Tuesday, January 17, 2017


By Andrew Bradley

More than 1 in 3 Hoosiers continue to live below economic self-sufficiency despite unemployment rates that have steadily declined since the recession. So while more Hoosiers are working (even if still not at pre-recession rates), over a third can’t afford basic needs such as adequate housing, food, transportation and childcare. To tackle this persistent problem, the Indiana Institute for Working Families has released its 2017 Legislative Policy Agenda with six 'missing pieces' to help fill the gaps in Indiana’s economy for working Hoosier families.

Our new Governor Eric Holcomb grasped the impact of these 'missing pieces' in his inauguration speech when he said "Too many Hoosiers and their families feel they’ve been left out or are in danger of being left behind. Too many are not participating in today’s economy or getting a quality education." That feeling of being left behind is backed up by the data: without policies specifically tailored for working families, Indiana will continue to fall behind our neighbors in the rankings, including a downward trend in median household income rankings (from #34 to #36), and an upward trend in child poverty rankings (from 23rd to 21st-highest) over the past year alone. Our state has done a great job fostering a 'business friendly' climate with direct policy attention, and wouldn't tolerate letting that climate go to chance. The time has come for Indiana to stop being complacent to the status of working families and consigning their fates to a byproduct of our business climate. Indiana and its economy will not move "to the next level’" without giving policies for working families the same pioneering spirit and innovation that has inspired the state's first two centuries.

To that end, this agenda of six 'missing policy pieces' will help Hoosier families protect assets, build skills and opportunities, and move up the path towards self-sufficiency. Filling these missing pieces will also help Indiana put together strategies to build better-paying, higher-quality jobs and equitable budget choices for a more just Indiana economy that works for all Hoosier families. All recommendations on the 2017 Policy Agenda are based on the culmination of the Institute’s analysis of research, data and national best practice models, aimed at doing things "the Indiana way" with innovation and a pioneering spirit. These "missing pieces" include:

PATH TO SELF-SUFFICIENCY Put families on a path to self-sufficiency by protecting them from high-cost payday loans and predatory lending products. Support asset-building and financial literacy training by increasing funding for individual development accounts (IDAs).

INVESTMENT IN TWO-GENERATION SOLUTIONS Investments in Head Start, preschool and the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) ensure that young children continue to learn and grow while their parents work or seek further education.

REMOVE BARRIERS TO ADULT EDUCATION & WORKFORCE TRAINING Allow for better coordination of skills training, higher education and necessary support services. Increase support for the Indiana Adult Student Grant and the WorkINdiana training program, and create Indiana’s first fund for job-driven adult literacy.

ASSETS & REBOUNDS Help Hoosiers rebound more quickly from tough times by removing the asset test from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility requirements and raising Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) eligibility to 50 percent of the federal poverty level.

QUALITY OF LIFE & QUALITY OF WORK Ensure that all working Hoosiers can balance work, family and household budgets through policies that promote fair scheduling, paid leave and high-quality, well-paying jobs.

BUILD A MORE JUST HOOSIER ECONOMY, STARTING WITH EQUITABLE BUDGET CHOICES Make equitable budget choices that remedy Indiana’s regressive tax structure, increase economic mobility for working families and promote a more just economy for all Hoosiers.

See the Institute's 2017 Legislative Public Policy Agenda here.

Sign up for updates and action alerts as we track these agenda items and all legislation of importance to Indiana’s working families. And please donate to help us advocate for working families throughout 2017.

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