,” spotlighting a different way travel matters each day to American jobs, economic growth and personal well-being.
SUNDAY: Travel matters to the economy.
Travel generated $2.5 trillion for the U.S. economy in 2018 across all U.S. industries. Here in New Bern, the travel industry generated $142.10 million to the local economy in 2017.
MONDAY: Travel matters to new experiences.
From our national parks to our diverse cities and our scenic small towns, travel is uniquely made in America. Our attractions, restaurants, shops, theme parks, music venues and more—and the people who make them possible—are the best in the world and showcase what makes America great.
TUESDAY: Travel matters to our jobs.
Travel supported 15.7 million U.S. jobs in 2018—that’s one in 10 American jobs, making travel the seventh largest employer in the private sector. Here in New Bern, the travel industry supports According to “Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties 2017,” prepared for Visit North Carolina by the U.S. Travel Association, the travel and tourism industry directly employed more than 1,170 people in Craven County. Total payroll generated by the tourism industry in Craven County was $29.06 million in 2017. State tax revenue in Craven County totaled $7.79 million through state sales and excise taxes, as well as income taxes. Local taxes generated from sales and property tax revenue from travel-generated and travel-supported businesses totaled $3.13 million..
WEDNESDAY: Travel matters to keeping America connected.
Within the next five years, Labor Day-like traffic will plague U.S. highways on a daily basis and within the next six years, our nation’s top 30 airports will experience Thanksgiving-like passenger volumes on a weekly basis.
Approximately 80 million inbound travelers visited America last year, about half of whom came from overseas. Spending by these visitors supports 1.2 million American jobs.
THURSDAY: Travel matters to health.
Americans are increasingly realizing the value of their vacation time, taking an average of 17.2 days of vacation each year. Yet less than half of that time is used to travel—despite its clear benefits for health.
Those who take all or most of their vacation time to travel report higher rates of happiness with physical health and well-being compared to those who don’t travel as much.
FRIDAY: Travel matters to hometown pride.
Over half of all leisure travel in the U.S. is to visit family and friends, making residents a community’s best tourism ambassador.
The intersection of sports—a key driver of hometown pride—and travel is unmistakable: in 2017, more than 150 million individuals attended sporting events last year across the five major sports teams.
SATURDAY: Travel matters to families.
Travel helps families connect, creating everlasting memories and develop a lifelong bond. When surveyed, most children (61%) say the best way to spend quality time with parents is on vacation. At their core, adults know this: 62 percent of adults say that their earliest, most vivid memories are of family vacations taken between the ages of five and 10.