Tax Policy to Reduce Poverty: Federal EITC Expansion Moves toward Parity

 


By Andy Nielsen

The federal tax code is getting a lot of attention lately. There has been particular focus on the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the new feature that allows families to capture the credit through advance monthly payments. This attention is for good reason given the impact it will have on Hoosier families and children, which we recently discussed at length. The CTC dramatically changed through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), which also included an important change to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Specifically, the ARP expanded the EITC for childless adults by (1) allowing younger and older working adults to claim the credit, (2) increasing the maximum credit, and (3) raising the income threshold at which the credit phases out (for otherwise eligible workers).


Prior to the ARP, childless workers were eligible for the EITC only between ages 25 and 64. The ARP reduced the eligible age to 19 for most workers. Students attending school part-time are now eligible at age 24, and foster children and homeless youth are eligible at age 18. The new law also temporarily eliminated the maximum age for childless workers, allowing workers 65 and older to claim the credit in 2021. And yes, 2021 only. Similar to the CTC, these changes to the EITC are temporary.


The ARP increased the maximum credit for childless workers in addition to phasing in the credit more aggressively and phasing the credit out over a higher income. See below:


Source: Congressional Research Service (Link)


Over 367,000 Hoosier workers without children would benefit from this expansion each year, of whom over a quarter are non-White. Approximately 11.4% of Hoosiers would receive a federal tax cut of $690 on average in 2022, providing meaningful relief to individuals who need it the most to meet their basic needs.


While these changes will affect working Hoosiers in a demonstrable way, it is not without unintended consequences and pitfalls. As Congress and the President work to make changes to the EITC permanent, it will be crucial that they eliminate the marriage penalty and extend eligibility to all young adults – regardless of their school enrollment status. Congress and the President have the opportunity to recalibrate our tax code in favor of people. Now is the time to get this right and build upon the work already done.


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Hoosier Women Continue to Face Challenges Due to Ongoing Pandemic


The Institute gratefully acknowledges the support of 
Women’s Fund of Central Indiana, a CICF Fund, for this blog post and our research on gender disparity in Indiana.


Financially Vulnerable Hoosiers Report

Back in October of 2020, the Institute conducted a qualitative survey that we promoted on social media to hear from Hoosier women in real time about how the on-going COVID-19 crisis was impacting their lives. The responses were startling and we reported them in a blog post: “Hoosier Women Sound the Alarm.” We did not repeat the survey from October; however, we do have some additional survey research that can help us see how women are feeling regarding the pandemic’s impact on their lives.

From September 2020 to March 2021, we surveyed thousands of financially vulnerable Hoosiers about a whole host of issues, including COVID-19’s impact on their lives and well-being.[1] Looking at just the responses that we collected from January to March 2021 from Hoosiers who identified as women, we had 529 responses. Even in early 2021, nearly a year into the pandemic, 51% of these respondents reported that they were financially worse off due to COVID-19. Because financially vulnerable Hoosiers struggle to pay bills, typically don’t have emergency savings, and are likely to be asset poor, interruptions in employment can have long-term, cascading effects on financial well-being. We heard about expenses going up like childcare and groceries, hours being reduced in industries that were hardest hit such as food service, and medically fragile Hoosiers (or those with medically fragile people in their home) not being able to work. For many, these effects were also filtered through the lens of overt and systemic racism. Survey respondents told us:

Expenses are higher

"We have to choose which bills to pay versus which can be put off. Before COVID-19 we were  paying all the bills."

 

"We are so behind in rent and barely keeping the utilities on. I am barely keeping food in the house too."

 

"I had to take out a loan in the early months of COVID-19 in order to have the food and supplies we needed to get by and now have that monthly bill to pay."

Childcare affordability and access are a challenge

    "Single mother to a 6-month-old baby and 9-yr-old struggling to find work that fits my schedule and afford daycare and or find all the above during virus."

     

    "I had to take FMLA due to COVID-19 isolation with positive case in home. Then when ready to go back, schools went to eLearning, all children are school aged. No daycare or family able to help due to jobs."

     

    "Unable to hold employment because of lack of child care during virtual learning.
    Struggling from daycare closures frequently due to COVID-19."

          COVID-19’s health complications affect financial well-being


          "Husband is only income, he has COVID-19 pneumonia, and he was unable to work for 4 weeks. Unsure how many hours he can return weekly while on oxygen. The loss of time on site will continue to affect our weekly income by about 40% for at least an additional 8 weeks."

          Risk of infection made earning difficult

            "Month off work, anytime I feel sick it’s assumed I have COVID-19 and I have to get a COVID-19 test."

             

            "Health issues (asthma /COPD), fear of COVID-19, anxiety debilitating."

             

            "I have a very medically fragile, disabled child that I am the sole care giver to. She has had 3 open heart surgeries & takes medication for pulmonary hypertension for serious lung disease. My other daughter also has a heart defect. We have been house bound since the outbreak, since with their underlying conditions, they would unlikely recover. For this reason, I had to quit my part time job & lost that income, which affected us."

             

            "I am unable to find full- or part-time work to help support us in fear of getting COVID-19 and spreading it to my infant & older child with Down Syndrome whom has lung disease."

             

            "Because I had a massive heart attack in 2019, and I've been in the medical field for 20 years, but now COVID-19 and all my doctor's will not allow me to work. I do not know anything else but medical."

                    My industry has been hard-hit industry or my hours reduced (including significant other)

                      "Construction worker. COVID-19 has people fearful to allow me in to their homes. They have less money to do improvements due to COVID-19."

                       

                      "I am unable to babysit in my home as normal to help provide income for my household."

                        Racism

                        "I am normally employed through gig work during the school year but with the current situations, it has been difficult, especially being Asian." 

                         

                        We also heard from Hoosier women about the things that made the most difference and helped them stay afloat:

                        "With extra food stamps & stimulus money, it’s kept me above water."

                         

                        "The extra food stamp assistance, the extra boost in unemployment my husband received in the summer, and stimulus helped tremendously.

                         

                        "The stimulus checks and food assistance (OA and Gleaners mobile pantries) have helped to make ends meet without any problems."

                         

                        "The extra unemployment benefits weekly paid from the government has been very helpful."


                        While 81% of respondents reported receiving stimulus payments, only 3% reported that they had received paid leave through the Families First Coronavirus Act. Respondents to our survey were still struggling to find and keep a job. Unfortunately, Unemployment Insurance (UI), one of the most effective support infrastructures, ran out for some respondents. Only 20% of respondents said that they were on UI when they filled out the survey.

                        Table 1: Survey respondents’ answers to the question: “Did any of the following contribute to you and/or your partner not working or not working as much as you wanted last month?”

                        Reason

                        ME

                        MY SPOUSE/PARTNER

                        Couldn’t find a job

                        15%

                        6%

                        Employer would not give me more hours

                        11%

                        6%

                        Lack of childcare

                        25%

                        5%

                        Caring for a family member

                        15%

                        1%

                        Health/Medical limitation or disability

                        28%

                        9%

                        Lay-Offs or furloughs due to COVID-19

                        13%

                        8%

                        Afraid to work due to COVID-19

                        18%

                        5%

                         

                        Some of the survey respondents with children struggled to find childcare; 16% reported that they couldn’t find care that matched their work schedule and 30% couldn’t find care that was affordable. This is no surprise as childcare affordability has long been a challenge for financially vulnerable Hoosiers and all indications are that COVID-19 has exacerbated those high costs. In fact, a paper from the Center for American Progress posits that the cost of center-based care has gone up 47% since before the pandemic and the cost of home-based care has gone up 70%.

                        An additional challenge for women re-entering the workforce is the fact that Indiana is still missing childcare slots compared to before the pandemic. According to the Early Learning Advisory Committee’s COVID-19 Impact report, only 58% of childcare programs remained open during the shutdown, 21% were temporarily closed, and 22% had not re-opened as of June 30, 2020. Since then, programs have been re-opening, but according to the COVID-19 Impact Dashboard, we are still down about 290 programs since March 23, 2020. Only a small percentage of these are still closed due to COVID-19 - the majority have closed for other reasons - however, the fact remains that there are not as many places for parents to take their kids to receive childcare. Furthermore, nearly 470 programs out of the 3,928 open childcare programs take Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) vouchers that help lower-income families pay for childcare costs. Finally, COVID-19 safety protocols have limited capacity at childcare facilities compounding the supply problem.

                        COVID-19 didn’t just affect the financial well-being of Hoosier women but other aspects as well, 73% of respondents told us that their stress levels had increased due to COVID-19. Data from more quantitative sources confirms much of what we have heard from financially vulnerable Hoosier women. Hoosier families are still struggling, and women continue to carry most of the burden.

                        According to The Century Foundation’s UI Data Dashboard, 49.6% of Hoosier UI claimants since March 2020 identified as women. This is notable because only 46.7% of Indiana’s total workforce identifies as women. For Black Hoosiers, the disparities are more striking. Black Hoosiers accounted for 17.7% of claimants while only making up 9.4% of the workforce. Both Hispanic and White workers had smaller percentages of claimants compared to their share of the workforce (see Table 2).

                        Table 2: Unemployment Insurance Data Dashboard, 3.1. Demographics of UI Claimants - Average since March

                        Race/Ethnicity

                        % of UI Claimants Since March 2020

                        % of the Total Workforce

                        Asian

                        1.9%

                        Data Unavailable

                        Black

                        17.7%

                        9.4%

                        Hispanic

                        6.4%

                        8.07%

                        White

                        71.9%

                        85.7%



                        Not Just a Hoosier Challenge

                        Women in Indiana and across the U.S. have left the workforce in record numbers. In fact, economist Allison Schrager was recently cited in an NPR story, “Women, Work and the Pandemic.” Her analysis shows that less than 50% of all women, both inside and outside of the labor force, were employed in 2020 – the lowest level since the 1980s! However, because of COVID-19, there is real concern that it will take women a long time to regain their past labor force participation. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF)’s Women’s Health Survey, women’s reasons for leaving the labor force had just as much to do with the lack of support available for caregiving as it did with the virus itself. Key takeaways included:

                        · Three out of ten working mothers said they had to take time off because school or daycare was closed.

                        · Over one in ten women report that they have new caregiving responsibilities as a result of the pandemic.

                        · Low-income women are three times more likely than higher income women to report quitting a job for a reason related to COVID-19.


                        The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) recently released an analysis that bears out the experiences described by women who answered KFF’s survey. The analysis compared the 2019 and 2020 unemployment and labor force participation numbers of women with and without minor children. They reported two disturbing findings for those of us who work on issues effecting financially vulnerable people, pointing to evidence that really is no surprise. Firstly, “‘working-class mothers[2]’ experienced the largest decline in employment and the largest labor force exodus between 2019 and 2020.” The employment level of working-class mothers dropped by 7.4 percentage points in 2020.” Furthermore, the report states that the share of working class mothers who said that they were not in the labor force was 13.3 percentage points higher than that of mothers with a Bachelor’s Degree. This analysis drives home that not only has the pandemic caused a “She-Cession,” but that among women, it is the financially vulnerable women, particularly the moms, who have been hardest hit.

                        Recent reports indicate that some women are returning to the labor force. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that more than 400,000 women returned to the labor force in June 2021. However, there are some caveats to this good news. According to the July 2021 factsheet from National Women’s Law Center, 97% of the women who have returned to the labor force are still looking for work. Of those that found jobs, many are in the low-wage service sector. Finally, while the progress is encouraging, it will take many months of steady growth for women to regain the labor force participation numbers they held before the pandemic.


                        Recommendations

                        The policies that IIWF have supported for years to close the gender wage and wealth gaps are still policies that can support women during this she-cession.

                        Increase funding for Child Care subsidies to meet the needs of low-income families with children.   Better yet, it’s past time for universal childcare.


                        Footnotes: 
                        [1] This survey was conducted with current and former customers of Indiana’s Community Action Agencies. Additionally, the survey was texted and emailed, so participants had access to those technologies.


                        [2] Educational Attainment, specifically the attainment of a Bachelor’s Degree was used as a proxy for “working class.” They also looked at whether the women had minor children.
                        Thursday, August 5, 2021

                        Debt: An Effective Tool to Achieve a Financial Goal or a Spiral That Cannot Be Unwound?

                         

                        By Andy Nielsen


                        When asked to describe the debt they currently have, clients from Indiana’s Community Action Agencies responded with words like “overwhelming,” “horrible,” and “excessive.” And unfortunately, this should be somewhat unsurprising. A patchwork of protections, at both the federal and state levels, can lead consumers towards a debt spiral that they cannot climb out of. Major life events such as the loss of a job, divorce, health problems, or other financial hardship only compound the problem.


                        The Indiana Institute for Working Families (IIWF) recently published a brief that utilizes data from a large, representative survey of financially vulnerable Hoosiers throughout the state. The survey provided some insightful and alarming findings. Medical debt was particularly prevalent with 47% off all respondents having a medical debt outstanding. While not as common, student loan balances tended to be higher as 64% of respondents with student loans had balances over $10,000.


                        Most alarming were the disparities in debt characteristics by race and gender. Black respondents were over twice as likely to have a payday loan as their White counterparts, and women tended to have higher student loan balances (over $10,000) than men (64% vs. 55%, respectively). According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, student loans as a share of all household debt per Hoosier has more than doubled over the past 15 years, which is unsurprising given the increased availability of student loans and the rising costs of higher education.


                        As borrowers fall further behind on debt payments, the debt can be recouped through the collection process. Survey results indicated that half of all respondents had at last one debt in collections and nearly a quarter had two or more debts in collections. We found that Black respondents were more likely to have each type of debt (medical, credit card, auto, student, personal installment, and payday) in collections than White respondents. Black respondents were also nearly three times as likely to have a payday loan in collections than White respondents. Unfortunately, these disparities exist beyond the Community Action network and extend statewide. Defaults and collections disproportionately affect communities of color, presenting continued, entrenched challenges to close the racial wealth gap.


                        The good news is that there are solutions that can help address these issues. Policies that combat predatory lending, ensure medical treatment is more affordable for low-income patients, create parity between different types of debt on credit reports and through bankruptcy, and, of course, promote financial literacy and education will work towards leveraging debt as a tool and not as a trap.


                        To learn more, read IIWF’s recent brief: Debt in Indiana


                        Thursday, July 29, 2021

                        Tax Policy to Reduce Poverty: Critical Resource to Help Hoosier Families Meet Their Basic Needs

                         


                        By Andy Nielsen


                        A global pandemic can change a lot about our daily lives. And a lot has changed in the past 16 months. While low-income families regularly experience the brunt of the negative effects stemming from economic and public health crises, several federal policy changes from earlier this year will help ensure families have a chance to recover. Believe it or not, these changes come through our tax code.  


                        Predictably, households with children are more likely to experience difficulty covering basic living expenses – such as rent, food, utilities, clothing, childcare, and transportation – than those without children. Combined with pressures stemming from slow-to-nonexistent wage growth, there is little surprise that low-income families with children struggle to get by. That is why the recent changes to the Child Tax Credit (CTC) will make an immediate and considerable impact on children and families that need it the most.


                        Earlier this year, Congress passed and the President signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) that dramatically changed the CTC in several ways. First, the ARP increased the existing $2,000 per child CTC to $3,600 per child under age six and to $3,000 per child age six and over for low-income familiesIt also made sure that all minor children are actually eligible by increasing the maximum age of dependent children from 16 to 17-years-old. However, the two most important features of the credit may very well be that (1) the CTC is now fully refundable and (2) the credit can be received through advance monthly payments.


                        Refundability:

                        We discussed in a previous post about the importance of refundable tax credits, especially for low-income families. Prior to the ARP, low-income families would not capture the full value of the credit because it only covered their remaining tax liability after other credits and deductions. Those without tax liability or a filing requirement received nothing at all. So, while the maximum possible CTC per child was the same for all earners (below a certain income threshold), non-refundability meant that the tax credit was subsidizing more child rearing costs for higher-income versus lower-income taxpayers, making the effective tax credit much smaller for families that needed it most. A fully refundable credit closes that discrepancy for low-income and no-filer households.


                        Advance Payments:

                        The advance monthly payment option is a welcome feature that will go a long way in helping families meet their basic needs. Starting July 15, 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will begin providing half of a family’s total CTC (for all eligible children) through advance monthly payments. Families will claim the second half of their total CTC when they file their 2021 tax returns.


                        Families that are not required to file a 2020 tax return or don’t plan to, can sign up to receive their advance payments through the IRS’ Child Tax Credit Non-filer Sign-up Tool. This non-filer tool is especially important for Indiana given an estimated 38,000 Hoosier children live in households that may not have filed a 2019 or 2020 tax return.


                        These advance monthly payments are estimates of a family’s total eligibility for the CTC using the most recent data on file with the IRS. So if a family’s income has substantially changed in 2021, they should use the IRS’ Child Tax Credit Update Portal to update their income. This is important as families that approach the threshold where the CTC begins to phase out may be at risk of overpayment. However, this risk is substantially hedged as, again, only half of a family’s estimated CTC can be redeemed through advance payments, and families can opt out of the payments using the Non-Filer Tool. It is also important to note that this is a tax credit and not income, so advance payments will not affect a family’s eligibility for other social safety net programs like Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

                         

                        The impact of these changes on Hoosier families will be astounding. Approximately, 558,000 additional children will now benefit from the tax credit. A majority of these children – 323,000 – live in rural areas of our state. These changes will reduce child poverty by 43%, lifting 78,000 Hoosier children out of poverty. Statewide, 1.45 million children (92%) will now benefit from the CTC. 


                        Again, these changes are currently effective for tax year 2021 only, so the need for permanency is already clear. There will undoubtedly be hiccups with this historic change to our social safety net, yet hopefully, it will lead to subsequent policy changes that will promote equity and remedy any issues. For the time being, families need to file their 2020 returns or use the IRS’ Non-Filer Tool to begin receiving their advance payments.

                        Monday, July 12, 2021

                        Tax Policy to Reduce Poverty: Changes to State EITC a Win for Hoosiers

                         



                        By Andy Nielsen


                        In a legislative session dominated by the biennial budget and pandemic response, Indiana lawmakers took an important step to strengthen our state’s social safety net for many Hoosiers across the state. House Enrolled Act 1009 increased the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from nine percent to ten percent of a taxpayer’s federal EITC, which had been largely untouched since 2011. Many thanks to our lawmakers for recognizing the effectiveness of this tried and true tool to help combat poverty in Indiana.


                        The federal EITC was created in 1975 as a tool to incentivize work, boost earnings, and combat poverty. Eligibility and the amount of the credit are a function of a taxpayer’s earned income, filing status, and the number and age of children claimed on the tax return. Simply put: the more you (and/or your spouse) work, the higher the credit, and once you earn a certain amount, the credit begins to phase out. Have kids? Then you may receive a larger credit.


                        The federal credit phases out at a higher income for married couples filing jointly compared to individuals filing single or head of household. However, the maximum credit is determined by the number of children (under age 19 or 24 if full-time student and must have a valid SSN) claimed on the return and whether or not the filer is single or married. The table below illustrates these differences. Income ranges provide the minimum earned income to receive any EITC and the maximum amount where credit is zero (completely phased out).

                        Source: Congressional Research Service (Link)


                        The federal EITC has been extremely effective at combating poverty and is quite popular. In 2018, the credit lifted approximately 5.6 million people out of poverty – including about three million children. Data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for tax year 2019 demonstrates the credit’s popularity with about 25 million individuals and families nationwide receiving an average EITC of around $2,461, including 515,000 Hoosiers with an average credit of $2,424. Unfortunately, only 78% of eligible taxpayers (79.8% in Indiana) claimed the federal tax credit in 2017. To put this in perspective, nearly 135,000 additional Hoosiers were eligible but did not claim the credit – that’s over $324 million gone unclaimed.[1]


                        One of the more important features of the credit is that it is fully refundable, meaning the "unused" portion of the credit is recouped through a refund at tax time. A quick refresher on tax credits. Unlike tax deductions that lower taxable income, tax credits offset tax liability dollar-for-dollar. Say you owe $2,000 in taxes and have a $2,400 credit. If the credit is refundable, your tax liability is reduced to $0 and you receive the remaining $400 of the credit as a refund on your return. If the credit is non-refundable, the remaining $400 is left on the table. Refundability ensures the credit is fully realized by low-income taxpayers who may reduce their tax liability to zero through other credits or deductions.


                        In 1999, Indiana followed the federal government’s lead by creating its own EITC. While the credit was modified several times and remains decoupled (stay tuned for future blog post) from its federal counterpart, the state credit is still an important tool for Hoosiers. Like the federal EITC, Indiana’s credit is fully refundable, making it among the most effective and targeted tax reduction strategies to help offset regressive state taxes. According to an analysis provided by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), recent changes (effective tax year 2022) made to Indiana’s EITC in the 2021 Legislative Session will provide a tax cut to 13 percent of Hoosiers (see table below). Again, this is an important change and a moment to celebrate the legislature’s efforts towards a stronger social safety net, but we need to keep up the momentum.


                        Source: ITEP, May 2021

                        Looking ahead, Indiana needs to focus even further on using the tax code to strengthen Hoosier households and families. Given the substantial changes made to the federal EITC, Indiana lawmakers should create parity between the federal and state credits, which would be a critical step towards further improving the livelihoods of our most vulnerable fellow Hoosiers.

                         



                        [1] Author’s calculations using participation rates and individual income and tax data from 2017 IRS data.  

                         



                        Thursday, June 24, 2021

                        The Pandemic, Unemployment, Health Disparities, and Legislation: Marginalized Communities Face Disparate Impacts and Outcomes

                        The Pandemic, Unemployment, Health Disparities, and Legislation: Marginalized Communities Face Disparate Impacts and Outcomes

                        By Lauryn Hill

                        In loving memory of Eula M. Welch.

                        After a tough year of dealing with COVID-19, families across the world have been forced to deal with the harsh realities of a global pandemic. Many families have lost loved ones, students of all kinds have lost out on special ceremonies, and many people are struggling with how to adapt with getting back into a “normal” routine. Focusing on a smaller scale, the United States had a rough presidential election, and there has been an uprising in anti-police brutality protests to fight social justice and racial inequalities.


                        While all of these events have been happening simultaneously, individuals and families have also had to face another issue that has skyrocketed because of the pandemic – unemployment. With the closure of many businesses in early 2020, individuals that were providing for themselves or a family found themselves in a hard spot due to being furloughed, laid off, and even fired. More importantly, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) have found themselves disproportionately affected by all of these events. With all of these factors combined, how do the numbers and trends of unemployment paint a story about families that have been affected by unemployment and economic forces beyond their control?


                        The recovery process from a tumultuous year across racial/ethnic groups has shown how unemployment in 2020 has hit hard for some groups, and even harder for others. According to Economic Policy Institute’s analysis of third- and fourth-quarter 2020 data, unemployment rates remained above 10% for all racial/ethnic groups except white Americans.  Hispanic unemployment remained 60% higher than white unemployment, while Black unemployment rose from 60% higher to 90% higher. If we analyze unemployment on a state level, the on-going issues in America have hit the Black community hardest. Black workers faced unemployment rates of over 10% in 16 of the 22 states (including the District of Columbia) for which unemployment data for Black workers was available.  Unemployment rates were also highest for Black workers in Pennsylvania (19.5%), Michigan (17.9%), Illinois (15.7%) and the District of Columbia (15.6%). [1]


                        These numbers are staggering when realizing that the Black population for Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois is under 15%, respectively. The Black population in the District of Columbia is 46%, but Black workers were more than twice as likely to be unemployed as white workers in the District of Columbia and four states: Alabama, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas. If you are wondering why there is no data for Indiana and other states, it is because the sample sizes for the racial categories were not large enough to create accurate unemployment rates. The data that is available suggests that the United States not only has an unemployment issue, but many Americans that are not white are struggling more than their white counterparts. When factoring in poverty and the lack of assistance that often rocks marginalized communities, the issue becomes even more pronounced.


                        Let’s set up an equation to help us understand this disparity. Healthcare in the United States is tied to employment + Black and Hispanic communities are facing higher unemployment rates added with the systemic healthcare disparities for non-white populations = a disaster in the midst of a pandemic. If people do not have jobs, especially during a pandemic, then they cannot care for their health or their loved ones. According to data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), COVID-19 hospitalization rates among non-Hispanic Black people were about 4.7 times the rate of non-Hispanic white people. These rates are due to racial and ethnic health disparities, which involve discrimination, disparate health access, occupational segregation (many Black people work in occupations such as healthcare facilities, factories, groceries stores, etc. which put them at higher risk of contracting COVID), educational inequities, income and wealth gaps, and housing that is more often in impoverished areas. Even though there has been a collective goal to tame COVID, these minority communities often suffer from unintentional harm. An example would be when COVID first started and many people lost their jobs in order to slow the spread of COVID, but this created a situation of lost wages, reduced access to services, and overall stress, which then plays into the cycle of poverty, lack of health resources, and unemployment.


                        Now that we have seen how minority communities have been directly affected by unemployment and health disparities brought on by COVID, plus pre-pandemic obstacles such as poverty, racism, and lack of access to quality resources, how can we prepare to rebuild a broken bridge that will connect these communities to a quality way of life? Policymakers must be willing to do right by these communities that are suffering. This may mean passing legislation that offers financial assistance to families on a weekly basis, like the American Rescue Plan, which aimed to address health disparities in BIPOC communities, provided protections for workers, included another stimulus check, extended financial assistance for workers who have exhausted their regular unemployment compensation benefits, and extended the additional $300 on top of existing unemployment benefits until September 6th. Communities impacted by these disparities need more time to recover than Indiana’s planned cut off of federal benefits on June 19, 2021.  Additionally, disparities still exists within the BIPOC community even with additional help from legislation. These disparities need to be examined before the American Rescue Plan runs out and that may require collecting more unemployment data strictly about BIPOC to paint a clearer picture of exactly how BIPOC are affected by the pandemic and unemployment. Until our country focuses on these disparities, these issues will continue to bleed into other areas of ordinary life for many BIPOC.



                        [1] Data by race was not available for Indiana: In many states, the sample sizes of particular subgroups are not large enough to create accurate estimates of their unemployment rates. We report data only for groups that had, on average, a sample size of at least 700 in the labor force for each six-month period.”


                        Thursday, May 27, 2021

                        Let's Talk: Paid Leave Legislation

                         Let's Talk:
                        Paid Leave Legislation


                        In December 2020, #TeamInstitute talked with Indiana State Representative Chris Campbell and State Senator Shelli Yoder about paid family and medical leave. Read more about the Institute's work on paid family and medical leave here!


                        Q1. Why does #PaidLeave matter? 

                        Rep Campbell: Nearly every worker will - at some point - need to take time off to welcome a new baby, care for an aging loved one, or attend to their own serious medical need. #PaidLeave4Hoosers would allow Hoosiers to take that time to bond, heal, or provide care.


                        Q2. Right now, Indiana law guarantees workers zero days of #PaidLeave. What does that mean, exactly? 


                         Rep Campbell: Not having #PaidLeave means that approximately 1 in 4 Hoosier women go back to work within 2 weeks of giving birth. It means Hoosiers can’t follow doctors’ orders or experience financial crisis because they got sick. It means caregivers struggle to be there for those they love.


                        Q3. Do other countries offer #PaidLeave benefits? 


                        Rep Campbell: Yes. The U.S. is the only industrialized country on the planet that doesn’t provide some sort of #PaidLeave to workers. Check out this World Policy Center map of countries that provide paid maternity leave, for example:



                        Q4. What makes a paid leave *program* a smart strategy to provide #PaidLeave4All?


                        Rep Campbell: Asking a small business to provide several weeks of #PaidLeave could be a heavy lift. With a #PaidLeave program, all workers & employers chip in a small amount each week to a fund, and the fund pays workers who need leave.


                        Q5. Do other states have #PaidLeave programs?


                        Rep Campbell: Yes, a growing number of states #PaidLeave programs. Currently, 9 states plus D.C. have adopted this approach & many others are actively working on similar legislation. 


                        Q6. Tell us a little more about your #PaidLeave4Hoosiers legislation. What benefits would it provide?


                        Rep Campbell: It would provide up to 12 weeks of #PaidLeave per year to all Hoosier workers who become new, adoptive, or foster parents, who are dealing with a serious medical issue, or who are caring for a seriously ill loved one.  


                        Q7. What are the benefits of #PaidLeave? 


                        Rep Campbell: There are SO MANY! Having #PaidLeave means fewer workers fall into poverty & makes families stronger. Fewer moms experience postpartum depression & more infants receive well-child checks. More people can take care of their health & more families can care for aging loved ones.



                        Q8. What are the benefits of #PaidLeave for business?


                        Rep Campbell: For businesses, #PaidLeave improves employee productivity & morale while reducing turnover. Creating a #PaidLeave program would make this highly-sought-after benefit much easier to offer, especially for small businesses, helping with recruitment. 


                        Q9. Would a paid leave program be helpful in a pandemic like the one we are experiencing now?


                        Rep Campbell: Absolutely! Anyone suffering an illness like COVID could receive #PaidLeave while sick or in the hospital. The bill also allows flexibility during public health emergencies to cover things like school closures. And #PaidLeave can prevent spread! 


                        Q10. What kind of feedback have you gotten on this #PaidLeave proposal? Hoosiers, what feedback do you have?


                        Rep Campbell: Everyone I've talked to about this program have been very positive and have experienced times or know others who would have benefitted from this type of program!


                        Q11. What can Hoosiers who support #PaidLeave do to help?


                        Rep Campbell: Hoosiers, if you support #PaidLeave, you can call and email your state representatives and ask them if they will coauthor my legislation. You can find your representatives here: http://iga.in.gov/legislative/find-legislators/ 

                        Also, sharing your personal story - whether you had #PaidLeave & it was helpful or you didn’t & it would have been helpful – can help convince lawmakers to act.


                        To close our chat today, we have a great surprise for you all!! While Rep Campbell will be fighting for #PaidLeave in the Indiana House of Representatives, Senator Yoder will be filing #PaidLeave legislation in the Senate! Thank you Senator Yoder!


                        Senator Yoder: It is my pleasure! This is such an important issue.


                        Q1. We know you were limited in what you could choose to work on this session. Why did #PaidLeave rise to the top of your list?


                        Senator Yoder: COVID-19 has really highlighted how important it is for people to be able to care – for children, spouses, parents, or your own health. With a #PaidLeave program, we can ensure that more Hoosiers are able to be there for their health or their family w/out sacrificing financial stability.


                        Q2. Which of the many potential benefits of #PaidLeave is most meaningful to you?


                        Senator Yoder: Seeing families who couldn’t be with a family member who died of COVID, I know it’s so essential to be able to provide care to a seriously ill family member & be there at the end of life. #PaidFamilyLeave erases the financial barrier standing in the way of doing this.


                        Q3. What kind of support would you like from Hoosiers this session?


                        Senator Yoder: This bill will go to the labor committee, so letting Chairman Boots know that #PaidLeave matters & that he should give it a hearing would be most helpful. Here is his contact info: https://www.indianasenaterepublicans.com/boots


                        Ok, Hoosiers, you have your marching orders! If you’d like to receive updates on other actions you can take to advance #PaidLeave4Hoosiers, please sign up here: https://groups.google.com/g/inpaidleave


                        This conversation originally appeared as a Twitter chat between @INInstitute @campbellh26 and @SenatorYoder on 12/9/2020.

                        Friday, December 11, 2020

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