Friday, March 3, 2017
INDIANA’S ECONOMY ISN’T WHOLE WITHOUT SELF-SUFFICIENT FAMILIES
Earlier this year, the Institute released our policy agenda for the 2017 session identifying six policy areas that are missing and could fill gaps in the state’s economy – gaps that affect a third of all Hoosiers. The halfway point is a good time to revisit the agenda items to see how the puzzle is filling in and how many “missing pieces” are still absent.
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).
The Institute worked hard to defeat SB 245, a payday loan expansion tantamount to loan sharking. The opposition to the bill was expansive and included faith leaders, non-profit advocates, and former payday borrowers. We hope it is dead for this session; however, this language may come about again. In this process, SB 474, which the Institute supported for its efforts to improve payday lending if it must exist, also died.
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.
Pre-kindergarten has gotten a lot of press this session. (Also, here, and here.) There are two bills going forward, one from each chamber – SB 276 and HB 1004. These bills include some expansion of early education, but also include some questionable aspects like $1 million for online, at home early education, and several million dollars less in funding than in Governor Holcomb’s modest request.
While these are progress, there were still some missed opportunities that would have expanded access to even more young Hoosiers. HB 1614 would have expanded the early education grant pilot program to include eligible providers in all counties, while SB 325 would have established a voluntary prekindergarten program with $148 million in funding for 2018 and $176 million in 2019.
Some other missed opportunities relating to preschool and CCDF:
SB 364 and SB 526 were childcare tax credit bills that would help families cope with the ever-rising cost of childcare. SB 369 would have codified the current CCDF funding plan and SB 259 would have provided income tax deductions for public school expenses where current law only provides deductions for private school, but none of these forward.
Assists and 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% of the federal poverty level.
The Institute has two bills moving closer to the governor’s desk – SB 9 and SB 154 which increase access to SNAP by allowing those with prior drug felonies who are complying with parole and probation to apply, and raising the asset limit eligibility criteria to $10,000 so families can utilize the short term assistance while still working toward self-sufficiency. HB 1151 and SB 528 are similar to SB 9 and SB 154, respectively, and while they are not moving, the ideas are!
There was a missed opportunity in this area as SB 527 died. This bill asked for TANF eligibility to be changed 50% of the federal poverty level and removes the code stating a monetary amount for TANF, which has not kept up with inflation. This is an issue the Institute will revisit and continues to work on.
HB 1393 Administration of human services would have required real-time tracking of SNAP, prohibited work requirement waivers, and required child support enforcement activities to qualify. It also would have required submission of evidence to a prosecuting attorney when the family social service administration has reasonable grounds to suspect that an applicant for the program has committed fraud or another crime. The Institute hopes this bill remains dead as it would make receiving SNAP benefits harder for those who need them.
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.
In its current form, the Institute likes that HB 1008 would expand skills training opportunities for low-income, low-skill adults through the creation of ‘workforce-ready grants’, and would remove obstacles for part-time adults to use the Adult Student Grant to complete degrees and credentials by easing satisfactory academic progress and term limit rules.
Governor Holcomb has included a strong and diverse economy as one of his five pillars to better Indiana. With this in mind, it is a wonder that a bill like SB 312 is going through and one like HB 1464 is not. SB 312 is a bill banning local “Ban the Box” and fair hiring ordinances. This is a bill that limits the ability of those with a criminal history to get jobs. This passed the Senate 38-10. HB 1464 establishes work-sharing unemployment insurance that would protect jobs and prevent skills erosion. Otherwise known as “short-term compensation,” the programs allow employers to reduce work hours during economic downturns while employees collect partial unemployment benefits. Despite continued wide support from a bipartisan group of legislators and groups as diverse as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana AFL-CIO, the bill did not receive a hearing making it a huge missed opportunity.
Adult literacy will hopefully be on the table in the second half of the session. The Institute is working to support a proposed amendment to study the scope and needs for reading and math literacy throughout Indiana that could lead to increased support for job-driven adult literacy programs.
Other missed opportunities in workforce development and higher education:
· HB 1267 Former offenders
· HB 1212 Work sharking unemployment benefit
· HB 1599 Worker’s Compensation
· HB 1605 Unemployment benefits
· HB 1611 Tax incentive for hiring ex-offenders
· HB 1641 Reentry programs
· SB 141 Tax credit for hiring certain individuals
Quality of Life and 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.
While SB 253 does not completely fill a gap, it at least gets the puzzle piece off the floor and on the table by asking for a study committee to look at paid leave policy and how it could work in Indiana. We are hopeful this passes and that a study committee will indeed be formed this summer so that we can engage in an in depth conversation on paid leave for Hoosiers.
This area had possibly the most missed opportunities. Bills looking at paid leave - for maternity time, time to spend with ailing family members, time to take care of children, or personal time – and bills addressing wages did not gain any traction. If you want to delve in deeper, the bills we missed this session are:
· HB 1183 Employee paid sick leave
· HB 1213 Overtime compensation for certain employees
· HB 1442 Paid sick and safe leave
· HB 1528 Personal leave for employees
· SB 3 Paid personal leave
· SB 251 Prevailing wage
· SB 252 Minimum wage
· SB 318 Minimum wage
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.
HB 1001 is the biennial budget bill, which the Institute will continue to go through with a fine tooth comb to ensure that investments in programs that are proven to positively impact working families are protected, and to advocate for tax and other budget choices so that there is not a disproportionate burden on low- and middle-income families.
We are happy to see potential increases/new money for:
We are happy to see potential increases/new money for:
· Community Corrections
· Hoosier Initiative for Re-Entry program
· Housing First Program
· Nurse Family Partnership
· Public Transit
· Support for Veterans
· Workforce Ready Grant
We would have liked to see increased investment in: the Adult Student Grant, the Work Indiana Program, The Individual Development Account program, the Appropriation for Food Banks, and the IMPACT program.
A few other bills that passed the halfway point alive that the Institute will keep an eye on are HB 1450 Property tax matters, SB 440 Various tax matters, and SB 515 Tax administration.
Outside the Institute’s policy agenda, there were many opportunities for positive growth for working families that the legislature overlooked.
HB1268 Traffic amnesty program is a bill that would help restore access to transportation, a critical part of work and education attainment. The Institute will be following this bill as it moves through the Senate.
Several bills tried to increase access to healthy food in areas where there are limited options for groceries including HB 1425 Fresh food initiative, HB 1643 Food deserts study committee, and HB 1060 Healthy food financing program. While this is policy that could improve the lives of many Hoosiers, it was not a priority this session.
There was a big push for redistricting this session, and even with significant public input, these bills did not make it out of the chamber: HB 1014 Redistricting commission, HB 1378 redistricting commission, SB 136 Redistricting, and SB 278 Redistricting commission.
There were also several bills aimed at making sure eligible voters are registered and their votes count. While HB 1179 and HB 1112 did not pass, HB 1178,which provides voter registration opportunity for most motor vehicle transactions will move on, but not with the language some Democrats would have preferred.
Housing was one area where there were several small victories, with a few concerning bills thrown in for good measure. The positive bills that are moving on are SB 227 that extends for one year the foreclosure counseling and education fee usually paid by banks, SB 242 which establishes the Indiana Housing First Program, and SB 559 that provides property tax exemption for affordable housing. SB 558 could be concerning as it includes language that could prohibit locals from entering into development contracts with the stipulation that a percentage of the new development has to be affordable housing. It also includes occupancy limits that could harm some working families’ ability to rent an affordable dwelling. SB 485 Home modification loan pilot program was one missed opportunity in this area that would give low or no interest loans to low-income families needing to make modifications to their homes for a family member with a disability.