Low-Paid Workers in Many States Got a Raise this Month, but not in Wisconsin

Wednesday, January 3, 2018 at 9:43 AM by

Low-paid workers across the country got a raise this month, as 18 states and 20 cities and counties increased their minimum wages, many of them of rates to $12 to $15 an hour. Once the increases are fully phased in, 15 million workers will see long overdue raises.

In contrast, Wisconsin’s minimum wage remains at $7.25, the same as the federal minimum wage. It was last raised in 2009 and has lost about 15% of its purchasing power since then.  State lawmakers have barred local governments in Wisconsin from setting their own minimum wages that are higher than the state’s minimum.

With Wisconsin’s minimum wage still stuck at $7.25, a full-time, full-year worker in Wisconsin can earn as little $14,500 per year. For a single parent, working at the Wisconsin minimum wage puts them below the poverty line.

The large number and variety of states with increases in the minimum wage this month shows that this issue cuts across partisan lines. Read more

Budget Bill Boosts Property Taxes for Thousands of Low-income Households

Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 2:36 PM by
Despite the claims of state lawmakers that the biennial budget bill cuts property taxes, the actions of those policymakers will increase property taxes for thousands of low-income Wisconsin households. The budget bill does that by significantly reducing funding for the Homestead Tax Credit, which was designed to provide targeted property tax relief to low-income homeowners and renters. A new Wisconsin Budget Project summary of tax changes in the budget bill describes some of the major items, which include more than $400 million of tax cuts. But the bill cuts funding and eligibility for the Homestead Credit, and the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) rejected the Governor’s proposal to increase the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit.
Categories: 2017-19 biennial budget, Blog, ECONOMIC SECURITY, Homestead credit, property tax | Comments Off on Budget Bill Boosts Property Taxes for Thousands of Low-income Households

Unemployment is Low, but Wisconsin Workers Face a Host of Other Roadblocks

Friday, September 1, 2017 at 3:54 PM by

Even as the state’s unemployment rate declines, Wisconsin workers face significant barriers to economic stability, according to a new look at the state’s labor market. Long-term stagnation in wages, a black/white economic disparity that is among the largest of any state, increasing levels of income inequality, a shrinking middle class, and limits on the ability to unionize are among the obstacles faced by Wisconsin workers, according to The State of Working Wisconsin 2017 by COWS.

Key findings of the report include:

Wisconsin has fallen behind in job growth compared to other states. In 2016, Wisconsin had 128.4 jobs for every 100 jobs it had in 1990, compared to 132.6 jobs nationally. That gap is a relatively new occurrence, with the pace of job growth in Wisconsin exceeding the national average for the 1990s and the early part of the 2000s. During the recession, Wisconsin lost jobs at about the same rate as the national average. Read more

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Without Action from Policymakers, Many Will Continue to be Cut Off from Economic Opportunity

Thursday, July 27, 2017 at 1:52 PM by

An improving economy should offer more people a chance to climb the economic ladder to the middle class. But too many people in Wisconsin and nationwide are still being left behind, with their path to prosperity blocked by low-paying jobs, high housing costs, and lack of access to higher education, according to a new scorecard from Prosperity Now. Families of color are among those facing the most difficulty getting by, as they continue to feel the effect of generations of wealth-stripping policies targeting households and communities of color.

There are some signs of improvement in the national economy, most notably in the unemployment rate and poverty rate.  The national unemployment rate dropped to 4.9% in 2016, according to the scorecard, nearly matching the pre-recession low reached in 2006-7. And the number of households living in poverty fell to 13.8% in 2016, the first measurable decline since 2011.

A more in-depth examination of the economic trends, however, shows that the gains have not been shared widely, particularly with regards to race. Read more

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When Work isn’t Enough: Effectively Supporting Wisconsin’s Working Families

Thursday, June 8, 2017 at 8:13 AM by

Wisconsin workers should be able to earn enough to support their families and make ends meet. But many jobs in Wisconsin don’t pay enough to lift workers’ families out of poverty, or provide the benefits that families need, according to a recent report from COWS at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The difficulty that workers have in climbing out of poverty is compounded by the fact that many of the supports that Wisconsin provides to working families are not well-aligned with the realities of low-wage jobs. Rather than fixing these supports, some Wisconsin lawmakers want to make these services even more difficult for Wisconsin workers to access.

Many jobs in Wisconsin simply don’t pay enough to make ends meet. More than 1 in 4 Wisconsin workers hold poverty-wage jobs, defined as jobs in which someone working full-time year-round would still not earn enough to keep a family of four out of poverty. Read more

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New Poverty Guidelines Shed Light on Health Policy Debates

Friday, February 3, 2017 at 6:43 PM by

Federal policy guidelines that were adjusted for inflation last week are worth examining because they help illustrate the challenges faced by low-income working families. They show, for example, that single parents with one child are currently ineligible for BadgerCare if they have a full-time job that pays more than $7.81 per hour!

The federal poverty guidelines are updated early each year, and the 2017 guidelines that were issued on January 31 increase the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) by 1.3%. That raises eligibility for many federal benefit programs, such as Medicaid, food stamps and child care subsidies. An updated table on the Wisconsin Budget Project website shows what the poverty level is for different family sizes and how that affects eligibility for different public benefits. It also translates the annual poverty level figures into monthly and hourly incomes. Read more

Categories: BadgerCare Plus, Blog, health care reform, Medicaid, poverty | Comments Off on New Poverty Guidelines Shed Light on Health Policy Debates

Low-Paid Workers in Many Other States – but not Wisconsin – Got a Raise This Month

Wednesday, January 4, 2017 at 11:42 AM by

Low-paid workers across the country got a raise this month, as 19 states increased their minimum wages. A higher minimum wage means that workers will be better able to make ends meet and support their families, but the benefits don’t end there. More income in the pockets of workers translates to additional economic activity, and workers spend their raises at local businesses buying groceries, getting their cars fixed, or paying off medical bills.

The 19 states that increased their minimum wage this month are Massachusetts, Washington, California, New York, Arizona, Maine, Colorado, Alaska, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, South Dakota, Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan and Vermont.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin workers and communities will not receive any of the benefits of a higher minimum wage. Wisconsin is among the minority of states that have a minimum wage stuck at $7.25 per hour, a level that was last increased in 2009.

Most STates Have Higher Minimum Wage

Because Wisconsin is not among the states that have set a higher minimum wage, a full-time, full-year worker in Wisconsin still earn as little $14,500 per year. Read more

Judge’s Decision Puts Scope of Overtime Protections in Trump’s Hands

Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 1:04 PM by

Suspended Rule Change Would Benefit Nearly 1 in 4 Salaried Workers in Wisconsin

Low-wage workers who are required to work long hours deserve the protection of federal overtime laws. Unfortunately, a long-awaited federal rule change that would have extended overtime benefits to almost one fourth of salaried Wisconsin workers has been blocked and its fate is now in the hands of the incoming Trump administration.

The new overtime rule approved by the Labor Department was scheduled to take effect on December 1, but a November 22nd ruling by a district court judge in Texas put the rule in limbo. The judge’s injunction might enable the new president to kill the rule simply by not appealing that decision, rather than going through the lengthy rulemaking process that would otherwise be required to reverse or change the new rule.

The judge’s ruling maintains the current policy that says employers don’t have to pay overtime to salaried workers earning more than $23,660 per year ($455 per week) if they are classified in any of these three categories: executives, administrators, or professionals. Read more

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Voters Demonstrate Popularity of Minimum Wage Increases

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 10:41 AM by

Trump Owes It to Workers to Raise the Floor for Wages

The broad popular support for increasing the minimum wage was demonstrated quite clearly on November 8 when voters backed increases in all five states where the wage floor was on the ballot. President-elect Trump should back up his promises to help the working class by pushing for a significant boost in the national minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 per hour for almost eight years.

In Arizona, Colorado, and Maine, voters approved increases in their state minimum wages to $12 by 2020. Voters in Washington State went further by approving a measure to raise the minimum wage to $13.50 by 2020, and the electorate of Flagstaff Arizona approved an increase to $15 by 2021. The state-level ballot measures in Arizona and Washington also expand paid sick leave to more workers.

The increases in the pay floor were approved by significant percentages: 60% in Washington, 59% in Arizona, and 55% in both Colorado and Maine. Read more

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SNAP Works for Wisconsin’s Children

Thursday, October 13, 2016 at 8:54 AM by

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as FoodShare in Wisconsin, helps Wisconsin families put food on the table. But we know now that it accomplishes much more than that.

Research increasingly shows that SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps, can ward against the long-term effects on children of experiencing poverty, abuse or neglect, parental substance abuse or mental illness, and exposure to violence — events that can take a toll on their well-being as adults.  As a new Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report finds, SNAP helps form a strong foundation of health and well-being for low-income children by lifting millions of families out of poverty, improving food security, and helping improve health and academic achievement with long-lasting consequences.

It’s doing all that across Wisconsin. SNAP is improving our children’s futures.

Workers at food banks see first-hand the boost that SNAP gives to children and families. “After a good job, SNAP is the second best hunger fighting tool in our toolbox,” said David Lee of Feeding Wisconsin. Read more

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