A Little Louder for Those in the Back

Since at least 2008, the Indiana Institute for Working Families has been talking about how higher education and workforce policies and programs are not meeting the needs of our working adult populations that either lack the skills to be successful in jobs that pay a self-sufficient wage, or need retraining to fit into more lucrative and in-demand career paths. Since our 2010 report, Indiana’s Forgotten Middle Skill Jobs, we have been sounding the alarm pretty ardently that working age adults will make up the bulk of the workforce for the foreseeable future and, as such, should be a key focus of workforce development policies to help us meet increasing employer demand for a skilled workforce.

In 2013, we updated the report, including the workforce age demographic data, showing that 65% of the 2025 workforce WERE ALREADY working-age adults in 2010, long past the traditional K12-to-College pipeline. With the support of the Indiana Skills2Compete Coalition, we were able to help broaden state level workforce development, adult basic education, and higher education policy conversations to include thinking about how to serve this adult workforce. And since then? Indiana has made quite a bit of progress in improving access to training for working adults:
  • The state has opened up EARN Indiana, our state work-study program to part-time adult students. 
  • It has created WorkIN- a model patterned after the nationally recognized best practice “I-BEST” model - that joins contextualized adult basic education with a short term credential and supportive services and has served 28,000 Hoosiers. 
  • It re-imagined the “part-time student grant” into an Adult Student Grant to better use the resource to meet the needs of adult students of higher education. 
  • Most recently, Governor Holcomb and the legislature modified and expanded the Adult Student Grant to create Workforce Ready Grants, a key component of the NextLevel Jobs Program. This program is opening up access to many Hoosiers who need or want to upskill or reskill for Indiana’s in-demand jobs.
As we listen to the conversations around us about higher education and the workforce and as we read through both the recommendations of the Governors Workforce Cabinet, and the handful of workforce development bills that are offered nearly each year, we observe that much of the focus seems to be on those students still in the midst of the K-12 pipeline. The training needs of adults seem like an afterthought.  And yet, as we look at key indicators of adult educational attainment, we see that despite our gains, there is still so much more to be done.  Without question, ensuring that our young people get hooked into the right career path is a great long term strategy to meet workforce demand; however, it should not supplant a sense of urgency around making a big investment in upskilling Hoosier adults NOW.

Here are some of the indicators that tell us we must keep sounding this alarm:

  • Nearly 41% of “working-age” Hoosiers have only a high school diploma or less.[1] 
  • Of the 10.4% of this group with less than a high school diploma, more than 110,000 have less than a 9th grade education. 
  • Programs like Indiana’s adult basic education program, WorkIN, the Goodwill Excel Center, and a host of community-based adult literacy programs are doing the heavy lifting of trying to upskill more than 350,000 working age adults without a high school diploma or equivalency. 
  • Young adults need access to adult basic education as well. In fact, 15% of 18-24 year olds also do not have a high school diploma or equivalency, although some of these may be 18 year olds who have not yet graduated. [2]

Understanding the category “Some College, No Degree” proves challenging for those of us wanting a clearer picture of our state’s educational attainment landscape. This category includes both individuals who took a few classes and dropped out and individuals with one or more short-term credentials.  According to a 2017 report by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, about 10,000 Hoosiers received middle skill credentials in 2015. Of those, some already had an associate’s or bachelor’s degree and many went on to complete an associate or bachelors; 29% had only a certificate.

Hoosiers Currently Attending Post-Secondary 

Just as no single data source has exactly the information we need to paint a complete picture of post-secondary completion, the same is also true when trying to sort out school enrollment data from the American Community Survey (ACS). However, using the ACS, we can get a rough idea of how many of adults are actively seeking skills (although the data includes graduate studies).  We also aren’t sure if this number under reports those seeking middle-skill credentials.

We know that not all of the 177,949 adults 25 and over attending higher education are the same adults that have only a high school education or less, but if they were that would mean that only 9% of those who could benefit from upskilling were actively enrolled in a post-secondary program.  Given the attainment gap we are facing and how far we still are from the BIG GOAL of having 60% of Hoosiers with a credential by 2025[3], not enough Hoosier adults are currently enrolled in post-secondary education.

Labor Force Participation

Skills level can affect the strength of someone’s attachment to the labor force.  High labor force participation is a big priority for our state. As Indiana reaches near-full employment, those who have dropped out of the labor force are the most likely to face barriers to reentry.  In fact, nearly 450,000 of the Hoosiers who are not in the labor force have no more than a high school diploma or equivalency. That number accounts for 58% of all those not in the labor force in 2017. 

These are just a few of the factors  that should lead policy makers to the conclusion that a big, bold investment in the upskilling of adults should be our TOP priority as we continue to make adjustments to the workforce and higher education systems in Indiana. 

Stay tuned for discussion of one strategy that has already been recommended by the Governor’s new Workforce Cabinet and our thoughts about how to best maximize a Combined State WIOA Plan…

[1] We focused on those adults from 25-64 as those adults make up the bulk of the adult workforce and the segment most likely to stay in the workforce for some time. Typically, the educational attainment of adults 25 and over is cited, this population includes many retirees that are out of the workforce, we wanted to see what the stat looked like taking the populations 65 and over out.  We did not find much difference form that 25 and over number, for that larger cohort, 44% have nothing more than a high school diploma or equivalent.
[2] 2017 American Community Survey, US Census Bureau, 1-year estimates
[3] Adopted in the 2012 CHE Strategic Plan: https://www.in.gov/che/files/2012_RHAM_8_23_12.pdf 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Internship Posting - 2019 Legislative & Communications Assistant

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2019 Legislative & Communications Assistant Job Description
Looking for an opportunity to get involved in state policy on behalf of low- and middle-income working families? The Indiana Institute for Working Families, a program of the Indiana Community Action Association, is currently seeking to hire a Legislative & Communications Assistant for the 2019 Session of the Indiana General Assembly. The pay is $13.00/hour and candidates should expect 20 – 29 hours per week. Some evenings will be required. The position will officially start January 2, 2019 and last through April 2019 (or when the legislative session ends). Applications will be accepted immediately and on a rolling basis through November 16th or until a candidate is selected. This is a great opportunity to spend time in our statehouse observing and learning the policy process, and previous interns have gone on to policy, advocacy, consulting, and PhD programs.

·       Follow legislation by attending, taking notes at committee meetings and bill hearings at Indiana Statehouse as directed by Institute staff
·       Maintain and update the Institute’s legislative tracking system, keeping policy analysts and director informed of relevant daily schedules
·       Assist with Institute communications and outreach, including press releases, action alerts, and email announcements as directed
·       Read and summarize research on agenda items and emerging policy issues; potential to assist with research products
·       Produce a weekly video “Inside the Statehouse” update and write blog to reflect information
·       Other tasks and projects as they arise

·       Commitment to promoting the interests of Indiana’s working families
·       Knowledge of the legislative process and background in public policy, political science, communications or related field preferred
·       Strong writing skills and ability to break down complex policy
·       Experience with communications, including visual media production
·       Interest in policy analysis, with quantitative and/or qualitative analytical skills preferred
·       Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite – knowledge of Excel, Outlook, Word and Blogger useful
·       Highly organized and able to work independently, with general availability on weekdays

Interested applicants should send resume, cover letter, general availability, and writing sample to:
Amy Carter, Policy Analyst - acarter@incap.org

The Indiana Institute for Working Families is committed to building a diverse staff
and strongly encourages applications from female and minority candidates.
For more information about the Institute, please visit:

Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Tag :

New Analysis: Indiana’s Tax System is Among the Dozen Most Regressive in the Country

New Analysis: Indiana’s Tax System is Among the Dozen Most Regressive in the Country
Low-Income Hoosier Taxpayers pay 53% more as a share of their income in state and local taxes than top 1% of taxpayers

By Andrew Bradley, Senior Policy Analyst
Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
A new study released today by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and the Indiana Institute for Working Families finds that Indiana’s state tax structure is among the dozen most regressive in the nation, with the lowest-income Hoosiers paying 53% more as a share of their income in state and local taxes compared to the state’s wealthiest residents.

The study, Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States evaluates all major state and local taxes in each of the 50 states, including personal and corporate income taxes, property taxes, sales and other excise taxes. The analysis reveals that, in addition to being among the dozen states with the most-regressive state tax structures, Indiana taxes its low-income residents at the 8th-highest rate in the country, and second-highest in the Midwest. ITEP finds that the lowest-income 20 percent of Hoosiers contribute 12.8 percent of their income in state and local taxes—considerably more than any other income group in the state.

"The wealthiest Hoosiers have benefited most from our growing national economy. It’s not unreasonable to ask the highest-income residents and corporations to pay their fair share of state and local taxes,” said the Indiana Institute for Working Families’ Senior Policy Analyst Andrew Bradley. “Combined with lower wages compared to our Midwestern neighbors, Indiana’s regressive state tax structure is fueling increased inequality and prevents working Hoosier families from having the same economic opportunities that previous generations used to rely on,” Bradley said.

Indiana’s state tax system is regarded as regressive because the lower one’s income, the higher one’s effective tax rate. This is in part because Indiana, like most other states, relies more heavily on sales and excise taxes to raise revenue, has a flat personal income tax, and offers relatively few tax benefits for low-wage workers. The lowest-income Hoosiers who earn $11,400 on average per year, pay 12.8% of their incomes in state and local taxes, the 8th-highest taxation rate in the U.S. on the lowest earners, and 2nd-highest in the Midwest. Among the next-lowest quintile of Hoosier taxpayers, with an average income is $27,800, state and local taxes are the 6th highest nationally and, on average, account for 11.3% of their income. But in comparison, the wealthiest 1% of Hoosiers, with an average income of $1 million, contribute just 6.8% of their income in state and local taxes. Compared to the rest of the country, Indiana’s state and local tax levy on the top 1% is the 24th lowest (or 28th highest).
Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
To pay for state and local government services, Indiana derives 42% of its tax revenue from sales and excise taxes—significantly above the national average of 35 percent.Sales and excise taxes are a particularly regressive burden on working families, taking up 7.1% of family incomes for low-income Hoosiers, compared to just 1% for the wealthiest earners. 

The new ‘Who Pays?’ analysis follows the Institute’s August report ‘The Status of Working Families in Indiana, 2018’ which found the wealthiest Indiana earners have received an extra $2,446 from combined state income, corporate, and fuel tax changes since 2012, while taxes for the bottom 60% of middle class and working families have increased by an average $36. The report found these upside-down state tax changes have occurred in an era when inequality increased at a faster rate in Indiana than in the Midwest and the U.S. overall, while Hoosiers’ hourly wages fell from near the middle of the Midwest in 2001 to second-lowest by 2017.

While Indiana should be praised for having a state Earned Income Tax Credit, this year the General Assembly voted to reduce the value of our EITC, effectively raising taxes on low-income working families by $5 million annually starting in 2027. Starting in 2019, Indiana can begin making its tax system fairer by recoupling the state EITC to the federal credit and holding low-income working families harmless to EITC changes. To make long-term progress, Indiana needs to reverse the changes that have made the state’s tax system even more regressive and which exacerbate inequality and income problems for working Hoosier families. Indiana could also take proactive steps to make its tax structure more working family-friendly, including joining the 25 states with a child and dependent care tax credit.

ITEP’s new report “Who Pays?” and data for Indiana can be found at www.whopays.org, while IIWF’s ‘Status of Working Families in Indiana, 2018’ can be found at www.incap.org/iiwf/2018status.html.
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Symposium Shows Hoosiers Support Paid Family and Medical Leave, See Potential Benefits to Economy

When the Indiana Commission for Women hosted listening sessions around the state in 2011-12, work-based issues and caregiving surfaced as key issues. In response, the Commission engaged three research teams to explore the feasibility of guaranteeing paid family and medical leave to workers in the Indiana. The results, presented Wednesday at a research symposium, showed strong support for paid family and medical leave and a clear path forward that would not only benefit Hoosier families, but the economy as well.

Lake Research Partners surveyed 600 Hoosier adults, finding that 74 percent support a statewide program to guarantee access to paid family and medical leave, with 63 percent strongly supporting such a program when they know it would cover paid leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child, a seriously ill family member, or for their own serious health condition. All demographic, regional, and political groups support the establishment of a paid leave program. In terms of program design, Hoosiers prefer that employees qualify for the benefit by working at least 680 hours in a given year and that employers and employees share the cost of such a program.

What would those costs be? Dr. Jeff Hayes presented estimates for a variety of scenarios, ranging from six weeks of family leave (no medical leave) to 12 weeks of family and medical leave - each program paying 100% of an individual’s average weekly wages up to a cap of $861/week. Costs ranged from $1.50/week for the typical workers for six weeks of family leave to $6/week for the typical worker for 12 weeks of family and medical leave. These costs are estimated to lead to savings in other areas, like reductions in the number of low birthweight babies (and estimated $4.2 million savings in healthcare costs) and in the number of households applying for SNAP and TANF.

Perhaps what was most interesting were some of the findings from qualitative interviews with Hoosiers. Many recognized paid leave as a common sense policy:

       “I’m just thankful that Indiana’s considering this, and realizing the importance of it. And I think that family medical leave is very important. A very important benefit that we do need to be considering.” – White Conservative Woman, 59, Andrews

Those that had caregiving experiences were especially likely to support movement on this issue:

              “So, it’s really difficult because I’ll admit, I’m actually in this situation right now. I’ve had to take time off working altogether because I’m taking care of my disabled mother and we only have one income now, and it’s extremely hard. We can’t even buy something sometimes, and we live paycheck to paycheck, which only comes once a month. A lot of the time, we don’t even know what we’re gonna do as far as eating goes.” – White Liberal Man, 27, Middletown

And while some expressed reservations about whether or not government should step into this space or about potential negative repercussions for businesses, others echoed the findings in our 2016 report, Paid Family and Medical Leave: Policy Analysis and Recommendations for Indiana suggesting that there could be value not only for working families, but for businesses and the economy:

              “When you lose a job it has a domino effect. It doesn’t just affect you and your family and your house. It affects the economy. It eventually hurts everybody.” –White Moderate Man, 49, Martinsville

              “A happy and healthy employee is a good employee. For us, you have to take your business seriously, but you also have to take the health and welfare of your employees seriously.” –White Liberal Woman, 52, Fort Wayne  

In short, the findings suggest that Hoosiers are ready to walk down this path. Audience members at the symposium seemed enthusiastic as well, zeroing in on other potential benefits as well – such as reductions in infant mortality and child abuse, increases in breastfeeding and postpartum care, potential cost savings for employers that already offer paid leave, and a more level playing field for recruitment and retention at small businesses. They recognized Governor Holcomb's leadership on this issue. So while some see our state’s focus on being business friendly as a reason to doubt that Indiana policymakers will take action, many seem prepared to assert that enacting a paid family and medical leave program could be a win-win-win for families, businesses, and the economy. With so much promise, it’s time we explored the possibilities.      

Thursday, September 27, 2018

2017 Census data reveal some Hoosier gains worth celebrating, but still work to be done - particularly for Hoosier women, as the gender pay gap now 3rd-widest in the U.S.

Source: 'Wages, Wealth, and Poverty', IIWF
By Jessica Fraser, Amy Carter, and Andrew Bradley

New Census data show that in 2017 Indiana continued to make incremental progress toward getting back to the trajectory our state was on before the recession. There truly is reason for modest celebration of significant declines in poverty overall and, for many different groups, significant increases in educational attainment and median household incomes. However, while we are making more progress on these measures than we have before the trends we laid out in our recent report 'The Status of Working Families in Indiana, 2018' hold true, we haven’t caught up with ourselves before the recession and we still haven’t recovered as well as some of our Midwestern neighbors. 

Three indicators in particular are troubling and show where Indiana should focus its efforts moving forward: our gender pay gap has widened AGAIN this year and was the 3rd highest gap in the United States in 2017; housing insecurity among Hoosier renters remains shockingly and stubbornly high; and finally a decline in health insurance coverage should serve as a cautionary tale for the state not to restrict access any further.

Indiana's poverty rate decreased significantly from 14.1% in 2016 to 13.5% in 2017, just a tick above the new U.S. rate of 13.4%. There are now 871,247 Hoosiers in poverty, down from 906,077 in 2016. This is great news, as we should all be working toward a goal of no Hoosiers in poverty. Indiana is now just a bit over a percentage point away from regaining our 2007 rate of 12.3% However, we still have further still to go to regain the 10.1% rate Indiana had back in 2000 when we were experiencing an economic peak. More progress needs to be made for Hoosier adults, whose poverty rate didn't drop significantly, and for Hoosier seniors, whose poverty rate remained flat at 7.7%.
Source: census.gov
Indiana’s rate of Child Poverty dropped to 18.4% in 2017 down from 19.5% in 2016 - but unlike poverty overall the Census says this decline is not statistically significant. While Indiana's drop in overall poverty in 2017 was significant, this seems to be driven by families with older children - those with kids under 5 did not see a significant change. This speaks to the needs for more supports for families with young children, including broader access to childcare or pre-K as well as childcare tax credits.
Source: census.gov
The new Census data from 2017 matches the trend in Indiana’s child poverty from our recent ‘Status’ report. Indiana’s child poverty rate used to be well below the U.S. and even the Midwest as recently as 2004, but spiked higher shortly thereafter and, at 18.4%, is now tied with the U.S., and is 2.7 points above the Midwest and 3.1 pts below the South.

Looking at Hoosiers in poverty by race we also see some indications of improvement, but also lasting disparities.  Hoosiers of color have seen the largest drops in poverty (1.6 points for African American, 3 points for Latinx, and 7.8 points[!] for Asian Hoosiers). However, most Hoosiers of color remain more than twice as likely to be in poverty than white Hoosiers.
Source: census.gov
Economic Self-Sufficiency: 
We know from our research on the Indiana Self-Sufficiency Standard that poverty-level income itself is not nearly enough for Hoosier families to afford life’s basic costs, so we look at how many Hoosiers are living below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines as well. In 2017, Indiana's rate of low-income residents was 31.5%, with 2,034,305 Hoosiers now living below 200% of the federal poverty line. This is down from 32.4%, or 2,086,942 low-income Hoosiers in 2016. But the rate of nearly 1 in 3 Hoosiers unable to afford basic costs is still way too high. And despite continuing signs of improvement, the percent of low-income Hoosiers is still above pre-recession level of 29.6% in 2007. Since 2009, basic costs have increased 31.9% for Hoosier families with children while wages have increased only 6.3%.

Among these costs, housing insecurity is a particular concern, especially for the nearly 1 in 3 Hoosiers below self-sufficiency. In 2016, 46.1% of Hoosier renters paid more than 30% of household income on rent, a key measure of housing burden. And while this statistic of rental housing insecurity decreased to 45.7% in 2017, the Census Bureau did not deem this decrease as statistically significant.  Affordable housing continues to be a fervent need expressed by our communities, as three cities in Indiana are among the highest in the country for evictions, waitlists for public housing assistance are too long, and affordable housing is out of reach for many low-wage earners. Asset development and home ownership programs could be part of the solution. Hoosiers who own their home are much less likely to be housing insecure.  About 19% of those with a mortgage in 2017 paid 30% or more on housing costs, campers to 9.9% of those without a mortgage. Much less than renters!  The changes from 2016 to 2017 were mostly static.
Source: census.gov

Household Income and Pay Gaps:
Like the U.S. overall, median household incomes increased significantly in Indiana, from $53,342 in 2016 to $54,181 in 2017. But the gap between the average Hoosier's and the median American's income also increased, from $5,478 to $6,155. And while Indiana’s income increase of $753 is undoubtedly good for working families, it didn’t keep pace with the increase of $902 for the average Midwest state.

Household income is another area where the new 2017 Census data matches the trends we found in our ‘Status’ report. Indiana's median household incomes, which were higher than Midwest average at the turn of the 21st century, now at $54,18 are $4,211 below the Midwest and just $220 above the average of Southern states. Indiana's median household income of $54,181 in 2017 was 34th-hisghest among 50 U.S. states, up from 35th in 2016, and 10th-highest of 12 Midwest states, up from 11th.

Even with 2017’s laudable gains, Hoosier households are still $2,052 shy of their pre-recession levels ($56,233 for 2007, adjusted for inflation to 2017 dollars). And Indiana would need 6 years at its current pace of income growth to catch up with the Midwest average – assuming the rest of the region saw no increase over that time.

Hoosiers’ individual earnings also increased in 2017, but so did the gender wage gap. Indiana's median earnings increased significantly from $31,233 in 2016 to $32,069 in 2017, and are now just $321 shy of our pre-recession 2007 level of $32,390 (in 2017 dollars). However, this increase was driven by lopsided gains, and while the earnings for full-time, year-round men increased significantly by $876, the increase of $354 for women was not significant. Indiana now has the third-highest gender wage gap in the U.S. at $13,615, behind only Louisiana and Utah. This is up from 6th-highest in 2016 at $12,717, and 12th-highest in 2015 at $11,339.

And while Hoosiers of varying racial and ethnic groups saw increases in individual earnings, the increases did not close overall income disparities. From 2016 to 2017, African American Hoosiers gained $2,098 in median earnings, Latinx Hoosiers gained $1,374 and white Hoosiers gained $1,654. Overall, the typical Hoosier 16 or over gained $1,163 for a total of $32,069 in median earnings. However, even after these gains, African American Hoosiers remained $6,367 below the state average, Latinx Hoosiers remained $6,386 behind, and white Hoosiers remained $1,409 ahead.
Health Insurance Coverage: 
We were concerned to see that Indiana's rates of health insurance coverage decreased and uninsured rates increased slightly in 2017 after years of gains. The child uninsured rate increased from 5.9% to 6.3%, and the uninsured rate for working-age population of 19-63 increased from 12.3% to 12.8%.  This is a warning sign that perhaps now is not the time to make big changes to the way Indiana covers the healthcare needs of low-income Hoosiers.

With 8.2% of Hoosiers without health coverage in 2017, Indiana has the 24th-highest rate of uninsured in the U.S. & 5th-highest of 12 Midwest states. Indiana was also 5th in the Midwest in 2016, but 23rd-highest in the U.S. that year. At 6.3%, Indiana had the 11th-highest rate of children without health insurance in 2017, and 2nd-highest in the Midwest. While Indiana was also 2nd-highest in the Midwest in 2016, this is an improvement from 10th-highest in the U.S. that year.

Educational Attainment:  In 2017, Indiana saw statistically significant increases in Hoosiers with Associate Degrees, and Bachelor's degrees, and significant declines in the rate of Hoosiers who only have a high school degree or less!  These are promising gains for Hoosiers looking to increase their educational attainment, and for employers who increasingly demand a higher-skilled workforce.
Source: census.gov
The safety net:
New Census data shows that fewer Hoosier households were enrolled in SNAP over the past year - down from 10.8% in 2016 to 9.3% in 2017.  SNAP is designed to respond to need, so as Indiana saw earnings rise, it makes sense to see a decrease in households using nutrition assistance. However, in 2017 8.7% of households who were NOT receiving SNAP were below the poverty level. This may mean Indiana is still not reaching the Hoosiers most in need those SNAP was intended to serve.

Furthermore, Indiana saw a non-significant decline in the rate of Hoosiers in deep poverty (below 50% of FPL). We are calling on the General Assembly to make much-needed changes to our state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program so that it can better serve our most vulnerable citizens.

In conclusion, in 2017 Indiana saw further incremental improvements that track the ongoing national recovery. But even these uneven gains are leaving too many vulnerable residents behind, including women, Hoosiers of color, and low-income working families. As median incomes fall further behind our Midwestern peers and Hoosier women now face the 3rd-highest gender pay gap in the nation, Indiana can’t afford to keep waiting for piecemeal efforts to kick in. To truly catch up and become a leader in the Midwest and the U.S. again, Indiana needs its policymakers to take bold steps to improve wage and job quality, strengthen protections, and increase economic mobility for all Hoosier families.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

TANF's Golden Birthday is a Golden Opportunity for Reform

By Jessica Fraser

Here at the Indiana Institute for Working Families, we have been researching, thinking about, and advocating for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for over a decade. As the program turns 22 today, it seems to be a good time to talk about the purpose of the program, how its falling down on the job here in Indiana, what needs to be done to reform the current program in our state, and how the next congress could create a better program as it tackles TANF’s reauthorization.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federal block grant program that has the stated goal of helping needy families achieve economic self-sufficiency.  This is the program that people depend on when it’s difficult to find work like when Hoosiers have past criminal history or low literacy, or when a high-risk pregnancy means a single mom can no longer work. The primary goals of the program are to allow children to be raised at home, to promote job preparation and work, and to encourage marriage. It is the Institute’s position that the promotion of job preparation is the lynchpin to achieving all the other goals of the TANF program.

States are given block grants that require maintenance of effort (kind of like a match) and guidelines for the use of the funds. However, states have broad flexibility on how TANF funds (both federal and state maintenance of effort) are spent. Additionally, accountability for spending is limited to how much was spent in which category and the amount of time TANF participants spend in “work participation.”  The fact that these accountability measures are input-driven and not outcome-driven has led to a policy of not just “work first” but ANY work first. For most TANF recipients who experience numerous barriers to work, this mentality is in direct contrast to the stated goal of achieving self-sufficiency.  The only thing these approaches to work participation seem to be achieving is getting families to earn enough to be off of TANF, but not nearly enough for self-sufficiency –OR – they simply bide time until a recipient hits the time limit and leaves TANF no more prepared for work than when they started.

Indiana’s TANF program has many challenges. One striking one is that our income eligibility guidelines are set numbers in statute and they have never been adjusted for inflation. Current eligibility guidelines for a family of 3 are $288/month.  Benefit levels match this “statement of need.” We need to adjust eligibility guidelines and benefit levels to catch up with 22 years of inflation and then do cost of living adjustments regularly moving forward.

Extremely low eligibility guidelines, asset tests, job search requirements before enrollment, and work requirements after enrollment have led to a steep decline participation and subsequently in the amount of TANF spending going to cash assistance and other core services. Meanwhile, the state increasingly claims funds as “maintenance of effort” that are spent on populations other than our state’s actual TANF participants.

While Indiana’s TANF spending on childcare is vital - the cost of childcare is a key barrier to both work and skills training - the state is not spending nearly enough on core services like basic assistance and skills training. Policymakers in Indiana should take a close look at Indiana’s TANF spending, particularly the 32% or funds spent on “other services.”[i]

We can’t just increase eligibility and benefits alone, we also have to transform the work related aspects of TANF so that people are entering into a program that is actually improving outcomes and their future prospects.  The take up rate of TANF adults in job or skills training is very low, despite a fairly high percentage that do not have a high school diploma or equivalency.  Nearly 38% have less than 12 years of schooling and yet only .02% [ii]participated in the activities we think of has skills training (‘job skills training’, ‘Satisfactory school attendance’, ‘vocational education’, and ‘education related to employment’).  Employers are demanding a more skilled workforce and non-academic barriers hold back low-income adults without credentials from improving their skills the flexibility in TANF makes it a perfect program to come to the rescue.

For this upcoming legislative session, IIWF plans to continue our efforts to reform TANF policy at the state level. For the past two years we have supported legislation that would raise and index Indiana’s eligibility levels and guidelines (SB 527-2017 and SB 79-2018). This upcoming session we will be supporting State Senators Jon Ford (Terre Haute) and Mark Stoops (Bloomington) in a similar effort. When these measures pass, more Hoosiers will have access to the core and supportive services that TANF can provide.  IIWF has put together a short video that explains TANF and the changes that state can make to transform TANF into a program that works!

Changes are need at the federal level, too, and there has been talk about reauthorizing TANF for a few years. The House bill on reauthorization made it out of committee earlier this summer. However, it is unlikely the bill will finish its way through the House in this congress, much less have any action over in the senate.  Federal reform to the TANF program will have to wait until next year and when that time comes, we will be encouraging federal lawmakers to:

A) Base accountability in the program on outcome measures (jobs gained, wages, credentials earned) and not input-measures (number of participants).
B) Create more transparency about where the funds go and whether the funds were spent on ACTUAL TANF cash participants or spent on "federally eligible TANF participants." 
C) Require more to be spent on core services. 

There should be no difference in core and non-core activities in terms of fulfilling the work participation rate. This would allow participants to get the education and training they need to be successful. There should also be no time limit or caseload limit on education and training, currently participants can only participate in training for one year and only 30% the total number counted in a state’s work participation rate can be participating in eligible education and training activities. Anyone in TANF who needs training should be able to get it and since TANF is already time-limited (federal limit is 60 months but Indiana’s is only 24 months). There is no need to limit time spent in education and training the program is already self-limiting, especially in Indiana.

As this 22nd birthday passes and we head towards number 23, IIWF will continue to advocate for stronger state and federal policies for our most vulnerable Hoosiers. Stay tuned to our newsletter for ways you can help support these efforts and please share our video on “Transforming TANF into a Program that Works!”

Every month I look up the new monthly management report[iii] and
 put the number of TANF adult participants we have on my
whiteboard in front of my desk. Seeing that number each day reminds me of who I’m fighting for!

[i] https://www.cbpp.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/tanf_spending_in.pdf
[ii] Of total adults in FY 2016, the percent of just those participating in work requirements is 4.6%
[iii] https://www.in.gov/fssa/files/MMR-STATEWIDE-en-us_July_2018.pdf

Wednesday, August 22, 2018


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