Wisconsin has been reducing investments that give families access to high-quality child care, a move that will hurt children’s school-readiness and success in later life.
The state legislature’s freeze on child care payments – payments that help make it possible for parents who work at low-wage jobs to work – has taken a negative toll on parents, children, and child care providers, according to a new report from the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. The legislature has frozen payment rates for the past seven years, with the effect that providers are dropping out of the program, and parents are having difficulty finding the child care they need in order to work.
The reduced investments in child care stand in stark contrast with Wisconsin’s past approach to helping low-wage parents get the child care they need. In 2006, before the rate freeze, the maximum payment rate covered 75% of child care slots statewide, according to the report. Read more
Since late spring we’ve been raising concerns that the biennial budget bill cuts funding for the welfare-to-work program known as Wisconsin Works (W-2) based on faulty assumptions. This June 17 paper examines the problem and explains how reducing W-2 spending and shifting federal block grant funds made it easier to cut state taxes in the budget bill.
This week the Walker Administration acknowledged the W-2 shortfall and submitted a plan to the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) to narrow the funding gap by $9.6 million. The plan submitted to JFC by the Dept. of Children and Families (DCF) and Dept. of Health Services (DHS) closes part of the gap by using unallocated federal funding known as “income augmentation” revenues. These funds are received by the state as the federal share of state and local spending for things like Targeted Case Management and the Medicaid HealthCheck program.
Workers in Wisconsin and across the U.S. must still cope with a relatively weak labor market. That is especially challenging for low-wage workers who are struggling with the declining value of the minimum wage, reductions in employer benefits like health care, and growing inequality. Those challenges are exacerbated in Wisconsin by budget decisions made by state lawmakers.
A new Wisconsin Budget Project issue brief examines how the how state budget choices are affecting low-wage workers in Wisconsin. It focuses primarily on the effects of the new budget bill, but also examines a few instances of how that bill continues or compounds the challenges for low-wage workers caused by the 2011-13 budget.
Some of the major effects include the following policy choices relating to health insurance, child care, taxes and unemployment insurance:
Making health insurance and care much more expensive for many parents now in BadgerCare
The 2013-15 budget bill cuts in half the income eligibility ceiling for adults participating in BadgerCare – reducing that cap from 200% of the federal poverty level to just 100%. Read more
Imagine your boss telling you that your business is taking a step to encourage productivity and trim costs by converting your pay from a monthly salary to a daily wage – with no compensation for sick days, personal days, or vacation days. That would be hard to take, but would be a little bit easier to swallow if the daily compensation is calculated to offset the loss of paid days off.
But imagine that your employer doesn’t do that — so you’ll take a big pay cut when the daily pay rate is computed by dividing your previous monthly salary by the number of business days in the month. (If you get 3 weeks of paid vacation and holidays, and also take an average of 5 paid sick days or personal days each year – for a total of 20 paid days off — the new pay plan would amount to about an 8 percent cut from your previous annual earnings.)
Envision that these changes are imposed despite the fact that you have accepted a frozen salary level for each of the past five years. Read more
Many very important issues in the budget bill have gotten little or no public attention. That’s true of most of the topics coming up this Tuesday, May 31, relating to support for low-income families – including topics like Wisconsin Works (W-2), the Wisconsin Shares child care subsidy program, the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and other uses of federal funds from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grant.
The full May 31 agenda of the Joint Finance Committee and links to all of the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) papers can be found on the JFC website. This post provides a summary of some of the more significant issues for children and families, and links to those LFB papers.
Using TANF funds to supplant state EITC funding – Unfortunately, one key issue didn’t get an issue paper, perhaps because it’s the continuation of a funding shift that was initiated in the budget repair bill. Read more