Leading today's Courant is a story showing why we need a higher minimum wage.
With too many adults trying to support a family on $8.25 per hour, it's no wonder families can't save for a rainy day. Increasing the minimum wage would increase the take home pay of 226,000 workers by up to $750 per year, according to the National Employment Law Project.
The story covers a Corporation for Enterprise Development study showing how many residents have the recommended six months of living expenses set aside. Thirty-four percent of us don't have enough for even two months. Our average credit card debt is $15,221, ranking us first.
This also shows the need for affordable health care. More and more of us are paying higher and higher co-pays and shopping and comparing costs for medical and dental care.
Furthermore, advocates and economists say that raising the minimum wage does not result in job losses, unless the boost is greater than 10% - and would left the state's economy and ultimately create more jobs.
This afternoon, Governor Malloy announced his plans to invest $12 million to improve the quality of and expand access to early childhood education and care across the state. The new initiative will increase slots, improve teacher training and create a rating system that will allow families to choose the best program for their children.
In particular, his proposal includes:
• Increase Opportunity – $4 million in new funding to provide early childhood opportunities for 500 preschool children
• Improve Quality – $3 million dedicated to improving quality by increasing opportunities and providing incentives for professional development and partnering with high schools and colleges to provide college level early childhood credits
• Inform Parents – $5 million in bond funding to create the statewide Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System (TQRIS) that will allow parents to access information on early childhood education programs and provide a quality enhancement opportunity for providers by establishing a standard of excellence. The lack of an implemented TQRIS was cited as a weakness in Connecticut’s “Race to the Top” application.
As the House begins drafting a multi-year farm bill, it is worth taking a moment to dispel the myths that make the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly food stamps, an easy target for cuts. Who are these people, you ask? Are they the same people my neighbor swears drive luxury cars to the grocery store on their way back from getting their nails done? Are they able-bodied adults who would rather live off the system than work? Not quite, though this paints a convenient picture for those who want to make cuts to the program and not lose sleep over it.
Of the just over 10% of CT residents who receive SNAP benefits, only slightly more than 6% of them were able-bodied adults living in non-elderly, non-disabled, childless households. I don’t have the exact number of that sub-set who own a BMW or have had a recent manicure, but I can tell you they are not the ones you need to worry about. Let us instead focus our efforts on worrying about those who want to feed their families and can’t, no matter how hard they try.
My morning route from home in suburbia to work brings me past a local food pantry and reminds me every Thursday, when they open and people spill out their doors with grocery bags of food they hope will last them the week, why the work I’m driving to is important. We should all remind ourselves, and more often than just Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m., that as someone on Capitol hill draws a red line through these benefits, people are struggling to make do with what is already too little.
Last Thursday, as I was stopped at the stop sign by that food pantry, I saw two women looking through the bags of food they had come away with, and one handed the other a box of pasta from her bag. I could not read her lips, but imagine she was giving up something she needed to someone who may have needed it even more. If Members of Congress could find some way to give up the things they want for the things the country needs, maybe we would all be better off.
Stay tuned to see if this version will bring us back to last year, when leaders drafted a five-year plan for the super-committee that wasn’t, with $23 billion in spending cuts, or if the case can be made to cut from elsewhere and continue providing this necessary benefit to those who need it most.
Minimum Wage Speakers Needed
Several advocates and legislators are working on legislation to raise the minimum wage. A press conference is set for next Tuesday, January 31, at 1 pm.
Organizers are looking for minimum wage workers to testify about how an increase would impact them. If you or anyone you know or work with works for minimum wage, and is willing to speak and available at that time, please have them contact me at (203) 667-5956 or email@example.com
Starting tomorrow, House and Senate conferees will attempt to reach agreement on payroll tax, unemployment insurance, the "doc fix" and TANF provisions. There are several areas for concern, not the least of which is how bi-partisan agreement can be reached on anything these days.
The most controversial perhaps is the proposal to require drug testing and/or a high school diploma/GED in order for jobless workers to claim UI benefits. The Center's Bob Greenstein had a few things to say about that in his blog http://www.offthechartsblog.org/an-appalling-idea-even-by-washington-standards/
This, however, is not the worst of it. Hard to believe, I know. The problem is that if another proposal to allow states to waive federal requirements around UI compensation and processing goes through, there would be loopholes to allow "flexibility" to do these things anyway, as well as make other damaging changes to the system which currently helps keep so many out of poverty with limited jobs available.
Other issues of concern with a waiver include enabling states to use funds marked for job training and other helpful things for other purposes, and efforts to scale back the number of weeks from what has already been reduced. Heather Shaw and Chad Stone go into more detail about how UI could be undermined in their new paper http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3656
If this all outrages you as it does me, stay tuned for action alerts when it gets down to the wire. You can also follow me on Twitter, @SarahsCAHS for more frequent updates.
|A quick reminder that the next FES/CABHN meeting is tomorrow, 9:30 to 11 am at AARP, 21 Oak St. in Hartford. Rep. Peter Tercyak, D-New Britain, will be there to answer your questions and share his priorities for the coming session. We'll be looking foryour thoughts for a 2012 CABHN/FES policy agenda, and volunteers to help with the annual Legislative Reception.|
Budget Surplus is GoneThe latest state revenue estimates show a likely deficit, and Governor Dannel P. Malloy is pledging that taxes will not be raised again, meaning that cuts will ensue.
Click here for coverage:
Forum to Focus on Achievement Gap and Housing PolicyThe Partnership for Strong Communities will kick off its 2012 IForums series Thursday, February 16 examining the connections between Connecticut's education achievement gap and housing policy. The event will be at the Lyceum, 227 Lawrence Street, Hartford, CT 06106, with coffee and registration at 8:30 and program from 9 am until noon.
Heather Schwartz - RAND Corporation
Click here for more information on how to register and directions.
January's FES meeting looks at 2012 legislative sessionThe next FES/CABHN meeting is set for January 20th, from 9:30 to 11 am at AARP, 21 Oak St. in Hartford.
Invited guests are Human Services Committee co-chairs Rep. Peter Tercyak, D-New Britain, and Sen. Tony Musto, D-Trumbull.
We'll be looking for your thoughts for 2012's CABHN/FES policy agenda, and volunteers to help with the annual Legislative Reception.
About halfway through the fiscal year, the state is now on track to show a small surplus. However, cuts and adjustments may still be made as actual spending and revenue become known, and as savings from the agreement with state employee unions are tallied.
Governor Dannel Malloy has said that the upcoming short legislative session will focus on education, and that additional money will have to be invested in education.
Join us on the 20th for more discussion on programs to assist in Family Economic Success.
Lawmakers support health reform brief
Advocates are invited to join Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan and Representatives Matthew Ritter and Terry Gerratana Thursday at a press conference today (Thursday, January 12) at 1:30 in Room 2Aof the Legislative Office Building, as they announce announce that they are joining legislators from 50 states across the country in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the health reform law and the many benefits that it is already providing to Connecticut residents.The Family Economic Success (FES) Network shares information and mobilizes on policy issues that improve the lives of low-income children and families. To subscribe, or if you have information that you would like to share through the FES Network, call Liz Dupont-Diehl, Policy Director, at (860) 951-2212, ext. 253, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, the state's Achievement Gap Task Force heard from many advocacy and education organizations on high impact strategies to address CT's achievement gap. Senator Toni Harp, who co-chairs the Task Force, called the achievement gap between low-income predominantly minority students and high-income predominantly white students the civil rights issue of our time.
Now, Governor Malloy is doing the same. In an interview today with WNPR's 'Where We Live', Governor Malloy called education reform an issue of civil rights and human rights. He went on to say that "we cannot to give up 40-60% of young people living in some of our urban areas."
The legislative session, which has been deemed the year of Education by the Governor, begins on Wednesday, February 8th at which time the Governor will address the state and legislature to outline his objectives for his second year in office.
There has been a lot of confusion surrounding Family Childcare providers and the Executive Order that Governor Malloy filed on September 21, 2011. This confusion has recently been confounded by news that Family Childcare Providers voted 1603-88 to join the SEIU union. It is my hope to shed some light on what is currently happening and where things could go from here.
The Executive Order that Governor Malloy filed on September 21st allows for a majority representative to meet and confer with representatives from the Department of Social Services on improving the quality and accessibility of family childcare services for parents and children who participate in the Care4Kids program. The vote that was just conducted, of Family Childcare providers who participate in the Care4Kids program, was actually a vote to elect SEIU as the majority representative.
As majority representative, the SEIU will now need to convene a meeting of Family Childcare providers in order to elect a representative body. This elected body will then partner with SEIU staff in meetings with the Department of Social Services to discuss such issues as the quality and availability of family childcare in the state, improving the recruitment and retention of qualified family childcare providers, standards for family childcare provider compensation, procedures for the state payment of grants to family childcare providers under the Care4Kids program, and training, professional development and other opportunities and requirements for family childcare providers.
At the same time that this process is unfolding, the Governor's Executive Order also established a work group on how best to structure collective bargaining rights and the relationship for the majority representative. This Family Childcare workgroup is charged with submitting a report on findings and recommendations to the Governor by February 1, 2012. It is unclear if the work group will meet this scheduled deadline. The work group could recommend a path to collective bargaining OR recommend against a path to collective bargaining.
So at this point in time, SEIU will not be collecting dues. They would only collect dues after collective bargaining is granted, which would take not only a recommendation of the Governor's workgroup but also legislation. If legislation is passed, SEIU has stated that they would not seek dues until a contract was negotiated for Family Childcare providers.
We will continue to monitor this process and will keep you updated on any and all happenings.
In time for the New Hampshire primary, a new report from Citizens for Tax Justice explains how the tax plans proposed by the Republican presidential candidates would impact U.S. taxpayers in different income groups and how taxpayers in each state would be affected.
The report finds that the cost of the GOP tax plans would range from $6.6 trillion to $18 trillion over a decade. The share of tax cuts going to the richest one percent of Americans under these plans would range from over a third to almost half. The average tax cuts received by the richest one percent would be up to 270 times as large as the average tax cut received by middle-income Americans.
State-by-state numbers available in the report.