Care4Kids is the state's childcare subsidy program, allowing low-income families the opportunity to work. An Act Concerning the Care4Kids Program does four very important things:
- Makes all minor parents eligible to receive care4kids, regardless of their parents income;
- Allows a recipient of care4kids up to 12 weeks of program eligibility while taking unpaid leave due to the birth or impending birth of a child;
- Begins to increase provider rates and implements a plan to increase rates to the recommended 75th percentile by 2022; and finally
- Extends program eligibility to recipients who lose a job for no more than six months while actively looking for new employment.
CAHS testified in support of the bill before the Select Committee on Children at Tuesday's Public Hearing. There was a great deal of support from advocates and providers. The State Department of Social Services testified that they are not philosophically opposed to the concepts raised in the bill, but questioned how we are going to pay for it.
As this bill moves through the legislative process, we will keep you updated! If you are interested in more information, please contact Early Care & Education Policy Analyst, Jillian Gilchrest. Also, if you would like to read more, CTNewsJunkie posted an article about the hearing.
The Connecticut Mirror reports on CAHS's new CT KIDS COUNT report, Opportunity in Connecticut: The Impact of Race, Poverty and Education on Family Economic Success.
Report author Jude Carroll on the report's findings of deep inequalities based on race, ethnicity and residence:
"If your family is only making ends meet, your parents can't really help you. And they certainly can't help you with a down payment on a house," Carroll said. "Sometimes [higher income] people forget about the structures in their lives that make these things easier -- it's sort of this selective amnesia."
Connecticut Voices for Children also released a report on Connecticut's changing demographics.
"As soon as 2015, the size of Connecticut's working age population will peak, and those replacing the state's retiring workers will be disproportionately younger and of lower income and education levels.
'That's a problem for the state,' Rodriguez said. 'The average earnings per worker are going to go down. And at the same time, the state has billions in unfunded liabilities and more importantly, those aging populations leaving the workforce are going to require more state services.' "
More than 120 people attended a public forum Monday for a panel discussion about the reports and their recommendations for policy makers.
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Things are moving along up on Capitol Hill. When Congress could not come to agreement on a long-term extension of expiring emergency federal unemployment insurance benefits and the payroll tax cut before the holidays, they instead approved a short-term, two-month extension. This meant we were down to the wire again, but only days before this short-term agreement was set to expire, Congress came to the rescue and finally approved (and the President signed) H.R. 3630, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. This extends these programs, and the current Medicare physician payment rates, through 2012. The law also extended the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program at Fiscal Year 2011 levels through September 30, 2012.
While the proposal reduces the maximum 99 weeks of available long-term unemployment benefits, it was an improvement over the House Republican proposal which had proposed a cap of 59 weeks. The new law also creates national job search requirements for all beneficiaries and allows states to hold drug screenings for applicants who lost their jobs due to drug use or are seeking jobs requiring a drug test. Thankfully, it did not include provisions from the House proposal to require people receiving jobless benefits to have a high school diploma or be pursuing an equivalent degree, nor did it use a proposed cut to the refundable Child Tax Credit for low-income working families was as an offset. Overall, the agreement was a step forward for families struggling to make ends meet.
On February 13, President Obama released the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal. The budget proposes to hold the line on Early Care and Education programs, protect low-income families, and increase SNAP funding to former levels under the Stimulus Act as promised. Rumor has it the Republican budget should come out early next month, and may try to cut beyond the caps set by the Budget Control Act. Stay tuned.
On a more pro-active note, On November 1, 2011, Representative Barbara Lee introduced H.R. 3300, the Half in Ten Act of 2011, which would establish a Federal Interagency Working Group on Reducing Poverty. What would they do, you ask? The group would be tasked with developing, and more importantly, implementing, a national plan to reduce poverty by half in ten years. We recently met with Congressman Courtney, who agreed to co-sponsor the bill. Our delegation really is delightful.
The State's Education Committee will hold two days of Public Hearings on Governor Malloy's proposed Education reforms next Tuesday, February 21 and Wednesday, February 22. Governor Malloy has declared this the session of education and his reform efforts certainly reflect that sentiment.
An Act Concerning Educational Competitiveness includes reforms to the K-12 system, early care and education and cost sharing. The Public Hearing on Tuesday will focus on changing certification procedures for teachers, evaluation and tenure; establishing a new board to oversee Connecticut's technical high schools; and setting up a way to judge the quality of early childhood education programs. Wednesday's Public Hearing will focus on school funding, charter and magnet schools, state intervention in struggling local schools and the costs and procedures of proving special education services.
If you are interested in testifying email a PDF copy of written testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org by 12:00 P.M. on Friday, February 17, 2012, and include the word "Testimony" in the subject line. Written testimony will be accepted in Room 3100 of the LOB until 9:30 A.M. on the date of the hearing. The committee asks that you submit 30 copies. Written testimony submitted after 9:30 A.M. will not be distributed in hard copy form. Sign-up for the hearing will begin at 9:00 A.M. in the First Floor Atrium of the LOB and will conclude at 10:00 A.M. The first hour of the hearing is reserved for Elected Officials. Speakers will be limited to three minutes of testimony.
Better Choices for Connecticut, a coalition dedicated to creating a more sustainable and fair revenue system, is calling for the state to study and report on income inequality in the state.
Better Choices’ 2012 Legislative Agenda, released today, also calls on the state to make a rigorous review of the effectiveness of business tax subsidies in creating job and to report on how Connecticut’s state and local taxes affect different income groups and businesses of different sizes.
“The entire country has been engaged in a lively debate about wealth disparity and ‘99% vs. 1%’. Nowhere is that discussion more critical than here in Connecticut, where we have the largest gap between rich and poor in the country,” said Liz Dupont-Diehl, Policy Director at the Connecticut Association for Human Services. “We need to better understand income and wealth inequality in our state, as well as the benefits of tax credits and whether or not they are creating jobs or stimulating the economy.”
“Corporate tax loopholes tend to benefit large, multi-state corporations that have the resources to take advantage of them,” said Wade Gibson, Senior Policy Fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children. “By closing these loopholes, we can level the playing field for smaller businesses and make our business tax system more fair.
Better Choices presented these priorities for the 2012 legislative session:
· Institute regular reporting of income and wealth inequality and of what people and businesses at different incomes and sizes actually pay in state and local taxes.
· Improve business tax credit transparency and accountability by ensuring the new business tax credit review commissions have teeth, i.e., access to the necessary data and a mandate to maximize effectiveness.
· Close corporate tax loopholes and improve fairness for smaller businesses through “combined reporting” and “throwback rule” reforms.
Better Choices’ full 2012 Legislative Agenda is here.
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. For more information visit www.betterchoicesforct.org.
Being able to get a high school diploma is a critical step to help low-income people get jobs, and fits in with the recommendations of the working group DOL assembled last summer. Please help inform lawmakers. To continue to move forward on JFES pilots, we need to have some testimony at the Appropriations Committee hearings on the DOL and DSS budget proposals. Testimony from affected people or people working directly with those people is most effective. Details on sign-up and submission of testimony are below.
Department of Labor - Wednesday, Feb. 15, 6:00 pm - support for the JFES budget line item - $17.7 million - no cut proposed but emphasizing the need to go forward on the pilot proposals would be helpful.
Department of Social Services - Friday, Feb. 17, 4:00 pm - Oppose the cut of $150,000 for the small JFES pilot mandated in last year's budget. Oppose at least in part the cut of $9 million in cash assistance. There are no proposed changes in TFA policy but some of that $9 million should be used to fund the pilot projects, if DOL and DSS determine that additional funding is needed.
Thanks to Jane McNichol of LARCC for this summary. Anyone with questions can contact Jane at 860-278-5688 ext. 201 or email@example.com
Details on testifying: Public speaker order for the public hearings will be determined by a lottery system. Lottery numbers will be drawn from 9:00 A.M. until 10:00 A.M. in the First Floor Atrium of the LOB and from 10:15 A.M. until 1:00 P.M. in Room 2700 of the LOB. The list of speakers registered through the lottery system will be posted outside the designated hearing room two hours prior to the start of the public hearing. Speakers arriving after the completion of the lottery will have their names placed at the end of the speaker list. On February 17th and 22nd the Committee will provide a separate sign-up sheet for persons with special needs. Those speakers will be registered on a first-come, first-served basis. The Committee Chairs will alternate between the special needs list and the standard list until the special needs list has been exhausted. Speakers will be limited to three minutes of testimony. Please submit 25 copies of written testimony at the time of sign-up. Testimony delivered after the start of a hearing may not be distributed until the following day. The Committee will accept electronic testimony via email as a Word or PDF attachment at firstname.lastname@example.org to enable posting on the Committee's website and inclusion in the hearing transcript.
Governor Dannel P. Malloy has announced that the number of people filing for Connecticut's new Earned Income Tax Credit is even higher than expected.
CAHS is pleased. This is good public policy and helping rebuild our middle class. We are delighted that the word is getting out about the EITC, and we're glad Governor Malloy recognizes the power of more money in the hands of working people to stimulate the economy. Even beyond the immediate benefit of families spending their EITC returns in their local communities is the fact that they are able to build a base for family economic success.
DRS is doing a great job getting the word out. The average EITC is higher than we expected ($700 vs $540) which could be a function of the lingering recession, or may just reflect early filers. In any case, as the release states, the EITC is already helping lots of working families make ends meet.
We do want to make sure anyone earning less than $50,000 knows that they can get their taxes prepared for free at 100 sites statewide, just by calling 211. And that includes folks filing for the EITC and filing state returns, which are not free at the big players that keep advertising "free" tax prep
His news release is worth repeating in its entirety:
GOV. MALLOY: STATE EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN EXPECTED
Program helps working families and puts millions back into state’s economy
(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced that more than 70,000 Connecticut income tax returns have been processed from taxpayers requesting and benefiting from the new Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
“Connecticut’s new Earned Income Tax Credit, like the longstanding federal Earned Income Tax Credit, provides an economic incentive for low income working families,” said Governor Malloy. “Higher than anticipated EITC applications show just how hard hit these families were during the recession. The additional income the credit provides will help families pay for essentials such as clothing for children, medical care, reduction of household debt, or other living expenses and perhaps even begin to save for the future.”
To date, the Department of Revenue Services (DRS) says that approximately $49.3 million in EITC credits have been approved to qualified applicants. DRS said this follows the trend of other EITC states with the majority of EITC claims being submitted in January and February. In all, the state expects as many as 190,000 Connecticut taxpayers to request the CT EITC.
“We are early in the first year of Connecticut’s EITC,” Governor Malloy said, “but we believe it is already making a difference in residents’ lives. At the same time, it’s a real reinvestment in the state’s consumer economy.”
The maximum CT EITC payment is $1,725. Combined with the federal EITC, the maximum payment a Connecticut family can receive is $7,476. Both programs are expected to put as much as $500 million into the hands of state residents. The EITC program also includes strong safeguards against fraud.
Taxpayers can learn more about this program at the DRS website.
Amidst all the coverage of Governor Dannel P. Malloy's budget and education proposal, The Hartford Courant's Rick Green points out even the best school reform will need to tackle concentrated poverty to be truly effective:
"Tenure isn't why we have the largest achievement gap in the land. Tenure isn't why nine in 10 black and Hispanic eighth-graders statewide are below proficiency in math, or why just four of five third-graders at Burns Academy in Hartford lack even basic reading proficiency. (When children are behind in third grade, by the way, researchers conclude that more often than not they never catch up.)
"The problem we have is that poor children are falling further and further behind. They live, largely segregated, in poor cities and neighborhoods where we make sure school district boundaries and school funding divide the haves from the have-nots."
Green goes on to highlight that Connecticut is more racially segregated than other parts of the country:
"It's no coincidence that Stanford University researchers recently reported that over the past 40 years the Hartford region has grown more segregated by income than most other metropolitan areas in the land.
"It doesn't matter if this is the second coming of 'Stand and Deliver' educator Jaime Escalante; lofty policy discussions about tenure and teacher evaluation aren't going to change the ugly reality of poverty and how what happens at home affect learning in school."
Green goes on to mention "dysfunctional families," which smacks a little of the "if you're poor you're just not trying hard enough" or "parents need to be held accountable" mentality that pervades so much of our public conversation these days.
What exactly does it mean to "hold parents accountable?" One afternoon radio talk-show host suggests calling parents in from work when their children misbehave in school.
There are two main problems with this:
First, I'll agree that family ability and actions are powerful forces behind children's success. The ability to pay for good early care, read and introduce children to extensive vocabularies, and overall family financial and economic success are extremely important.
Secondly, though, here's a question: Even if some parents are wilfully failing to parent and care for their kids (which I doubt), what's the public policy answer to that? Do we let these kids lurch through grade after grade until they graduate and can't support themselves? Or do we do what we know will work -- ditch our outdated agrarain school calendar, provide longer-day,extended year education, with well-trained teachers and a coordinated curriculum that really prepares kids to be contributing citizens? Not to mention public policies that make it possible for families to earn a living wage and afford health care.
The state could help more by prioritizing racial and economic integration in operating all public schools, and we need to tackle income equality. But Malloy's education proposals do go a long way towards fixing what's wrong with our schools.
Two of CAHS' main policy goals were highlighted yesterday in The Hartford Courant's Opinion section.
Phil Streifer, chairman of the Connecticut Association of Urban Superintendents and head of Bristol public schools, says a state mandate is needed for public schools to make needed connections with higher education.
Streifer cites a recent CAHS meeting:
"Recently, the Connecticut Association for Human Services hosted a meeting of groups interested in this issue. Representatives of public schools, community colleges, state universities, the state Board of Regents, the workforce development system and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association engaged in a frank and far-reaching discussion of how we all must work together. The group found common ground on the nature of the challenge and some potential solutions. One obvious solution is to take advantage of all the work now going on in the public schools to meet the new state standards and incorporate higher education representatives into the discussions."
And Dennis Parker and Martha Stone call for the state to expand programs that highlight racial and economic diversity.
"... magnet schools have accomplished just what the state wants — some have actually eliminated the achievement gap entirely in the crucial third grade year. Others have dramatically narrowed the gap and given students access to high-quality educational programs that are producing life-changing results. Data from the National Coalition on School Diversity shows the proof."