Connecticut Association for Human Services

Making change happen

We all know 2011 wasn't a great year on many levels, especially with a stagnant economy and many Connecticut residents struggling to stay afloat. But CAHS has some good news to report.

  First, Governor Malloy signed a 30% state Earned Income Tax Credit into law, which CAHS lead the advocacy efforts for over six years. The EITC will put an average of $500 in the pockets of almost 200,000 hard-working families in Connecticut.

CAHS's program and policy work will continue to help struggling children and families by allowing better access to work supports like SNAP, HUSKY and the EITC. Also by improving early care and education for all Connecticut children and improving remedial education for young people and adults attending community colleges. 

During this time of giving we hope you'll consider supporting CAHS.   To make donation online, please click here.

 


Childcare Done Right Allows Parents to Work and Children to Thrive


Yesterday, a story ran in the NY Times entitled, "Aid for Child Care Drops When It Is Needed Most.  This article told the story of stuggling families forced to make an extremely difficult decision between their need to work and their desire to keep their children safe and cared for.  The cost of childcare varies across the country, anywhere from 27% of a family's median income to 67%.  The average cost of full-day care for an infant represents about 41% of the median income for single mothers.

 

The cost of childcare is expensive and quality childcare comes at an even higher premium.  For the working poor, both cost and access are an issue, seeing as many low-income individuals do not work the traditional 9-5 job when many childcare centers and family based child care operate.  In the 90's, during the federal welfare overhaul, there was a recognition that childcare is essential to helping low-income women work.  Unfortunately, as the federal government and states face tough fiscal times, childcare subsidies are being cut.

As this article so vividly portrays, when families are forced to choose between work and childcare, they place their children in less than ideal sitautions.  Investing in childcare subsidies would not only allow parents to work, but it would allow children to be in a stable environment where they will ideally be developmentally stimulated, learn and grow.  Cutting these subsidies is extremely short sited and has many long term implications for both families and children.

Unfortunately, as I suspected, the majority of the public comments on this NY Times article questioned a woman's decision to have a child in the first place, rather than questioning a system that makes it nearly impossible for women and families to work and provide care for their children.  The expense of childcare is a universal that most people can commiserate about, regardless of your income level (maybe not the 1%). Rather than judging one another, why not look at ways in which we can improve our underlying systems in order to improve outcomes for working families and children.


What is "rich"?

Gallup has a fascinating poll asking Americans what level income they need to earn to consider themselves "rich". The results are fairly surprising:

The median answer is fairly surpring: $150,000.  That is, a majority of Americans think that anyone making more than $150,000 a year is rich.

To offer some context, this income level will put a household almost exactly in the top 10%;  and individual making this amount of money would fall in the top 2%. All in all, It is a surprisingly accurate guess. The top bracket for Federal income taxes, incidentally, begins at $379,000.


SNAP use on the rise - and what we can do to help

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting map on SNAP use by state, and how it has increased during this recession. Right now 10.9% of Connecticut´s population is receiving Food Stamps, a 7% increase from 2010. As it stands now, SNAP is one of the central components of our safety net, and its use doesn´t look like it will go down anytime soon.

The numbers could actually be even higher if SNAP participation rates were better. Only two thirds of households that are eligible for SNAP benefits actually apply for assistance in Connecticut, a rate that roughly tracks the nationwide average. Lack of information, a convoluted application process and poor access to state agencies contribute to this low adoption.

Part of our work at CAHS is to do outreach in the community promoting SNAP benefits, trying to help the navigate the chronically overburdened, always confusing DSS system. For the past three years we have seen the steady increase of families than need assistance first hand, so we have even expanded our application assistance and outreach efforts by developing and implementing EarnBenefits in the state in cooperation with Seedco and more than twenty community partners. Only in 2011 we have screened more than 5,000 individuals for benefits, filling the applications and referring more than 4,000 to DSS and other state agencies to get the help they need.

Using community partners is a central part of our efforts for one very important reason: getting to hard to reach populations to improve the SNAP participation rate. Local non profits and municipal agencies can reach to groups that either are reluctant to go to a DSS office in a very effective manner. Our focus with EarnBenefits has been working to make access a priority, not just for SNAP, but for other state benefits as well.

You can learn more about the EarnBenefits program and our community partners here. We are currently expanding our network to the Hartford region, so stay tunned for updates.

 

SNAP use on the rise - and what we can do to help

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting map on SNAP use by state, and how it has increased during this recession. Right now 10.9% of Connecticut´s population is receiving Food Stamps, a 7% increase from 2010. As it stands now, SNAP is one of the central components of our safety net, and its use doesn´t look like it will go down anytime soon.

The numbers could actually be even higher if SNAP participation rates were better. Only two thirds of households that are eligible for SNAP benefits actually apply for assistance in Connecticut, a rate that roughly tracks the nationwide average. Lack of information, a convoluted application process and poor access to state agencies contribute to this low adoption.

Part of our work at CAHS is to do outreach in the community promoting SNAP benefits, trying to help the navigate the chronically overburdened, always confusing DSS system. For the past three years we have seen the steady increase of families than need assistance first hand, so we have even expanded our application assistance and outreach efforts by developing and implementing EarnBenefits in the state in cooperation with Seedco and more than twenty community partners. Only in 2011 we have screened more than 5,000 individuals for benefits, filling the applications and referring more than 4,000 to DSS and other state agencies to get the help they need.

Using community partners is a central part of our efforts for one very important reason: getting to hard to reach populations to improve the SNAP participation rate. Local non profits and municipal agencies can reach to groups that either are reluctant to go to a DSS office in a very effective manner. Our focus with EarnBenefits has been working to make access a priority, not just for SNAP, but for other state benefits as well.

You can learn more about the EarnBenefits program and our community partners here. We are currently expanding our network to the Hartford region, so stay tunned for updates.

 

Using taxes for redistribution. Sort of.

Social scientists usually point out that the tax system is a fairly clunky way to do much income redistribution. It is too easy for a tax system to end up full of carefully crafted loopholes, after all, and wealthy individuals and corporations have plenty of cash lying around to hire good accountants to exploit them. If we add to that that taxes often have odd side effects and loss of efficiency, it is easy to understand why most countries do most of the redistribution on the spending side of fiscal policy, not the revenue side. Not surprisingly, most European countries pay for their welfare states using a fairly regressive value added tax.

A tax system, however, can do quite a bit of redistribution, depending on how it is designed. Some observers will call that social engineering or some other nasty word. Newt Gingrich, however, calls it his tax plan:

There is a nice amount of redistribution going on in that graph, but I am not sure if we can call it fair. The numbers are from the Tax Policy Center, via Money Box, and they are worth a good read. It also increases the deficit by more than a trillion, by the way. Just in case you were wondering.


US taxes in comparative perspective

Following up on the previous post regarding taxes and redistribution, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a fascinating chart comparing the share of total income for the top 1% earners in OECD countries:

How anyone can look at this chart and say that the top 1% needs another tax cut is beyond me. The data is from the OECD income inequality study, by itself a fascinating read.


America's most unequal city: Bridgeport, CT

Statistically speaking, the most unequal city or metro region in America is in Connecticut.

According the Census Bureau, the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk metro area has the most income inequality of any area in the U.S. The area's bottom 20% earn an average of $17,000. The top 5% take home $823,000 a year, according to Bloomberg News.

More coverage on Bridgeport's wealth gap is here. Click here for a story on the most EQUAL comminuty in the country!


Better Choices Lauds Lembo Proposal and New York Tax Plan

Better Choices for Connecticut, a coalition dedicated creating a more sustainable and fair revenue system for the state, lauds two positive steps this week: Comptroller Kevin Lembo’s call for more evaluation and accountability to measure the success of tax credits and other incentive programs, and a new proposed tax structure in New York state that would generate $1.9 million in additional revenue.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced on Tuesday that they had reached an agreement to overhaul New York State’s income tax, creating a higher tax bracket for the highest-income residents and reducing the tax rate for millions of middle-class residents. The income ranges will be indexed to inflation. Additionally, a new 13-member state Tax Reform and Fairness Commission will examine long-term changes to the tax structure, including income, sales and corporate.

Better Choices for Connecticut is a community coalition working to help Connecticut make better choices on ways to improve the state’s imbalanced revenue system so that it advances opportunity for shared prosperity for all Connecticut residents; preserves services for children, families and the elderly; creates and sustains good jobs; and reinvests in the middle class and our communities.


Ensuring that Education Funding Includes Early Education


Yesterday, the CT Early Childhood Alliance hosted a Press Conference at the Legislative Office Building opposing a motion filed by the Attorney General’s office to remove pre-school from the 2005 Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding lawsuit.  Connecticut has the largest achievement gap in the Country and quality early childhood education is a proven remedy to fix that.

 

The Early Childhood Alliance and advocates of early childhood, including State Senator Beth Bye and State Representative Gary Holder Winfield, spoke to the long terms implications that this motion would have on educational equity in Connecticut. Although Governor Malloy is an outspoken advocate for early care and education, advocates argued that his governance will not last forever and a lawsuit of this nature will have long lasting implications on funding for early care and education programs in CT.

Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, said that what this motion tells him is that the state is willing to say the “future of our children in this state is connected to the vagaries of elections. It’s not that I didn’t believe people are serious in their intentions, but elections change things".



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