On May 26 CAHS and our partners at the Children with Incarcerated Parents Initiative (CTCIP) presented a new report (press release) on the impact that parental incarceration has on children in the state.
According to recently released statistics from the Department of Corrections, as of April 1, 2016, 53.67% of those currently incarcerated reported being a caregiver – leaving over 17,000 dependents in our state with a caregiver behind bars. An additional 5,000 dependents have a caregiver in a Department of Correction supervised community program (e.g., parole, house arrest). Black children are 7.5 times more likely to have a parent behind bars than white children. Additionally, 1 in 9 African American children (11.4%), 1 in 28 Hispanic children (3.5%) and 1 in 57 white children (1.8%) have an incarcerated parent in the United States.
A vast body of nationally published research has found that children with incarcerated parents (CIP) are more likely to suffer a range of emotional, physical and behavioral issues. These issues include anxiety, depression, underachievement in school, aggression and alcohol/substance abuse. Furthermore, separation due to parental incarceration can be just as painful as other forms of parental loss and are often more complicated because of the accompanied stigma, ambiguity and lack of compassion or other social supports.
You can download the full report here. CTCIP has also produced a detailed report with data specific for New Britain that you can download here. If you have time, we highly recommend you listen the hour-long conversation that Erica Dean, our policy analyst, had on WNPR´s Where We Live last week.
These reports represent a first step for CAHS and CTCIP to draft a policy agenda to address the needs of children of incarcerated parents. We will continue working to collect more detailed and precise data on these children and work with advocates, families and state agencies with the aim of creating a policy agenda for 2017 on this issue.
Last week we gave a brief overview of the fiscal challenges that Connecticut is facing, with a focus on the revenue side. We concluded that although Connecticut is not really a high-tax, big spending state if we take into account its wealth, we do raise revenue in very ineffective, outdated ways. The state has a sales tax riddled with loopholes, an income tax that leaves a lot of income untaxed, business taxes that penalize the service economy, and a property tax that steers development out of urban areas while undertaxing wealth. If we want to get Connecticut out of the current state of endless fiscal crisis, tax reform is both necessary and long overdue.
Of course, revenue is only half of the equation when talking about the budget – spending also plays an equal part. As with revenue, Connecticut has some spending practices that are both inefficient and outdated, creating a state and local government structure that is often not up to current challenges. In many areas, we just spend money in a lousy way.
1. An outdated state structure
Connecticut has a lot of departments and agencies. By our count, the state has 24 departments, 14 offices, 12 commissions, and 10 quasi-public agencies. The numbers, by themselves, are not all that meaningful, but how they share infrastructure and data is.
For instance, consider how Connecticut provides services to a family in need. These programs might be housed in several different agencies, like the Department of Social Services, Children and Families, Rehabilitation Services, Corrections, Public Health, Labor, Developmental Services, Access Health CT or the Office of Early Childhood. Not many families need to access all services at the same time, but many will require the support of more than one agency. A recently laid off worker would likely need health insurance (either through the Department of Social Services or Access Health CT) and unemployment benefits (Department of Labor). If he has a disability, the Department of Rehabilitation Services would be providing support; if he has children, he should seek support from the Office of Early Childhood.
Trouble is, none of these state agencies share any kind of infrastructure or data in any meaningful way. Each department has its own information technology and databases, and have set up their systems separately. This means that state agencies spend considerable time and resources either reinventing the wheel or building specific tools for themselves, even when another agency already has one in place. As each department has to work with its own separate, dwindling pot of money, crucial IT upgrades are postponed until systems are well beyond obsolete. The Department of Social Services, for instance, is in the (long) process to replace its 1989-vintage EMS mainframe, which was slowly falling apart. The roll out of ConneCT/ImpaCT, the new system, has been extraordinarily difficult in no small part because barely anyone still uses Cobol in their applications like EMS does.
In addition to barely functional, outdated technology, state departments often serve the same clients but rarely, if ever, share data or coordinate services in any meaningful way – sometimes they are even barred by contract from doing so. This means that the state spends a considerable amount of resources doing intakes, over and over again, and providing services in a fragmented, uncomfortable and ineffective manner. This issue, by the way, is not limited to social services; economic development agencies are often hampered along similar lines.
Reorganizing bureaucracies is not exactly flashy, glamorous or popular, but it can improve services, and it can save money. It is not easy, either, but it needs to be done.
2. Local government and economies of scale
It is easy to fixate on state services and their problems, but it is important to keep in mind that Connecticut relies in local governments for about half of its public spending. Education, public safety and housing are largely in municipal hands, and but cities and towns are often ill-equipped to do the job well.
The issue, in this case, is economies of scale, or lack thereof. When providing services, the cost per client often goes down the more clients you are serving. Connecticut has 169 towns, and this fragmentation means that a lot of municipalities are paying more for less because of their small size. To make things worse, the larger cities (which are not that large to begin with) concentrate most of the poor and low-income families in the state. The result is small towns with high overhead costs, and cities with a bigger need for services but lacking the tax base to deliver them.
The answer to this issue is obviously some form of regionalization, but the steps Connecticut has taken in this direction are quite uneven. For instance, the boundaries of many regional organizations do not match; workforce development boards serve different groups of towns than the regional councils of governments, which in turn differ from the health districts, which happen to be different from the 911 call centers, and so on. These call centers are probably one of the clearest examples on what we are doing wrong: Connecticut has 107 public safety answering points, all fully staffed. Suffice it to say, economies of scale can be found there, as well as in many other places.
Again, it is often easier to spend money than to sit down and work to change institutions, especially when those changes might get people upset. We are at a point, however, when the legislature and municipal leaders should really look at these issues, and go beyond tinkering around the edges. This might mean seriously looking into shared insurance pools for municipal workers, integrating transportation departments and road repairs, and regional purchasing plans. If we want to really solve the issues at hand, regional education districts that cover both cities and suburbs, and larger, regional, police and fire departments should also be on the table.
3. Hidden subsidies: tax expenditures
Last week we mentioned how the sales tax is riddled with carve outs and exemptions, meaning that a large (and growing) portion of our economy is left untaxed. The sales tax is our biggest money sink, but as CT Voices points out in a report it just released, it is far from being the only tax riddled with holes. Connecticut foregoes $7.2 billion in taxes every year this way.
In a sense, this is also state spending, though hidden in the tax code. Instead of giving a certain company or business a direct subsidy through an appropriation, the state increasingly relies on all kinds of exemptions, credits and targeted cuts to do the same. Some of these expenditures make sense (not charging sales tax on food, for instance), but many are just pointless giveaways. It is better to have a lower overall tax rate without exemptions than a higher rate on a tax riddled with loopholes; unfortunately, we have preferred complexity to fairness for many years, spending billions of dollars in the process.
4. Public education and human services
Social services and public education comprise a large part of the state budget. Connecticut, as a state, provides more social services than the national average. We have a generous (and very effective!) Earned Income Tax Credit, we expanded Medicaid, spend a good amount of money per student in K-12 and higher education, and have an extensive, if underfunded, pre-K and early care system. Because of all that, we also have lower levels of adult and child poverty than most states, which saves money in the long run.
One smart idea the Connecticut General Assembly has adopted is the use of "results based accountability" (RBA) to examine the effectiveness of safety net and other programs. Social service and other state spending should be driven by improving outcomes: are people better off? Connecticut should deepen its commitment to program evaluation, using data to assess which programs are really effective, and which are not.
We should bear in mind, however, that although our safety net services and costs are above average, they are not an outlier among blue states. Minnesota, Massachusetts, Washington, Maryland, California and Oregon offer comparable services. The thing is, those states aren't on a never-ending fiscal crisis treadmill as Connecticut is, so the source of our problems is not really spending on social programs. Again, we are a really wealthy place with modest spending and taxation levels; the problem is less on the size of the state budget, but on how we raise and spend it.
5. Not paying the bills on time: pensions
In the late nineties, Connecticut politicians came up with a very clever way to balance the state budget: they stopped putting away money in the public employees´ pension fund while giving early retirement incentives to a whole bunch of state workers. This made paying for state services much easier, but also opened an ever-deepening hole in the pension fund that eventually had to be paid.
The good news is that Governor Malloy and the Legislature are now paying into the fund, and the state is working hard to catch up with the overdue payments. The bad news is that it is eating up the budget.
How much? The figures come from this study from the Comptroller’s office: in 2016, Connecticut’s contribution to its pension fund was about $1.5 billion. This will climb to about $1.8 billion in 2017, $2 billion in 2019 and will keep climbing non-stop all the way to 2032, when it will get close to $4 billion. Adjusting for inflation, the numbers are a bit less daunting (up to $2.5 billion), but the problem remains – in a roughly $20 billion budget, rising pension costs are a challenge.
This is not sustainable, but it doesn´t mean that it cannot be fixed. Kevin Lembo, the Comptroller, presented a proposal on how to do it (PPT ), giving a good overview of the challenges the state faces. His plan tweaks the amortization method and extends its schedule (translation: changes how inflation is calculated and adds more years to pay for the liabilities) to change the payment structure. The result would be a payment of $1.5B in 2016, $2B in 2017, $2.15B in 2018 and then remain pretty much flat in nominal terms until 2032 (that is, dropping, inflation-adjusted), when they would drop to $1.5 billion. This still would require more money up front (to be raised either from new revenue, cuts, changes on how benefits are calculated, or a mix of all three), but at least would make the state´s obligations more manageable.
The main point, however, is that this problem is not new, but the result of past budget sins. Two-thirds of state pension fund payments go to cover past unfunded obligations. For close to two decades, Connecticut just did not budget to cover its retirement bill. We are paying the price now.
6. Workforce challenges
This does not mean, however, that the state spends the money wisely in regards to staffing – we both spend too much and too little.
For starters, Connecticut has a relatively small state and local labor force, well below the national average if we look at workers per capita. In addition, employment levels have been largely stable since the late nineties. We are a small, densely populated state, meaning that it is fairly easy to offer services. In addition, population growth has been largely flat. Many state agencies, however, remain understaffed with long waiting times, and poor service. Areas like tax enforcement do not have enough personnel, despite the fact that adding more workers would actually save money by collecting additional tax revenue.
Employee compensation, however, is also a factor. We want public employees to be well compensated; having a strong, motivated and well qualified labor force is what enables Connecticut to offer the strong public services that are one of the main competitive advantages of the state. We must keep in mind, however, that labor costs do not happen in a vacuum, but are part of a broader budget. Public employee salaries are, on average, comparable to private sector positions. As is common in the public sector, wages are higher than the private sector for entry-level positions, and lower for more experienced workers. The main difference, however, comes from benefits, and more specifically pensions (largely due to the state’s past mismanagement) and health care.
For many years, the main driver for cost increases was retiree and employee health care, following a trend of increasing health care costs in the private sector. Health care costs climbed from 2.9% of the general fund in 1990 to 6.2% in 2011. Following the 2011 contract agreement, which included some important changes, health inflation has stabilized, although health care costs still takes a considerable percentage of the state budget (5.8% last year). Connecticut should consider adopting further cost control measures, ranging from payment advisory boards, narrower provider networks or more cost sharing. Health care reforms are not easy, and would need to be negotiated with state employee unions, but this is an area where costs potentially could be reduced.
To sum up, Connecticut could be quite a bit more effective using its resources, although doing so would require bold institutional reforms that truly change how the state operates. This rethinking also has to include finding a way to pay for past budgetary sins, one way or another, especially regarding state pensions.
Above all, the state´s economic and financial doldrums leave little room to leave any reform stones unturned; we all need to share this burden. Everyone--government, unions, businesses, nonprofits, municipalities--needs to be at the table, and everyone should be willing to contribute to move the state forward, one way or another.
Connecticut has been the land of steady habits for too long. It is time for real change.
Connecticut has been in a fiscal crisis pretty much non-stop for the past eight years. It is likely that the state would have started looking at red ink before that, but the real estate and financial bubble of the 2000s masked the underlying reality. For close to a decade, and probably for longer, our state has been constantly on the edge of a fiscal chasm, with the General Assembly muddling through with a mix of tax increases and spending cuts.
The thing is, this is not really normal. Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states in the wealthiest country in the world. Even if the state´s economy hasn´t fully recovered, unemployment is relatively low, growth is weak but not anemic and labor productivity is still high. We have an economy in a mild slowdown enough to produce a shortfall that could be sorted out with some tweaks. Instead, we have a Groundhog Day of budget deficits.
For starters, it is not true that we have a state government we cannot afford. It is hard to stress enough the fact enough that Connecticut is really wealthy and we are not doing anything that other states aren't able to pay for, but it goes beyond that. Measured both in terms of state and local taxes as percentage of personal income and as size of state and local government as percentage of the state economy, we rank in the bottom half in terms of how much we tax and spend.
Of course, it is not that we have not raised taxes. The state, in fact, went through two rounds of pretty hefty tax increases, one just after Governor Malloy got elected, a second round last year. The Governor and legislature have been looking for money all over the place, and they have bitten the bullet (twice!) with unpopular tax increases. And yet, the budget hole does not get any smaller. Why?
The answer is a tad complicated, and requires having a closer look at how we tax and spend in the state. The main issue, however, is less that we spend too much or tax too little, but that we do both in really outdated, inefficient ways. We have a state budget based on 20th century assumptions, not 21st century realities. Let´s start today with taxes.
1. Taxing objects in the age of ideas
If we want to see how the Connecticut tax structure is designed for a 1960s style economy, look no further than the sales tax. About a quarter of the total tax revenue of the state comes from the sales and use tax, collecting a bit north of $4 billion a year. It is a fairly regressive tax, with families at the bottom of the income distribution paying much higher effective rates than anyone else.
This is due to the very nature of taxes on consumption (the poor dedicate a higher percentage of their income to it), but also because we happen to exclude a lot of things from it: primarily, many services. Connecticut´s tax code has a monumental amount of carve outs, exemptions, loopholes and special provisions that leave a huge and increasing percentage of our economy untaxed. This means that a diaper, sofa or cell phone has to pay sales tax, while things like repairing a boat, hiring an interior decorator or going to the gym are untaxed. In a sense, the state is raising money from tangible products in an economy that is more and more focused on services and ideas.
If we eliminated all the sales tax exemptions but the one for food purchases, Connecticut would be able to collect close to $2.5 billion in extra revenue a year at current rates – or it could cut the current rate by close to two points, giving a significant tax cut to low income families while still raising close to half a billion in additional revenue. To put it in one sentence, broadening and simplifying the sales tax makes sense.
The sales tax, however, is hardly unique. If we look at the state and local tax system as a whole, the property tax is by far the biggest source of funding for Connecticut´s public sector, with 45% of all tax revenue. Four or five decades ago, when Connecticut had a much more egalitarian income distribution and wealth was much less geographically segregated, it made sense: the core cities concentrated business, trade and industry and could raise revenue effectively. Today, cities have lost much of their former tax base, suffered years of underinvestment and concentrate most of the need, so they end up having higher mill rates. As a result, nearly 60% of Connecticut towns cannot cover the cost of their services on their own.
Things have changed in the past few years. Today, many business favor dense, vibrant urban areas instead of suburban campuses. GE left the state not looking for a low-tax haven, but for vibrant, urban Boston. Knowledge workers value active, diverse, lively, dense communities, and clustering creates strong network effects that promote innovation. In Connecticut, however, we are taxing those urban areas heavily, while leaving the most expensive suburban communities in the country paying much lower mill rates. Again, we have an outdated tax system, raising money in a way that doesn´t make much sense.
2. Giving tax breaks to fading industries
The rest of the state´s tax system is similarly geared to either raise money from a 1960s-style economy or promote growth like we used to have in last century. Connecticut´s business tax code heavily favors manufacturing over any other kind of industry: while the total effective tax rate for a factory (adding up business, property, sales and unemployment taxes) is 9.8%, a research facility or corporate headquarters ends up paying 22%.
This might have made sense decades ago, when manufacturing was both labor intensive and did not face international competition. Today 80% of the U.S. labor force is in the service sector, while manufacturing barely employs 8% of workers. Connecticut, even with all this help, barely looks any different, with less than 10% of the labor force in factories. Our business tax code is needlessly complicated for no good reason.
3.Taxing (some) income instead of wealth
Connecticut has the largest income gap of the nation. The state tax system takes this into account thanks to a progressive income tax that raises roughly 60% of its revenue. The income tax does its job in making those that have the most pay more, but not terribly so: the effective tax rate for households in the top income decile (4.52% in 2011) is only three and a half points higher than those at the bottom (1.11%). Trouble is, wealthy, affluent households tend to receive a very high percentage of their income from investments, and Connecticut is not taxing capital gains that much.
In addition, in a state with very high levels of concentrated wealth, our property taxes remain firmly local. As a result, the more expensive the average median price of a house is in a town, the lower the mill rates are. As most of household wealth in the state is tied to housing, we are again raising revenue the wrong way from the wrong places.
Fixing these imbalances and modernizing Connecticut´s tax system to make it more efficient, fair and predictable won´t be easy. Even a non-binding, non-partisan tax panel this year had trouble producing a revenue-neutral set of proposals, and sidestepped proposing significant changes to the property tax. We are at a point, however, where Connecticut can no longer afford standing still. Our state and local tax system is regressive, inefficient and often just raises insufficient funding from the wrong things and places. It is time for state and local leaders to step up and start thinking big, not just look at piecemeal reforms. The current tax system will never be able to raise enough revenue to fund our current needs on the long run, or to foster sustainable economic growth.
Not everything is taxes and taxation, however – Connecticut might not be the big spender that is often suggested, but we do manage to use our money in surprisingly inefficient ways sometimes. That, however, is for the next article. Stay tuned.
We will be hearing about pensions, pension reform and how pension liabilities are taking over the state budget during the year, so it might be worth having a look at how things look right now.
Truth is, the Connecticut public pension system is a mess. For many years the state had the habit of balancing the budget by not putting money into the pension fund while giving early retirement incentives to many state workers. This went on for more than a decade, leaving a gaping hole in the system.
To the legislature and Malloy´s credit, the state stopped doing this a few years ago, finally starting to put money back in the fund. The problem is, however, that under the current payment and amortization schedule (let's pretend we understand we know what that means for a second) the state has to make a huge financial effort to plug that gap, and even more worrisome, we have to set aside more and more money every year.
How much? The figures come from this study from the Comptroller's office - in 2016 Connecticut's contribution to its pension fund was about $1.5 billion. This will climb to about $1.8 billion in 2017, $2 billion in 2019 and will keep climbing non-stop all the way to 2032, when it will get close to $4 billion. Adjusting for inflation the numbers get a bit less daunting (up to $2.5 billion), but the problem remains - in a roughly $20 billion budget, the pensions are indeed a problem.
This is not sustainable, so we will be hearing more reform proposals in the coming weeks. Kevin Lembo, the Comptroller, just presented his ( PPT ), giving a good outlook of what we can expect to see. His proposal tweaks the amortization method and extends its schedule (translation: changes how inflation is calculated and adds more years to pay for the liabilities) to change the payment structure. The result would be a payment of $1.5B in 2016, $2B in 2017, $2.15B in 2018 and then remain pretty much flat in nominal terms until 2032 (that is, dropping, inflation-adjusted), where they would drop to $1.5 billion.
If you stopped reading halfway through the previous paragraph, I understand completely: this is not exactly fun. It also is really important for the fiscal health of our state in the long run, so we will try to do our best to explain what is going on. Public pensions might not be our agenda, but they greatly affect the rest of the budget, so we will keep track.
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.
If you do not already receive CAHS Family Economic Success updates, please email email@example.com to sign up.
We discussed the budget cuts and how revenue was coming below target in early February. Well, bad news: it is getting worse.
- We thought we were facing a $570 million deficit in 2017. Wrong. Current projections, after the most up to date revenue numbers, points a $911 million deficit.
- It gets worse - for the current year (FY2016, ending this June) we are back tohaving a deficit - $266 million, to be exact.
- Actually, it is even worse than that if you look at the next biennium (FY2018-19, after the election), with $2 billion a year deficits.
So - we are really going to see a budget battle now. Stay tuned.
The Connecticut General Assembly is in session, and the budget hearings have begun. With the state facing a deficit north of $570 million in the coming fiscal year, legislators are again scrambling to find ways to balance the budget.
There seems to be very little appetite so far for any kind of tax increases, so Governor Malloy and legislators are talking about cuts - and these cuts are being discussed, right now, at multiple Appropriations Committee hearings at the Capitol. You can find the calendar here; today the committee will hear about higher education. Tomorrow at 4 pm they will host the hearing for human services which may be of most interest to you.
There are two things to bear in mind about the budget revisions proposed by Governor Malloy, one about process, one about where the cuts will fall. Both are important, and deserve some attention.
A. WHERE ARE THE CUTS?
The cuts for fiscal year 2017 add up to $570 million. The departments that are facing the worst cuts are the Department of Social Services ($61 million), Department of Developmental Services ($55 million) and from addiction and mental health services ($71 million).
This by itself would be worrisome, but it goes beyond that. According to the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance´s analysis, 72% of the cuts ($408 million) come from non-profit providers. Consequently, many core services offered by these providers will again face an uphill battle meeting the needs of low-income families in the state with diminishing resources.
The slow economic recovery has left many families behind. The budget is asking them again to bear the brunt of the state fiscal woes.
B. HOW ARE THE CUTS BEING INTRODUCED?
Governor Malloy has decided to consolidate most line items in the budget under a generic "agency operations" heading. After that, his proposal states that spending will be cut 5.75%, but without specifying exactly from where.
This is a problem. Instead of the traditional budget breakdown of proposed reductions with specific explanations of what line items are facing cuts, this proposal just offers an agency-wide spending level, and gives the authority to each agency head to decide where to cut. The result is a budget that imposes harsh spending cuts but is lacking in transparency, with no information on what programs will be eliminated.
This is not acceptable. Transparency is an essential for accountability. The Governor´s budget proposal shifts the responsibility and decision making for crucial spending decisions from an open, public process at the General Assembly towards one with no public participation, no open hearings and limited accountability. The only way to make those decisions and introduce real, needed changes to the state budget is through an open, accountable and transparent budget process, not by delegating authority to the executive branch.
WHAT IS NEXT? HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?
Right now we encourage you to reach out to your legislators, even more so ifthey are on Appropriations. If you are able, we strongly encourage you to submit testimony to the committee, specially if you are involved in a program that is facing cuts. The message is simple:
Feel free to give us a call if you have questions or need a hand drafting testimony, setting up a meeting with a legislator or preparing talking points. We will be happy to help.
Recession May Be Past, But Underemployment and Income Inequality Still Define Landscape in Connecticut
STATE RANKS 23RD OVERALL IN FINANCIAL SECURITY OF RESIDENTS; HOUSEHOLDS OF COLOR FACE HUGE UPHILL CLIMB
- Homeownership rates remain at historic lows, falling to 63.1% for the eighth consecutive year of decline and contributing to crowding and rising costs in the rental market.
- Fully 14.3% of adults say there was a time in the past year that they needed to see a doctor but could not because of cost. The statistics are worse for individuals of color with one in four Latino adults and one in five African-American adults saying money concerns prevented them from seeing a doctor.
- Although both high school graduation rates (82.3%) and four-year college degree attainment (30.1%) increased from 2013 to 2014, racial disparities remain severe. Less than 20% of AfricanAmerican adults and fewer than 15% of Latino adults hold four-year degrees.
- While the national unemployment rate has dropped to 5%, the underemployment rate is twice as high, at 10.8%. What's more, one-in-four jobs is in a low-wage occupation.
- Building up even a small amount of savings is a challenge for almost half the country. Some 44% of households are "liquid asset poor," meaning they have less than three months of savings to live at the poverty level if they suffer an income loss.
- Business ownership among both men and women (21.4% and 17.1% of the labor force, respectively) declined from 2007 to 2012, even as average business value for both groups increased. Yet female-owned businesses still are worth only a third the value of the average male-owned business-$239,486 to $726,141, respectively.
This past Monday CAHS presented our latest report on remedial education "Transitional College Readiness Programs in Connecticut: Adult Educators as Partners" at Middlesex Community College, in Middletown.
This new report focuses on an innovative new model to address remedial education for transitional students, those that test at 8th grade or below in their placement test. A set of new programs have brought together community colleges and adult education providers to work together to provide remedial education, using a variety of new strategies that combine support services, personalized instruction, software-based solutions and innovative teaching tools. Ren Brockmeyer and Roger Senserrich, the main authors of the report, were at hand to present the findings (slides on their presentation here).
After discussing the report, a panel with Dr. Steve Minkler, Dean of Academic Affairs at Middlesex, Dr. Diane Clare-Kearney, Director of Manchester Adult and Continuing Education, and Fred Silbermann, Program Facilitator for Meriden Adult Education, joined the authors to discuss their experiences implementing the new programs. Following the panel, the attendees participated in table discussions on how Connecticut can create new pathways to success for non-conventional students.
The main conclusion of both experts and attendees is that the new reform has shown some very promising results where community colleges and adult education providers worked together to deliver remedial classes. Building new partnerships, however, has proved challenging.
The full report is available for download here.
Besides the disappointing poverty data, the Census release included a very important piece of good news: the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is working really well. The percentage of residents in Connecticut without health insurance dropped from 9.4 to 6.9%. The decrease is statistically significant - close to 90,000 people that did not have insurance last year have it now.
For children the drop is smaller, and not statistically significant, although the starting point was already low: only 3.7% of Connecticut children remain uninsured, down from 4.3% in 2013. Full coverage is within grasp.
The ACA is not just having positive effects in our small, progressive state in the northeast. Nationwide, the uninsured rate has dropped from 14.5% to 11.7% in one year. The decrease will be even steeper with wider Medicaid adoption, but the trend is in the right direction.
As usual, CT Voices have a policy brief covering this issue as well. You can find it here.