Retirement Savings for Low-Income Workers – California

Congress targets a California law that aims to give low-income workers retirement security, By Evan Halper, February 9, 2017, Los Angeles Times: ” An ambitious California law intended to help create retirement security for low-income workers is in the crosshairs of the Trump-era Congress, which is moving to block the state and others from launching programs to automatically enroll millions of people in IRA-type savings plans…”

Earned Income Tax Credit

  • Detroiters leave $80 million unclaimed for tax credit, By Susan Tompor, January 29, 2017, Detroit Free Press: “The Earned Income Tax Credit is one big bonus check for Michigan’s struggling workforce. The credit is a one-time shot of potentially thousands of dollars that can be used to pay bills, put money down on a used car or even, maybe, save a little something for a rainy day or retirement.  It’s sort of like those big profit-sharing checks for many autoworkers that are ranging from $5,000 at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to $9,000 on average at Ford.  But you must file a tax return to get that tax-credit cash. And plenty of people don’t file for one reason or another…”
  • Gov. Scott Walker to expand low-income tax credit he once cut, By Jason Stein and Patrick Marley, February 1, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Gov. Scott Walker is reversing course on a key tax credit for the working poor, proposing to raise incomes for more than 130,000 state families by returning the more than $20 million a year he cut from the program in 2011.  The Republican governor will unveil the proposal at the Wauwatosa Rotary Club Wednesday as part of a broader package in his budget bill that aims to strengthen families and marriage. The measure marks the changing priorities for Walker as he shifts from the budget cuts of his first term to his current goal of trying to draw Wisconsinites into the work force…”

Minimum Wage

  • What will a higher minimum wage do? Two new studies have different ideas, By Natalie Kitroeff, January 11, 2107, Los Angeles Times: “The federal government set its first minimum wage, at 25 cents an hour, in 1938. Since then, liberals have cheered attempts to raise the minimum as blows against worker exploitation, while businesses lament that the hikes will kill jobs.  But nearly 80 years later, economists still aren’t sure how a higher minimum wage actually affects companies and their customers…”
  • Higher minimum wage may have losers, By Noam Scheiber, January 10, 2017, New York Times: “A growing number of economists have found that many cities and states have considerable room to raise the minimum wage before employers meaningfully cut back on hiring.  But that conclusion may gloss over some significant responses to minimum-wage increases by individual employers, according to two new studies. And those reactions may, in turn, raise questions about the effectiveness of the minimum wage in helping certain workers…”

Low-Income Tax Refunds

IRS to delay tax refunds for millions of low-income families, January 11, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “The IRS is delaying tax refunds for more than 40 million low-income families this year as the agency steps up efforts to fight identity theft and fraud.  The delays will affect families claiming the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit. These tax breaks are geared to benefit the working poor, and many families claim both…”

Child Care Subsidies – California

For some workers, pay raise comes with loss of cheap child care, By Natalie Kitroeff, January 6, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “When the minimum wage in California rose to $10.50 an hour Jan. 1, more than a million people got a raise. But for an untold number of families across the state, that pay bump could price them out of child care.  This year, for the first time, two parents working full time at minimum wage jobs, with one child, will be considered too well off to qualify for state subsidies for day care and preschool. It’s been 10 years since the state set the threshold for who is poor enough to get the benefit, which is pegged to 2005 income levels…”

State Minimum Wage Increases

A higher minimum wage in 2017, By Karl Russell, January 5, 2017, New York Times: “With the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour unchanged since 2009, many states have taken matters into their own hands and raised the statewide minimum wage. While a higher floor for pay is a powerful tool for improving the lot of the least-skilled workers, some economists worry it could result in slower job creation or cuts as employers confront higher labor costs…”

Minimum Wage Increases

Minimum wage going up in 21 states, 22 cities, By Jeanne Sahadi, December 19, 2016, CNNMoney: “Come the new year, millions of the lowest-wage workers across the country will get a raise.  Some of those raises will be very minor — a cost of living adjustment amounting to an extra nickel or dime an hour. But in several places the jump will be between $1 and $2 an hour…”

Cliff Effect of Public Assistance Programs

$15 minimum wage could squeeze workers on public assistance, By Katie Johnson, December 9, 2016, Boston Globe: “If it succeeds, a campaign to raise the Massachusetts minimum wage to $15 an hour could put more money in the pockets of low-income workers and create a path to self-sufficiency. But for some families, the boost in pay could mean a drop of hundreds of dollars a month in government benefits.  Food stamps, child care vouchers, and rent subsidies could be cut before families can afford to cover those expenses on their own, leaving some households, particularly single parents with young children, worse off despite a bigger paycheck — a phenomenon known as the ‘cliff effect…””

Discounted Transit Fares

Advocates for New York’s working poor push for discounted transit fares, By Emma G. Fitzsimmons, November 11, 2016, New York Times: “At a time when New York City can seem unbearably expensive, advocates for the poor are targeting a rising cost that many people struggle to afford: a MetroCard.  And with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority poised to approve its latest fare increase in January, they are pressing Mayor Bill de Blasio to finance a program that would offer half-price subway and bus fares to New Yorkers living in poverty…”

Older Workers and Low-wage Jobs

The new low-wage reality for older Americans, By Aimee Picchi, November 8, 2016, CBS News: “Thanks to economic instability and an eroding pension system, Americans are working longer than ever. But it turns out there’s a twist in how they’re working: New research shows workers older than 55 increasingly hold low-wage jobs.  The findings may add to the anxiety that haunts many workers about how — or if — they’ll have the financial resources to retire. In September, slightly more than 27 percent of full-time workers over 55 years old held low-wage jobs, compared with 19 percent of younger workers, according to Teresa Ghilarducci, professor of economics at The New School for Social Research…”

State Minimum Wages

  • Minimum wage boosts: Did low-income workers win?, By Amanda Hoover, November 9, 2016, Christian Science Monitor: “Workers in several more states will receive a pay raise thanks to a handful of successful ballot measures seeking to raise the minimum wage. Voters in four states chose to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour or higher by 2020, joining a growing number of states and cities that have announced wage hikes in the past few years as a tactic to boost the economy and close the growing income gap. As the slogan ‘Fight for $15’ has gained ground and shed light on the millions of people making minimum wage rates that are frequently not enough to support a family, more advocates are stepping forward to lead their own movements…”
  • Four states ok minimum wage hikes to at least $12, By Kevin McCoy, November 9, 2016, USA Today: “The lowest-paid hourly workers in four states won a boost in their minimum wage to at least $12-an-hour in Tuesday’s election.  Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington approved increases in their states’ respective hourly pay rates to at least $12 by 2020, according to late election results compiled by the Associated Press and Ballotpedia, a non-partisan online encyclopedia of elections and politics…”

State Minimum Wages

4 states will vote on raising minimum wage, By Jeanne Sahadi, November 1, 2016, CNN Money: “On November 8, voters in four states — Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington — will vote on ballot initiatives calling for a higher minimum wage. None are calling for $15 an hour, the Holy Grail of many minimum wage campaigns these days. But the four initiatives are aiming to raise their state’s base hourly pay by between 43% and 60%. The increases would be phased in gradually over a few years, and recent polls show a slim majority of support for the wage hikes…”

State Minimum Wage – Iowa

Branstad to explore statewide minimum wage hike, By William Petroski, October 24, 2016, Des Moines Register: “Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday he will explore a statewide increase in the minimum wage, replacing minimum wage hikes being approved on a county-by-county basis throughout Iowa.  The Republican governor didn’t offer a specific figure for a uniform increase in Iowa’s minimum wage, but he suggested he would consult with experts for help in determining an appropriate figure. The state and federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 an hour since 2008, and there is no indication Congress will act soon to raise it…”

State Minimum Wages

  • 5 more states vote on minimum wages as federal wage stalls, By Kristen Wyatt (AP), October 18, 2016, Arizona Daily Sun: “Congress’ inaction on the $7.25 hourly minimum wage is again playing out on state ballots, with voters in four states considering an increase and another considering wages for the youngest workers, even though the states already exceed the federal. In some cases voters are also deciding whether to add sick-leave policies to help the working poor.  The ballot proposals in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington come two years after voters in five other states passed minimum-wage hikes. South Dakota voters are taking a second crack at wages, two years after raising them to $8.50 an hour…”
  • Florida minimum wage rising to $8.10 an hour in 2017, By Marcia Heroux Pounds, October 17, 2016, Sun Sentinel: “Florida is raising its minimum wage to $8.10 an hour beginning Jan. 1, up 5 cents from $8.05 in 2016, the state Department of Economic Opportunity has announced. For tipped employees, the minimum wage will be at least $5.08 an hour…”
  • Measure to lift minimum wage to $13.50 statewide has Washington divided, By Janet I. Tu, October 15, 2016, Seattle Times: “For Martha Camargo Castañeda, an agricultural worker in Wapato, Yakima County, an increase in the state minimum wage would mean she could afford a few more basics for herself and her son.  She makes $10 an hour at her full-time job and counts on food stamps to make ends meet. She juggles the bills to decide each month whether she’ll pay, say, the electric or water bill…”

Low-Income Families and Taxes – Canada

Canada’s poor urged to earn more by filing their taxes, By Kyle Bakx, October 11, 2016, CBC News: “After not filing her income taxes for three years, Janet Smith is struggling to find all the paperwork she needs to send to Revenue Canada.  As someone with a low income, she’s expecting to receive government benefits once her taxes are filed. ‘That could probably help me make ends meet. Right now, being on disability and just scraping by, sometimes not even scraping by, it’s pretty tough,’ she said. ‘It’s been a while since I filed taxes, there’s a lot of new things that have come out since I last filed. A lot of benefits that I’m sure I qualify for that I’m missing out on.’  Filing taxes is becoming the key strategy for organizations looking to lift people out of poverty…”

State Minimum Wage – Colorado

Minimum wage fight: Raise it or not?, By Alicia Stice, September 23, 2016, The Coloradoan: “When an unexpected expense comes up — like the time her 9-year-old black lab, Libby, racked up a $700 vet bill — Lauren Gutierrez knows it’s time to pick up extra shifts.  In Fort Collins where she grew up, Gutierrez cannot afford to live alone.  This semester, she dropped two of her classes at Front Range Community College because the full course load was too much to handle along with her long shifts working as a caregiver for elderly residents.  Living as a low-wage worker has inspired Gutierrez to volunteer for the campaign to raise Colorado’s minimum wage from $8.31 an hour to $12 an hour by 2020, with increases every year in between…”

Earned Income Tax Credit – California

From Sacramento to Fontana, new anti-poverty tax credit has paid out, By Jim Miller, July 28, 2016, Sacramento Bee: “California’s new earned-income tax credit had put about $189 million in the pockets of the working poor as of earlier this month, well below the $380 million in claims the Brown administration and lawmakers had expected.  Proponents, though, consider the program’s first year a success, and new data from the Franchise Tax Board show that taxpayers from around the state have claimed the credit…”

Minimum Wage Increase – Seattle, WA

Why raising the minimum wage in Seattle did little to help workers, according to a new study, By Max Ehrenfreund, July 29, 2016, Washington Post: “Things seem to be going pretty well since Seattle bumped the hourly minimum wage for large businesses up to $11 last year, from the statewide minimum of $9.47 an hour. Low-wage workers are getting more time on the job and making more money. Fewer businesses are closing, and more new ones are opening. The technology and construction sectors are booming. Even the weather cooperated for a change. The spring was unusually dry in Seattle, which was good for the city’s fishing fleet.  Yet the actual benefits to workers might have been minimal, according to a group of economists whom the city commissioned to study the minimum wage and who presented their initial findings last week…”

Child Care Workers

Child care expansion takes a toll on poorly paid workers, By Patricia Cohen, July 12, 2016, New York Times: “Carmella Salinas has worked steadily for 14 years as an early-childhood-education teacher, taking care of 4- and 5-year-olds at the nonprofit Family Learning Center in the hardscrabble community of Española, just north of Santa Fe, N.M. Even so, she rarely earns enough to cover all her bills, and has more than once received a disconnection letter from the water, gas or electric company. A few months ago, she arrived home with her 10-year-old son, Aaron, to find the electricity shut off.  ‘But Mom,’ she recalled Aaron saying, ‘don’t they know it’s your birthday?’  While the scramble to find affordable child care has drawn a lot of attention, prompting President Obama to label it ‘a must-have’ economic priority, the struggles of the workers — mostly women — who provide that care have not…”

Minimum Wage – Ohio

Nearly 100,000 Ohioans earning less than state minimum wage, By Randy Tucker, July 25, 2016, Dayton Daily News: “Ohio’s minimum wage is 85 cents higher than the federal baseline for hourly paid workers, but at least 93,000 workers in the state earned wages at or below the federal minimum last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ohio workers were among an estimated 2.6 million nationwide who earned at or below the prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. That represents 3.3 percent of all hourly paid workers, according to a BLS report…”