In January 2012, Connecticut became the first state to guarantee its workers the right to earn paid sick time. This legislation passed as a way to impact the more than 400,00 Connecticut employees, mostly low wage workers, who lack paid sick days. By passing this policy, the state of Connecticut recognized that giving people the time to take care of an illness has positive outcomes for that individual, their family, the workforce and society.
But "paid sick days" legislation only addresses the time needed for a minor illness. What happens when someone needs more than a few days to recover or to receive treatment? Ask anyone, and they know someone who has cancer or have had cancer themselves. Cancer treatment requires more than a couple of days out of work. How does that person and their employer manage the time out of work, or afford it for that matter?
What about an unexpected care giving responsibility, like when an aging parent becomes ill or a pregnancy requires bed rest. Both of these situations require more than 5 days out of work. The majority of Connecticut employees do not qualify for Connecticut's Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) job protection, and even if they did, they can't afford to take an unpaid leave, especially during a time when finances may already be strained.
CAHS is pleased to be a part of a group of diverse advocates who have come together to respond to the health and care giving realities of Connecticut's working families. Families and businesses need relief when long-term illness, childbirth and care giving responsibilities result in missed income or job loss. Advocates would eventually like to have Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FMLI) for Connecticut's working families. This year, advocates are asking elected officials to study ways Connecticut can have FMLI.
Advocates believe that FMLI is good for people, businesses and the state's prosperity, as it has been linked to greater workforce participation and job tenure. As the state of Connecticut continues to move toward employment practices that reflect the current realities of today's working families, they should be considering FMLI.
CT Voices for Children and CAHS today released a new report examining income inequality in Connecticut.
Over the last three decades, Connecticut has changed from being one of the most egalitarian states to being one of the most unequal. Over this period, Connecticut experienced the greatest increase in income inequality among all states between its high and low-income households.
- The greatest share of income gains have gone to the wealthiest 1 percent, who have vastly outpaced even the very well-off. The share of total state Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) going to the top 1 percent has soared over the last two decades, increasing from 17% to 28%.
- The 99th percentile of taxpayers in Connecticut earn about $766,000 in state AGI, over $500,000 more than the $225,000 earned by well-off households at the 95th percentile. The income of the near-rich is actually closer to that of the poorest fifth of households, who earn $17,000, than it is to the $766,000 earned by the wealthiest Connecticut residents.
- Connecticut’s inequality ranks second only to New York’s among U.S. states on the Gini coefficient, one of the most widely used measures of inequality.
This deep inequality threatens dire outcomes not just for those left behind, but for all of us. It it calls into doubt our idea that anyone can work hard and reach the middle class. Plenty of people are working hard and still can’t educate their children or send them to college – or provide for their families or build the American dream.
The report recommends state policies to limit the damaging impact of these trends, including:
- Raising and indexing the minimum wage to inflation,
- Shoring up the unemployment insurance compensation trust fund,
- Making the state and local tax code less regressive by reducing reliance on property and sales taxes, which hit low-income households particularly hard, compared to progressive income taxes, and
- Strengthening programs that preserve and expand opportunity, such as the state earned income tax credit and support for higher education.
Friday's New York Times has a story a new program, funded by Social Impact Bonds, offering services to young offenders in New York.
As states around the country face rising budget shortfalls, many are developing new ways of financing and providing human and preventative services. They include Social Impact Bonds, Human Capital Bonds, or "Pay for Success" models. Many involve private investors funding preventative services and getting their money back, and a profit, if and when their services attain the agreed-upon result.
In the Times:
"Elizabeth Gaynes, who has led the Osborne Association, one of two groups running the Rikers Island program, for 28 years, takes a realist's approach.... Ms. Gaynes said she doubted that without this experimental financing mechanism, her organization would have found the money to aid so many young people. The group has a mandate to serve all of the roughly 3,000 young people who pass through Rikers each a year.
" 'We're serving black and brown people who got arrested and went to Rikers Island,' " says Ms. Gaynes. ' There isn't a lot of clamoring to give them services. ' "
The story also explores questions about the new methods, and other options, such as the "Robin Hood tax," to provide similar funding.
CAHS is working with several partners to host a half-day informational conference on some of the new models being used in nearby states. Click here for an invitation and here for an agenda. Our information conference will take place from 8:30 am - 12:30 pm December 4 at the Legislative Office Building, and offer the chance to hear from people working to use new financing methods to address chronic homelessness and juvenile recidivism in Massachusetts. Speakers also include the White House's Representative on Innovations in Social Program Funding and agency heads from Connecticut. Please RSVP to me, or to Ed Nevins, firstname.lastname@example.org
As you may be aware, the United States is one of only three countries that does not offer paid maternity leave benefits. What you may not know is that there are currently two US states that do offer paid family leave insurance, California and New Jersey, and a third state on the way, Washington.
Connecticut is beginning work to develop a Family and Medical leave insurance program that can provide much needed relief to families and businesses. Employees get sick, aging parents need assistance, and families want to spend time with their newborns. We can learn a lot from the experiences of California and New Jersey as we make plans in Connecticut.
California has had a family leave insurance program since 2004. The California program provides 6 weeks of partial pay (55% of weekly pay up to $1,011). The program is offered to full-time and part-time employees and may be used to care for a loved one or to take time after having a child or adopting. California has a state Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program, so the six weeks offered through their family insurance is in addition to the 6 weeks a new mother can take through TDI. California’s program is entirely employee paid through a minimal payroll tax amounting to $64 a year.
New Jersey’s program is very similar to California. They too have a TDI and offer an additional 6 weeks through their family leave insurance. The New Jersey program provides partial pay of 66% up to $572 and is also entirely employee paid amounting to $33 a year. Washington is in a similar boat to Connecticut in that they do not have a state TDI.
Advocates in Connecticut have started meeting and are beginning to explore how Connecticut could implement a Family and Medical leave insurance program that would support employees needing to take time off for their own sickness, to care for a loved one, or to care for a new baby. They are working closely with advocates from other states in order to learn from past efforts and ensure that Connecticut can create an insurance program that provides relief to the greatest number of families and businesses.
1. According to the Every Child Matters Education Fund, 6 million Americans did not vote in 2008 because they didn't know how to register or missed the deadline. National Voter Registration Day, September 25, was created to make sure no American is left out in 2012. Click here for information about how to plan events and use the effort to increase turnout and voter registration.
2. In Connecticut, fewer than 50% of those eligible to vote do so, according to Secretary of State Denise Merrill's first-ever Civic Health Index.
3. Why does it matter? Our colleague Orlando Rodriguez at Connecticut Voices for Children blogged yesterday about a new National Bureau of Economic Research study showing that investing in children would return $2.6 billion to our economy.
The study found that "...the state could reap benefits equivalent to 1.28 percent of total disposable income (consumer spending) if families with children who live in poverty received additional support, as more of their children would reach the earnings capacity of the typical child. Furthermore, this increase would be 'in perpetuity,' which translates into more private sector jobs and additional tax revenues for state government -- forever."
How critical is this? We learned this week that Connecticut showed the fifth highest increase in child poverty in the country.
Vote, vote, vote!
According to new Census data from the American Community Survey, poverty increased more quickly among Connecticut children, reaching 14.9% in 2011 up from 12.8% in 2010. This means that 118,809 children live in families with incomes under the Federal Poverty Level, which was $22,811 for a two-parent household with two children in 2011.
In Bridgeport, New Britain and Waterbury the child poverty rate is double the statewide rate of 14.9% and in the city of Hartford 47.9% of children under the age of 18 live in poverty, 3 times that of the state average. New Haven isn't far behind Hartford with a rate of 41.4% of children living in poverty.
CT Voices for Children did a cross comparison of children living under the federal poverty level with the median household income and not surprisingly, the median incomes in Hartford ($29,169) and New Haven ($33,526) are less than half the state average ($65.753).
It is never good for poverty rates to increase, especially amongst children. Children who are born into poverty and spend many years in poor families have worse adult outcomes than those in high-income families including, being less likely to complete high school than their non-poor peers, more likely to have a child as a teen than their non-poor peers, and struggle to go on to have consistent employment.
The State of Connecticut, in 2004, was the first state in the nation to set a goal of reducing child poverty in half by 2014. As 2014 rapidly approaches, I think the work being done by the Child Poverty and Prevention Council must become a priority this upcoming legislative session and into the future in order to improve the economic and social wellbeing of Connecticut's most vulnerable youth.
Eastern Connecticut State University ranks number one in a national study of six-year graduation rates of Hispanic students among public universities and colleges, according to their report, “Advancing to completion: increasing degree attainment by improving graduation rates and closing gaps for Hispanic students.”
ESCU has long been admired for its innovative and effective linkages with public schools and programs to increase retention and success for non-traditional students.
According to ECSU's press release:
"The Education Trust study examined the graduation rates of 391 public and private colleges and universities in the United States, detailing the results for African American, Hispanic and white students, as well as the overall graduation rates of all students at those institutions.
"For the class of full-time, first-time students entering in fall 1998, the six-year graduation rate was barely 20 percent for Hispanic students at Eastern. However, for those Hispanic students entering in 2004, the proportion who had graduated by 2010 was 57.8 percent, representing almost a three-fold increase from the initial baseline class.
"This figure is actually above Eastern’s overall graduation rate of 52.4 percent for the entire entering class of 2004. In addition, Eastern’s improvement rate of 37.8 percent far exceeds the overall improvement rate among the study’s 391 institutions of 3.5 percent, as well as the 3.9 percent improvement rate among the study’s 228 public colleges and universities.
'While we know that there is much more work to be done on our campus in supporting Latino and other underrepresented students to achieve their educational goals and graduate from college, I am very pleased with today’s announcement,' said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. 'This is a tribute to the work of our faculty and staff in providing support to students who face a myriad of issues in enrolling in and succeeding at college — language barriers, cultural isolation, financial challenges and lack of family history as it relates to college attendance.'
'Raising the graduation rate for Hispanic students by nearly 40 percentage points in only six years is no small feat, and President Núñez and her team deserve an extraordinary amount of credit for relentlessly focusing on the success of all of the students at Eastern,' said Robert Kennedy, president of the Board of Regents for Higher Education of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities. 'This level of performance helps expose and shatter the myth that demographics are destiny in college completion and educational success. As we focus on encouraging and supporting more students to finish their degrees across our institutions, this news is a timely reminder that success isn’t bound by demographics.'
The release continues:
"The Eastern president also noted that in addition to students with academic challenges, higher-performing Hispanic students are also staying at Eastern for their entire college experience as they find the University’s liberal arts program and student leadership opportunities on campus to be challenging and rewarding.
" 'It is equally important for students of color to see familiar faces at the front of the classroom,' said Núñez, indicating that Eastern has the largest percentage of minority faculty of any college or university in Connecticut."
Congratulations to ECSU and its President, Dr. Elsa Nunez, who is also a member of CAHS's Board of Directors.
By the 2014-15 school year, state officials have plans to replace the mastery test, which is taken by third- through eighth-graders, and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test, which is taken in 10th grade with computerized tests. As a student progresses through a test, the questions presented will vary depending on whether the student got previous questions right or wrong.
In her July 20th commentary in the Hartford Courant, Jennifer Dolan questions if the state's children and school districts are ready for this type of testing. Under this new computer-adaptive testing, students who answer a question correctly will get a more difficult question.
As a former elementary school teacher with years of mastery test experience, Dolan brings up some interesting issues with making the tests computerized. Are the children taking the test computer literate? Can the students understand English and/or the wording of the questions? She also questions a school system's ability to purchase the computers necessary to be able to conduct the test.
During tight fiscal times, it will be interesting to see how school systems prioritize the modernizing of tests. What do you think about the state's plan to bring testing into the 21st century?
2012 National KIDS COUNT Data Book Shows Connecticut Children Doing Well Overall, but Recession Still Affecting Many Families
(Posting this for Jude Carroll, CAHS' KIDS COUNT Director.)
Once again, Connecticut ranks among the top 10 states on child well-being according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2012 National KIDS COUNT Data Book. This year's updated index focuses on four domains: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. According to national analysts, Connecticut children improved on eight indicators, stayed the same on two, and declined on six, providing an overall ranking of 7th among the 50 states.
Among the indicators illustrating improvements for Connecticut children are the following:
- The number of children with health insurance increased;
- Child and teen mortality declined;
- Births to teens between 15 and 19 years of age declined;
- More children were enrolled in preschool; and
- Slightly more 4th graders scored at or above proficient in reading and slightly more 8th graders scored at or above proficient in math.
There was no change in the percent of low-birthweight babies in the state and no change in the percentage of children under 18 living with a parent without a high school diploma.
More children suffered from the economic recession well into 2011:
- The number of children living in poverty increased;
- More children lived in households in which the cost of housing was at least 30 percent of the household budget;
- More children under 18 lived with at least one parent without secure employment;
- The number of children under 18 living in high poverty neighborhoods increased;
- More children were living in single parent families; and
- Fewer high school students graduated on time.
Also, as reported in the 2011 KIDS COUNT, while Connecticut's overall child poverty rate was 12%, child poverty in major cities is much higher: 27.6% in Bridgeport, 42.8% in Hartford, and 31.8% in New Haven. Additionally, the rate of child poverty was just 5% non-Hispanic Whites, but 25% for Black or African Americans and 31% for Hispanic or Latino.
The 2012 National KIDS COUNT Data Book, with full state-by-state rankings and supplemental data, is available at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/databook/2012
CAHS will release the Connecticut KIDS COUNT Data Book in December 2012.
The 2011 tax season was the first in which working families could claim Connecticut's new Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC). long viewed as one of the most effective single method of helping families rise out of poverty.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) shares new research showing that EITC boosts school performance for children, makes it more likely they will attend college, and improves their future earnings -- so much so that the benefits of the EITC more than offset its cost.
"We previously showed that the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-income workers lifts more children out of poverty than any other public program," CBPP reports. "More recent research suggests that the income assistance it provides is even better for children — our nation’s future workforce — than we thought, helping them succeed both as students and, in adulthood, as workers."
The EITC is also an economic stimulus, going to families who spend their refund in their communities. Results of Connecticut usage statewide will be available soon. CAHS' 45 Volunteer Income Tax Preparation sites returned $6.94 million in state and federal EITC to Connecticut!
After years of hard work by CAHS and many, many others, and the strong support of Governor Dannel Malloy, our EITC, at 30% of the federal credit, was signed into law last summer.