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Voices Speaking

June 17, 2019

Proposed changes to poverty measure would be less accurate and cut benefits

The Trump Administration is proposing to change how the Census Bureau’s official poverty measure is adjusted annually for inflation.The proposed changes would gradually decrease the poverty line over time, even though inflation has risen faster for low-income households than for households overall.

This is particularly troublesome in a state like Connecticut that has a high cost of living. Here, the federal poverty line is already far below what is needed to raise a family. The United Way’s ALICE report for 2018 noted that a survival budget for a family of four (two adults and two young children) would require $77,832 per year. This basic survival budget is more than three times the 2018 federal poverty limit of $25,100 for a family of four. Yet, 40 percent of families in the state earn less. A more accurate measure would increase the threshold, rather than aligning it with indices that will result in steady decreases.

In addition, evidence suggests that inflation has been rising more sharply for the goods and services purchased by low-income households. For example, low-income people spend a larger than average share of their budgets on housing, and the price of rent rose 31 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the traditional Consumer Price Index (17 percent). The Trump Administration’s proposal would further lower inflation adjustments for the poverty line, making the official poverty measure even more inaccurate.

What would this mean?

Over time, the poverty income limit would gradually decrease. People just below the poverty limit one year would not be the next and so on. As years pass, fewer and fewer families will be eligible for health insurance through the HUSKY Health (Medicaid and CHIP) programs and for food assistance and other supports. Nationwide, by the 10th year of this change, an estimated 300,000 children would lose coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, nearly 200,000 people would lose SNAP benefits, and more than 100,000 school-age children would lose eligibility for free or reduced-price school meals. (Read more about the impact on health programs and problems with the proposed measure.)

What can we do?

  1. Submit your comments to the Trump Administration opposing this change by Friday, June 21. Our comments are here, in case you would like to use them as a template. Please note that:
    1. The proposal asks that comments not analyze impact on programs. So, we have focused on why this change in methodology would be less accurate.
    2. It is helpful to personalize your comments as much as possible so that they are not dismissed as a simple re-posting.
  2. Let Senator Murphy, Senator Blumenthal, and your U.S. House Representative know why you are opposed to this measure.

 

Issue Areas:
Family Economic Security, Health
May 29, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: State budget under negotiation

State Budget

Last week, 63 state legislators – including a majority of House Democrats – signed a letter to Governor Lamont encouraging him to approve a budget that asks those who can best afford it to pay more in taxes. The letter called for a two percent surcharge on capital gains for couples earning over $1 million in annual income and individuals earning more than $500,000. As we discussed in our blog, capital gains fact sheet, and revenue proposal report, a capital gains tax could help to close the budget deficit and to fix Connecticut’s upside-down tax system, in which the wealthy pay a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than middle- and low-income residents. 

Later news reports indicated that a tentative budget framework that is being negotiated between the Governor and legislative leaders does not include this capital gains tax, though it does include a “mansion tax” on expensive homes, a sales tax increase on some luxury items, and higher taxes on pass-through entity businesses. Unfortunately, these measures would only generate about one-quarter of the revenues that a capital gains tax would produce.

A negotiated budget proposal may be released this week, and a vote is expected by Wednesday, June 5, when the legislative session ends. Please take a moment today to ask both the Governor and your state legislators to fix the state budget deficit and help pay for vital services for children and families by asking the wealthy to pay more!

 

Legislative Update

As the end of the legislative session approaches on Wednesday, June 5, be sure to contact your legislators and the Governor on issues of concern to you. These are some highlights of recent legislative activity affecting children and families:

Minimum wage. A bill increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2023 was signed by Governor Lamont this week! Thank you to everyone who supported this effort to give Connecticut families a raise.

Paid family leave. A bill implementing paid family leave (Senate Bill 1) was approved last week by the Connecticut Senate. However, the Governor has indicated that he would veto this bill over concerns about how the program would be administered. The bill awaits a House vote or a negotiated agreement with the Governor.

Community health worker and doula certification. Last week, the Senate approved Senate Bill 859, An Act Concerning Community Health Workers, which would establish a community health worker certification process as a step towards health equity in Connecticut. Community health workers can help to address barriers to health care and unmet needs. The bill awaits a House vote. In addition, a bill that would establish a workgroup concerning the core competencies for doulas to be licensed or certified to practice (Senate Bill 1078) still awaits a vote in the House, following Senate approval earlier this month.

Child welfare oversight. Last week, the Senate approved Senate Bill 452, which would establish a State Oversight Council on Children and Families. The Council provides a structure for various stakeholders to support the needs of children and families who are involved with the child welfare system or at risk of entering the foster care system. The Council could help the state to maintain and build upon important gains made under the Juan F. Consent Decree, even after we have exited from federal oversight. The bill awaits a vote in the House.

Inclusion of Black and Latino studies in the public school curriculum. The House approved legislation (House Bill 7082) that would add Black and Latino studies to the required programs of study for public schools and require boards of education to include an elective course about these topics in their high school curriculum beginning with the 2022-23 school year. The bill has been sent to the Senate for a vote.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date!

 

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Family Economic Security, Health
May 21, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: State budget, minimum wage, early childhood day at the Capitol

Legislative Update

There are only two weeks left before the state legislative session ends on June 5, and policymakers are making critical decisions now about funding priorities for children and families and on the revenues to support them. Here are a few updates on recent developments.

State budget: action needed. Smart state fiscal policies can play a critical role in building a strong, equitable state economy. It is time we fix our tax laws to give working people and children a fair shot to get ahead by pursuing the twin goals of assuring adequate revenues to support the programs and services vital to the well-being of our children and families, and enhancing the fairness of our tax system.

Please take a moment today to ask both the Governor and your state legislators to fix the state budget deficit and help pay for vital services for children and families by asking the wealthy to pay more!

Finance Committee proposal. The General Assembly’s Finance Committee has published an “implementer bill” that lays out the details of its revenue proposals. It includes a highly progressive, two percent surcharge on capital gains realized by taxpayers in the highest income tax bracket and non-residents with gains derived from Connecticut sources.

This bill also recommends that the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services produce a report by January 2020 on the potential impact of implementing a new payroll tax in Connecticut. This is a complex proposal that would largely replace our state personal income tax. There are many unanswered questions about its implementation; the impact on low-income families; and other important, unforeseen consequences.

For more information on revenue options that would provide more adequate funding for child and family services while improving fairness in our tax system, see our recent report and a presentation by Jamie Mills, Director of Fiscal Policy and Economic Inclusion at Voices.

Minimum wage. Connecticut families will soon get a raise! Legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 over the next four years was approved by the House and Senate, and Governor Lamont has indicated that he will sign the bill.

Doula certification. Legislation that would establish a workgroup concerning the core competencies for doulas to be licensed or certified to practice was approved unanimously by the Senate and awaits a vote in the House. The working group would be charged with evaluating public health and safety risks and benefits associated with doulas, and the minimum requirements needed for licensure or certification as a doula. Doulas provide physical, emotional, and informational support before, during and after the birth; they do not provide medical care. Evidence suggests that doula support is likely to reduce the dramatic racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date!


Early Childhood Day at the Capitol

Join us at the 2019 Day at the Capitol on Thursday morning to learn about the early childhood proposals before the state legislature. The event, sponsored by the Connecticut After School Network and the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, will take place on May 23 from 9 to 11 a.m. in Room 310 at the State Capitol. After the event, you are encouraged to meet with your legislators for some hands-on advocacy.  Participants are encouraged to wear yellow.

Please RSVP here.

Learn more

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Early Care, Family Economic Security, Health
May 10, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Countdown to the End of the Session

 

Legislative Update: Countdown to the End of the Session

There are fewer than four weeks left in the state legislative session, and this is a key time to contact your legislators about your priorities for children and families.

Raise your voice for fair and adequate state revenues

Connecticut has the opportunity this year to make significant progress toward improved access to high-quality early care and health care, as well as protecting the rights of youth in foster care and restoring funds for juvenile justice services. But without adequate revenues to close a recently estimated $3 billion budget gap over the next two years, more painful cuts that could fall most heavily on children and low-income families are all too likely.

Connecticut also needs to fix our upside down tax system, in which the wealthy pay a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than low- and middle-income people to fund the programs and services vital to the well-being of our children and families. As we discussed in our recent summary, the revenue proposal by the General Assembly’s Finance Committee takes some positive steps in this direction by raising revenues through a surcharge on capital gains for high-income residents and by closing some corporate tax loopholes. However, the Committee’s proposal falls $340 million short of the revenues proposed by Governor Lamont for the next two years.

Another revenue proposal under discussion by legislators and advocates is a higher personal income tax rate for residents in the highest tax brackets. The state legislative session ends in less than one month on June 5, so the final shape of the state revenue and spending plans will be negotiated soon.

Please take a moment today to send a message to your legislators and the Governor, asking them to raise taxes on the wealthiest taxpayers, who currently pay less than their fair share!

Legislative budget plan avoids major cuts, but investments limited by budget rules

While the budget bill passed by the Appropriations Committee protects many programs that serve children and families from budget cuts, rigid and counterproductive budget rules are starving schools, infrastructure, and health systems of the spending needed to support critical investments.

As we explored in our latest report, the Appropriations Committee’s spending plan includes funding for some of our key priorities, including the preservation of coverage for parents of children in the HUSKY health insurance program, start-up costs for a public option to expand health insurance coverage, and restored funding for juvenile justice services. However, implementing these measures depends on raising adequate revenues. And our capacity to make the bolder investments we need in children and families continues to be limited by budget rules like the Bond Lock and the volatility, revenue, and spending caps.

Minimum wage hike approved by the House

Legislation to increase the minimum wage in Connecticut to $15 over the next four years was approved by the Connecticut House on Thursday! The bill includes a provision for a lower “training wage” for 16 and 17 year-olds for the first 90 days of their employment. The bill now moves to the Senate, where a vote may be scheduled soon.

Paid family and medical leave bill awaits floor vote

Recently, advocates have been pressing legislators to ensure that the paid family and medical leave bill ensures that all workers have access to paid leave, regardless of the size of their employer. They are also advocating for a definition of family that includes chosen family, which can be important to ensure that children in non-traditional families can still receive the care they need. The bill may get a floor vote in the Senate soon.

National partners join Voices in support of capital gains surcharge

Staff experts from our national partners – Elizabeth McNichol of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Aidan Davis of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy – joined Jamie Mills of Connecticut Voices for Children in submitting powerful testimony before the Finance Committee in support of a modest surcharge on capital gains earned by our wealthiest residents.

 

Teach-In on the State Budget

Join us at a teach-in on state budget solutions on Tuesday, where Jamie Mills, Director of Fiscal Policy and Economic Inclusion at Connecticut Voices for Children, will discuss how Connecticut’s regressive tax system contributes to growing inequality and how the state’s rigid budget rules exacerbate budget problems. She’ll also explore revenue solutions that can enable us to fund vital priorities for children and families.

The teach-in, sponsored by the DUE Justice Coalition, will take place on Tuesday, May 14 at 10 a.m. in Room 1B at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Please spread the word and share the event flyer. We’ll see you there!

 

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Family Economic Security, Health, Juvenile Justice
March 19, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Access to Health Care, Recent Successes

Improving Access to Health Care

The Connecticut General Assembly is well into the legislative session, and while public hearings continue, most legislative committees have passed their deadlines to introduce new bills. This week, Karen Siegel, Health Policy Fellow at Connecticut Voices, will submit testimony on health-related bills before the Human Services Committee, including the following proposals:

  • Expanding health coverage through a public option. House Bill 7339, An Act Concerning a Public Health Insurance Option, would establish a working group to make recommendations about the establishment of a public health insurance coverage option that would be funded by enrollee premiums and open to individuals ineligible for Medicaid. In our testimony, we make recommendations to amend the proposal to address who will benefit from public option and how it will be structured. Earlier this month, we testified about House Bill 7267, another public option bill.
  • Expanding Medicaid and HUSKY B coverage for children. We support Senate Bill 1053, which would cover all uninsured, income-eligible children, regardless of their immigration status. An estimated 17,000 of Connecticut’s uninsured children are undocumented.
  • Promoting two-generational family economic success. We support Senate Bill 1080, which would create a Two-Generational Family Economic Success Cabinet within the executive branch. The cabinet would facilitate interagency collaboration to support moving families towards economic security, workforce preparedness, and improved health, while promoting dignity and independence.
  • Expanding access to providers for pregnant Medicaid members. We will testify in support of Senate Bill 1078, which would provide state certification of doulas and Medicaid reimbursement for their services. It would also study the effects of doula services on health outcomes for pregnant Medicaid beneficiaries and their infants. Doulas provide physical, emotional, and informational support before, during and after the birth; they do not provide medical care. Evidence suggests that doula support is likely to reduce the dramatic racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes. These disparities are tied to social as well as medical factors. Access to doula care through Medicaid may help to ensure that low-income women of color have the support and advocacy they need before, during, and after childbirth.

Recent Successes

In the last week, legislative committees approved bills that are supported by Connecticut Voices:

  • The Labor Committee took an important step toward ensuring that parents who work full-time can make ends meet by approving legislation to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15. The Committee voted in favor of Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 5004, both of which were supported by Connecticut Voices.
  • The Committee on Children passed Senate Bill 452, which would establish a State Oversight Council on Children and Families. The Council provides a structure for various stakeholders to support the needs of children and families who could be at risk of entering the foster care system. As we described in our testimony, the Council could help the state to maintain and build upon important gains made under the Juan F. Consent Decree, even after we have exited from federal oversight.

Additional Recent Testimony

Connecticut Voices staff also submitted testimony on the following bills over the last week:

You can always find all of our legislative testimony on our website. 

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Education, Family Economic Security, Health
March 14, 2019

Voices from the Capitol: Legislative Highlights, Educational Disparity Data

March 14, 2019

Highlights of Our Work at the Capitol

The General Assembly continues to hold hearings in several key committees. Connecticut Voices for Children testified recently on a variety of bills affecting children and families. These are some highlights:

  • Speaking up for low wage working families. Jamie Mills testified in support of Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 5004, which would raise the state's minimum wage to $15. As Jamie explained in her testimony and in an op-ed published recently, we need to both pay workers a living wage and adjust our system of public supports to ensure that improved wages do not result in the loss of resources such as Medicaid and child care subsidies.
  • Protecting public investments in children and families. Subcommittees of the General Assembly's Appropriations Committee held public hearings on the Governor's budget proposal. Our staff submitted testimony on elements of his budget plan that affect children and families served by health programs, the Department of Children and Families, the Judicial Branch, and the State Department of Education and Office of Early Childhood.
  • Calling for equitable and expanded educational opportunities. Wendy Waithe Simmons testified on several bills that would bring us closer to establishing equitable education opportunities. These include bills that would expand eligibility for Care 4 Kids child care subsidies and improve on low compensation for early care and education providers. For more information on how we can improve access to Care 4 Kids, see our fact sheet.
  • Protecting youth in foster care. Jessica Nelson testified in support of House Bill 6403, "An Act Concerning a Children in Care Bill of Rights and Expectations and the Sibling Bill of Rights." This legislation directly addresses concerns expressed by youth in foster care about opportunities to connect to their schools and communities and express their identities. The bill was approved by the Committee on Children. For more information, see our fact sheet.
  • Ensuring age-appropriate treatment of court-involved youth. Adult courts are not equipped to provide children with therapeutic, developmentally-informed services to help them become productive adults, and Black and Brown children are disproportionately more likely to be transferred to adult prison than their white peers. Lauren Ruth testified in opposition to House Bill 7332, which would loosen the statutes defining when the court may choose to transfer youth from juvenile court to adult court.

Also, this Friday, March 15, the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 877, which would implement the Governor's revenue proposals. We will submit testimony on this legislation and will oppose House Bill 6031, which would phase out the estate tax.

Thank You for Signing On to Protect Access to Educational Disparity Data!

Connecticut Voices would like to express our gratitude to the 39 organizations and 81 individuals who signed onto our letter to the Education Committee calling on its members to oppose Senate Bill 851! Your support can help us to preserve access to vital data that enable us to measure and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in education among our state's children and youth. This legislation, which could come up for a committee vote soon, would limit the ability to examine education data by student ethnicity, making it difficult to detect ethnic disparities in access to high-quality education or to measure the impact of reforms on specific student populations. To learn more, see our sign-on letter, fact sheet, and testimony.

Our Latest State Budget Reports

If you missed them, be sure to download our latest reports on the state budget:

  • Impact of the Governor's FY 2020-2021 Budget on Children and Families. Governor Lamont's proposed state budget avoids additional major cuts to essential programs and services for children and families, though it is based on revenue proposals that fall most heavily on our lowest income taxpayers. It asks little of our highest income taxpayers.
    Download the report
  • Connecticut's Radical New Budget Rules: Locking in Decreased Investment in our State for the Next Decade. Connecticut's rigid fiscal rules will ensure that Connecticut remains in a permanent state of fiscal deprivation, starving our schools, health systems and infrastructure of crucial investments.
    Download the report and fact sheet

Additional Recent Testimony

In addition to the legislative testimony described above, we delivered the following testimony on bills in recent weeks:

You can always find all of our legislative testimony on our website.

Issue Areas:
Budget and Tax, Child Welfare, Early Care, Education, Family Economic Security, Health, Juvenile Justice

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