Wednesday, January 3, 2018

By Andrew Bradley, Senior Policy Analyst

While the national recovery has finally resulted in a rising tide in Indiana, 1 in 3 Hoosiers are left anchored underwater economically, swamped by basic costs that are drowning out incremental gains. The Indiana Institute for Working Families’ 2018 policy agenda targets those left out of the recovery and lays out achievable steps to remove the anchors keeping families underwater, ensure there are enough life preservers for those who need them, and provide a propeller to steer Indiana toward economic security and broad prosperity in its third century.
Indiana’s ‘business-friendly’ policy emphasis hasn’t yielded results for middle-class and working families, causing the state to stagnate or even slip behind neighbors on key measures. The past year saw little significant policy change directed to low- and middle-income families, and the data reflect the lack of focus on working families. Compared to other states, Indiana’s poverty ranking worsened four spots last year alone from 26th to 22nd-highest. Racial and gender pay gaps increased, with the gender wage gap jumping from 12th to 6th-highest in 2016 alone. Indiana’s median household income remains stuck at 36th-highest in the nation. And, not surprising given the state’s policy choices, Hoosiers now endure the lowest worker voice and the lowest hourly wages among all of our neighbors.

Fortunately, Indiana has a history of solving problems when our policymakers work as hard for Hoosiers as our families work for each other. Even during a ‘short session’ with no budget updates, the General Assembly can take these specific steps to begin to right the ship for working families:

Remove anchors weighing families down and keeping them underwater.
• PROTECT HOOSIERS FROM PAYDAY LENDING with a rate cap and protection from dangerous new predatory products.
• REQUIRE EMPLOYERS TO PROVIDE REASONABLE PREGNANCY ACCOMMODATIONS so women don’t have to choose between a healthy pregnancy and a paycheck.

Ensure there are enough life preservers for those who need them.
• REFORM TANF’S ELIGIBILITY GUIDELINES AND BENEFIT LEVELS so that their values cease to erode and are indexed to inflation moving forward.
• ELIMINATE THE LIFETIME BAN ON SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) for people who have served their time for drug felonies.

Provide Hoosiers with the propeller we need to steer us toward economic security and broad prosperity.
• IMPROVE ON MY WAY PRE-K BY REMOVING ‘SERVICE NEED’ RED TAPE so more kids can participate in pre-K to learn & thrive.
• SUPPORT INDIANA’S WORKFORCE by removing non-academic barriers to adult student completion, boosting adult literacy, and adding a work-sharing program.
Sign up for updates and action alerts, and follow the Institute’s ‘Inside the Statehouse’ blog series to keep up with the General Assembly’s progress in implementing these steps. Our team will be at the Statehouse bringing data and policy solutions to lawmakers in one-on-one meetings and public hearings. Please consider donating to help amplify our advocacy for working Hoosier families at the Statehouse throughout 2018.

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