"The 2016 legislative session is at its midpoint, and things are starting to clear up a bit. On one hand, some important family economic success policies are moving forward. On the other hand, the budget situation remains dire, and it might even worsen. Read for more updates!
The 2016 legislative session
Bills moving forward
We will start with the good news; quite a few good bills were voted out of committee these past few days, and some of them have a good chance of passing. Let's have a look:
One of the bills that we are the most excited about: paid family leavewill be a huge boost for family economic security in the state. The US is unique as it is the only develop nation that does not offer paid family leave. The result is that only 12% of employees have access to it, and low-wage workers are much less likely to have access to it.
The bill would create a public insurance program paid by a small (less than 1%) payroll deduction paid by employees, and provide vital income replacement for those workers that need to take care for a family member or take a few days off to take care of a family member. You can find more information on this at the Campaign for Paid Family Leave website.
The bill is now at the Legislative Commissioner´s Office, on its way to the Senate floor. We will keep you posted if it is send to any other committee.
We are still collecting stories on the need for paid family leave; email@example.com if you want to share yours. if you could take the time to call or write thank you notes to Committee members who voted yes (all Democrats and Senator Tony Hwang) and to Senator Mae Flexer, Senator Beth Bye, Representative Kim Rose andRepresentative Matt Lesser who testified in support of the bill earlier in the week, it would be much appreciated.
H.B. 5591- Retirement Security:
One of the most glaring disparities in Connecticut is the amount of savings that workers have accumulated upon retirement. Low-income workers are much less likely to have significant savings upon retirement - see below for an in-depth look at the statistics.
The bill would create a "public option" for employees in companies that do not offer retirement accounts, using a payroll deduction with automatic enrollment. The result would be increased retirement savings and economic security for Connecticut´s families.
H.B. 5237 - "Ban the Box"
This bill prevents employers from requiring job applicants to disclose criminal history until a conditional offer of employment is made. Former felons are often discriminated when job hunting, even for convictions that happened years or decades ago. As employment is one of the best ways to avoid recidivism, this bill would help open a path toward self-sufficiency for these workers. The bill is also at the Legislative Commissioner´s Office on its way to the House floor.
Some other bills we are tracking:
We already have discussed HB. 5626 regarding the Earned Income Tax Credit (expect to hear more from us tomorrow on this one), but there are a few more bills that we are following at the General Assembly.
SB. 314 - TFA and unemployment benefits. A bill that would reduce benefit cliffs on TFA. Out of committee.
SB. 400 - Brownfield redevelopment. A clever bill that pairs brownfield redevelopment incentives with workforce and training opportunities. Commerce should be voting on it in the coming days.
#PeopleMatter Lobby day - Tomorrow!
Tomorrow March 16 CAHS will join the CT Non-Profit Alliance and more than 50 other organizations for the #PeopleMatter lobby day. Join us at 10 am at the Legislative Office Building to ask legislators to protect funding for non-profit human services.
This is the day to rally the troops and bring as many staff and individuals receiving services as possible to the Legislative Office Building! We will be on site to help you identify and locate your legislators, and provide you with stickers and packets of information to distribute.
You can find the Talking Points for the event here. More details at the Non-Profit Alliance website here. Make sure to RSVP to Jeff Shaw so he has materials ready for you tomorrow!
RSVP TO: Jeff Shaw - firstname.lastname@example.org
Other interesting bills
Brownfield remediation and workforce development
An additional note on SB. 400, as this is the kind of under-appreciated bill that can do some good. Although it looks like a real estate bill, it turns out that redeveloping brownfields can be a boost to some of the state´s poorest communities.
Connecticut has 281 listed brownfields - 114 of them are concentrated in six of the seven poorest towns in the state. Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport and New London alone have 95. These are empty, polluted properties, often downtown, sometimes right by the waterfront, that could be generating economic activity if developed. Tax incentives (in this case, by reducing the tax burden of the properties once built for a few years) make sense.
The really interesting bit of this bill, however, is that it pairs these incentives with a mandate for the developer to reach out to the workforce development boards, community colleges and schools in the community to coordinate training and provide jobs in the local community. That is, to train workers on environmental remediation and offer them good paying jobs in the process, combining new development on abandoned sites with new opportunities for local residents.
The bill is awaiting a vote at the Commerce Committee- if you happen to be a constituent with any legislator serving there, it is a good time to give them a call.
In depth: retirement inequality
Some additional details on the disparities that HB.5591 is trying to address. Low income workers and people of color have much less access to retirement accounts than whites. Here are the numbers.
Retirement accounts and education:
About 70% of Connecticut workers lacking a high school diploma do not have the option to participate in an employer-provided retirement saving accounts.
Families headed by college graduates have more than three times as much saved ($95,000) in comparison to a family headed by someone with a high school diploma/GED ($30,000),
This figure, however, is twice as much as the typical family headed by someone without a high school diploma/GED ($14,700).
Retirement savings and income disparities:
In 2013, 50% of workers between the ages of 25 and 64 were not covered by a retirement savings program.
Nationwide, participation (and ability to participate) in retirement saving accounts is highly unequal across income groups. Nearly 9 out of 10 families in the top 1/5th of the income bracket have one, while fewer than 1 in 10 families in the bottom 1/5th participate.
Retirement savings and racial disparities:
Caucasian employees, in 2013, had almost $100,000 more in savings (or 5x as much wealth) than their African American counterparts
Only 41% of black families and 26% of Hispanic families have retirement funds, compared to 65% of white non-Hispanic families.
Account balance differences are very large - the mean balance of working-age households of color (about $31,600) is less than 1/3 that of white households ($111,700) .
The ability to enroll in retirement saving accounts also differs substantially by race and ethnicity in Connecticut - about 61% of Hispanic workers and 46% of African Americans are employed by companies that do not provide this option.
Links, news, findings
A few good studies and links we have shared on CAHS´Facebook page during the month. Make sure to "like" us there to get the latest updates!
Two looks at the state budget: lawmakers looking where to cut, including contracts and municipal aid.
America´s insidious eviction program: a look at the housing crisis, in a harrowing new book.
Wage inequality keeps rising - and workers at the top keep reaping almost all the benefits of economic growth.
Why aren´t remedial college classes taught by the best teachers? A great overview at the Atlantic.
Report: paid family leave would cost .5% of all workers wages. A great overview of the paid family leave bill, at the Courant."