On March 8, CAHS submitted testimony on two bills that embody family economic security: H.B. 5591, creating the Connecticut Retirement Security Program (testimony), and S.B. 221, for Paid Family Leave (testimony). Both would create new programs that would target important disparities in our state and significantly improve economic security in the state.
H.B. 5591 aims to create a statewide public retirement program, similar to a 401(k), for private sector employees who are not offered this option through their employers. The bill aims to close a large disparity on access to retirement savings accounts in the state. Nearly 9 out of 10 families in the top income quintile have retirement savings accounts, compared to less than a fifth in the bottom quintile. This gap is also stark when we break down the numbers by race: 65% of White households have retirement savings, compared to 41% of African-American and 26% of Hispanic. On average, Caucasian workers have five times more savings than African American workers.
The big divide is in access – many workers just don´t work for employers with IRAs, pensions or 401(k)s. This bill will create a retirement plan that would provide access to one, with automatic enrollment. In practical terms, it would make a big difference in closing the retirement wealth gap.
S.B. 221 will have a more immediate effect on Connecticut families. This bill will create a paid family and medical leave insurance system, paid by a small (0.5% of salary) employee payroll deduction. If passed, it would close an embarrassing gap in our safety net. Currently, only two countries in the world, Papua-New Guinea and the United States, do not offer paid maternity and paternity leave. This would finally bring this family-friendly policy to our state, after California, New Jersey and Rhode Island implemented similar policies.
Paid family leave will provide a significant amount of family security to many families, and also help close the large disparities between low- and high-wage workers regarding leave. Currently 25% of employees in the top decile have access to paid family leave, compared to 3% of those at the bottom. White employees are twice as likely to have paid family leave as Hispanic workers.
In addition, paid family leave decreases the probability of women quitting their jobs after having a child (potentially increasing labor force participation rates), and has a significant positive effect on employee retention, productivity and morale. The reduction of costs associated with lower employee turnover can more than offset any associated cost, and help Connecticut attract a qualified labor force.
Both of these bills help low income families by making them more financially secure. Both are good ideas. We will keep you posted on how they fare this legislative session.
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By Roger Senserrich, CAHS Policy Director
Another year, another budget deficit—but this year is truly worse.
The 2016 legislative session started like every session seems to start in Connecticut, with a hefty budget deficit for FY2017. Projections indicated that the state would spend $570 million more than what it would raise next year, so the Governor and General Assembly had to look again for a way to balance the numbers.
Making matters far worse, in mid-February new revenue numbers came in, and the deficit turned out to be much larger than expected. In addition to a considerable increase in this fiscal year´s budget (up to $266 million deficit), the hole for 2017 ballooned to $911 million, and is likely to rise.
As a result, even if Governor Malloy’s proposed midterm budget adjustment did balance the budget, we will need more cuts—or new revenue, for which there seems to be no appetite in an election year among the Governor and legislators.
Another challenge for advocates is that it was hard to know from the Governor´s proposal exactly how he planned to balanced the numbers, and we know even less now. In the budget adjustment, instead of the usual list of line items showing which programs receive funding and which are cut or eliminated, all programs are bundled under a single “agency operations” line, without any specifics. We know that “agency operations” will get a 5.75% cut in funding, but we don’t know which programs are cut.
Here’s what we do know: for starters, the bulk of Connecticut’s state budget (about two-thirds of it) cannot be cut, as it covers mandatory spending, entitlements, interest payments and contractual obligations. Most of the remaining third is where social services, health care, and education funding gets its money from. So the proposed cuts are not really across the board, but fall mostly on the needy and the social service providers that serve them. More than $400 million of the $570 million in cuts Governor Malloy proposes cuts would come from nonprofit providers that have seen their resources dwindling for years. Although they offer essential services for low-income families, they are facing the bulk of the cuts.
As of now, the General Assembly seems poised to unbundle agency operations and provide more transparency with line items, so we at least will be able to discuss what is being cut. CAHS’s focus, as always, will be championing programs that deliver results, with an eye on improving social services. Before we can do that and work to achieve systemic change, we need to know where the money is going. It is a first step.
A Question & Answer Session with Elaine Zimmerman of the CT Commission on Children, Regarding Two-Generational Initiative
Q: Why is there a “buzz” about two-gen?
A: Over the last several decades, the family has been fragmented in service delivery and consumer voice by the mechanisms of funding and the discrete functions of various non-profit and government agencies. Two-gen puts the family back in the center - not the provider or the funds.
Q: What makes this different from other approaches?
A: Two-gen addresses a problem that has bedeviled families for many years: the social services they need are “siloed,” forcing them to go to one agency for one service, then to another agency for another service, and so forth. Worse, these agencies often don’t communicate and co-ordinate with each other, which creates more headaches for families in the form of duplicative paperwork, needless waiting, and conflicting information. Two-gen gives an opportunity to deliver services more effectively and more efficiently.
For instance, we don’t yet coordinate efforts to help a child succeed in school with efforts to help that child’s parents succeed in the workforce. If we can help the parents place their child in a good school-readiness program, it will give them the time and trust they need to move forward with such essentials as learning English, finishing high school, and employment training. Even better, if these programs are co-located (such as a child-care center in the same building as a GED program) or linked with transportation for parents without cars, it will render them more accessible and therefore more successful.
Q: What do you hope to achieve?
A: In creating the 2015-17 state budget last spring, the Connecticut General Assembly earmarked $3 million for the creation of a pilot program for two-generational approaches. It will operate in six communities: Bridgeport, New Haven, Colchester, Meriden, Norwalk, and the Hartford region. Once all the participants in those communities are fully trained, they will submit plans for their sites. With evaluators assisting them at every step, they will enact those plans and carefully gather data to help determine whether (and how) two-gen can be expanded. Among the questions to be answered:
- Does intentional two-generational planning create better school outcomes for the child, employment for the parent and less stressors for the family?
- What are the cost savings, if any?
- What do we need to change in how we do service delivery and run government to help our customers be economically self-sufficient and successful?
Q: How can we meaningfully engage parents to shape this effort?
A: Families are the entire focus of two-gen, so parent input at every stage of development is essential. At each pilot site, the plan will be parent-informed. Parents will have the authority to not only give input and feedback, but guide the program and policies. They are the customers, and we will rely on them to tell us what is or isn’t working. They will be part of the policy and program trainings, have opportunity to be interns, work peer-to-peer to bring parents in with real outcomes and perform outreach to assure that parents know about this two gen opportunity. Entrepreneurial ideas will be assisted by business leaders, to help parents build in creative opportunity. We are also talking about a mobile two gen parent van that would spread the word-parent to parent.
Q: How does two-gen fit with other initiatives in Connecticut?
A: Two generational work is an effort to reduce the cycle of family poverty and to create more intentional coordinated services and programs for both parent and child. The goal is school readiness and school success for the child and workforce readiness and workforce success for the parent.
This work dovetails well and partners with, among others: a) the state’s early-care and education programs; b) home visitation programs, c) fatherhood initiatives, including an innovative effort in Waterbury to assure the engagement of non –custodial parents; d) TANF efforts to reach out to both dads and moms; e) Second Chance and restorative justices as well as f) Secure Jobs, the two-year demonstration pilot designed to increase the income of families transitioning from homelessness to housing by connecting them to the education, training, and supports they need to secure and maintain stable, competitive employment.
Q: What have other states learned with this approach?
A: This effort is emerging as we speak. Cities and states are learning from each other. For example, through the Aspen Institute, NGA and NCSL, we are sharing data and experiences. Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Maryland are undertaking versions of two-gen, and we are all beginning to share data and experiences.
Q: How can we ensure that two-gen has staying power?
A: If the customer finds this useful and successful, it will work.
Excellence in design and planning will help drive the direction.
Constant monitoring and fine-tuning are essential. That, in turn, requires detailed data. We will look at: a) child, b) parent, c) family, and d) systems change outcomes. We are raising the funds now to begin with the evaluation design in all site implementation.
From Jim Horan, Executive Director, CAHS
Welcome to the re-launch of the CAHS Newsletter, Connections. Our intention is for this to be more than an update on CAHS’s work to promote Family Economic Success, but also a resource to readers to engage in fighting child and family poverty and building opportunity and equality.
This is a great time launch, because we have very exciting news: the W.K. Kellogg Foundation recently awarded CAHS a three-year, $600,000 grant to support two-generation work at CAHS and throughout the state. “Two generations” refers to efforts to promote the financial and educational success of young children and their parents simultaneously.
Connecticut is on the cutting edge of two-gen work, thanks to the efforts of the Connecticut Commission on Children and the General Assembly, which last year enacted legislation to create better outcomes for children and parents statewide and in six pilot communities. You can learn more about two-gen strategies throughout this issue of the newsletter, including an interview with Elaine Zimmerman of the Commission on Children.
The Kellogg grant validates CAHS’s work on Family Economic Success over more than 10 years. Kellogg awarded the grant in part because of CAHS’s experience with both policy change and fostering effective programs in low-income communities. The grant also reflects recognition among nonprofits and funders that we need to do business differently to achieve “collective impact”:
- Kids grow up in families, so we need to create opportunities for children and parents.
- Families need a range of supports, from quality early education to adult and post-secondary education, and including health and mental healthcare and connections to jobs.
- Two-gen provides a framework for policies, programs, and systems to work together to support the family as a whole and build family success.
This two-generation initiative is a true public-private partnership. Private philanthropic support allows all state funding to go to the pilot projects in Bridgeport, Colchester, Greater Hartford, Meriden, New Haven, and Norwalk, to create true two-gen initiatives and fill gaps in funding. Kellogg funds will support development of templates to create better outcomes, technical assistance to the communities, and evaluation. Kellogg’s support builds on a prior grant to CAHS from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and on-going TA to the Commission on Children from ASCEND at the Aspen Institute, a leader in two-gen initiatives.
CAHS’s roles will be to do what we do best, serving as a facilitator, partner, resource, and innovator. Liz Fraser, a CAHS Policy Analyst with programmatic two-gen experience before she came to CAHS, will lead our efforts working with local communities, ensuring adequate technical assistance, and helping coordinate a robust evaluation.
Elsewhere in this issue:
- CAHS Policy Director Roger Senserrich, on the 2016 Legislative Session
- A conversation with Elaine Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Connecticut Commission on Children
- Hope you enjoy
- To learn more about the work we are doing or this very exciting grant and the two-generation work it will soon by supporting, call 860-951-2212