By JOTF on 7/22/2016

Guest Blog by Chandra Kring Villanueva 

Commentary by Lavanya Madhusudan, Policy Research Analyst


Not every student has the opportunity to complete high school.  Yet most job opportunities that pay a living wage or start individuals on a career path require a high school diploma.  Sooner or later, individuals who were unable to obtain a high school diploma find themselves in need of this important credential.  It is a first step towards economic mobility, financial security and professional success. 

The following story highlights the incredible impact that obtaining this essential credential can have on one individual.  This story is shared with permission from Chandra Villanueva, a fellow member of the Working Poor Families Project, which is a national initiative focused on state workforce development policies.


By JOTF on 5/26/2016
by Caryn York, Senior Policy Advocate


Last week, Governor Hogan signed Maryland’s Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) into law. Established in 2015 by legislation, the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council (The Council) was tasked with analyzing ten years of state corrections and sentencing data to better understand who we have been sending to prison, for how long, and why. Representing a diverse perspective of criminal justice stakeholders that included legislators, judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, law enforcement, and advocates, the Council crafted solutions for Maryland that would hold offenders accountable while reducing the state's nonviolent incarcerated population. Simply put, the Council recommendations were based on data, research, evidence-based practices, and serious consideration of public safety.


By JOTF on 4/24/2015
Melissa Broome is being honored as a Working Family Champion of Change.
By JOTF on 5/9/2014
by Jason Perkins-Cohen
This blog post is part of a group blogging event hosted by Living Cities and Meeting of the Minds about how cities could better connect their residents to economic opportunity.

We all want our cities to be safe places to live and work, but plans to increase public safety in metropolitan areas are failing our citizens. In misguided attempts to grow urban areas and their respective tax bases, policy and business leaders are shutting out huge swaths of the labor market through employment standards that all but exclude workers with a criminal record.

Employers naturally want to develop businesses that are safe for workers and customers. They also want to make hiring decisions that protect their financial security and minimize liability and loss. While these ideals are worthwhile, in their attempts to guarantee safety, many employers are evaluating a potential employee based, not on their merits as a worker, but on assumptions of a person’s future behavior. When employers automatically say “no” to people with criminal convictions, even minor ones, they are excluding a number of potentially great employees without any regard to a person’s skill set, attempts to improve their behavior or record of community contribution.
By JOTF on 2/4/2014
by Andrea Vaughn

Twenty-one years ago, a worker could be fired, demoted, or otherwise disciplined for taking unpaid time off work to recover from the birth of a child, to care for a seriously ill loved one, or to recover from an illness. Thanks to nine years of efforts by policymakers and activists, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has protected over 35 million workers since 1993, ensuring they were able to keep their jobs and health insurance while they weathered a health crisis or cared for a new baby.

 

Employers also benefit: workers who are able to take time away when they need it are more likely to return to their jobs. As a result, employers save between 17 and 31 percent of employees’ annual earnings when they don’t have to replace experienced workers. Employers also benefit from higher worker productivity and morale. By all accounts, the last 21 years of the FMLA represent incredible progress for workers.

By JOTF on 1/7/2014
by Andrea Roethke
The Maryland economy has moved forward in fits and starts over the past few years. As of November, the state finally recovered all of the jobs lost during the Great Recession. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been enough to keep up with the growth of labor force, and at the end of 2013, there were still nearly twice as many people unemployed as there were before the recession began in 2007.
By JOTF on 8/6/2013
by Andrea Roethke

In just a few months the current General Educational Development tests will expire and be replaced with new exams. The 2014 GED test will be aligned with the Common Core standards that are now required in K-12 school systems across the country, and many in the field expect that the tests will become more rigorous. The test, which has traditionally been offered via paper and pencil, will also shift to being offered only by computer.

Since we first blogged about the issue last year, a lot of progress has been made toward answering key questions about the changes and plotting the course for providers working in the field. First, after the GED Testing Service announced that they would be raising the cost of the test to $120, many feared that low-income students would be priced out. To address the issue, the Maryland General Assembly approved funding to subsidize the cost for Maryland test-takers at the current rate of $45. As long as the subsidy remains in place, it will go a long way toward preserving accessibility of the GED test.

By JOTF on 6/14/2013
by Sarah Breitenbach

In honor of Father’s Day, the Job Opportunities Task Force recently sat down with Joseph T.  Jones, Jr. president, founder and CEO, for the Center for Urban Families. JOTF works with CFUF to place Baltimore residents in Project JumpStart, our construction training program.

 

CFUF works with Baltimore fathers to strengthen urban communities by helping them reach stability and economic success. The organization recruits directly off Baltimore streets and works to ensure their clients are connected to opportunities for housing, employment and parenting resources.
By JOTF on 6/10/2013
by Jason Perkins-Cohen

Last week, the Baltimore City Council unanimously passed Council President Young’s bill to promote local hiring. The measure, which the mayor declined to sign, will take effect in December. It creates a standard by which some contractors will be required to hire city residents. Specifically, developers of projects that receive city contracts valued at $300,000 or more, or subsidies of $5 million or above, must fill 51 percent of the jobs created by those ventures with Baltimore City residents.

 

The vote was the culmination of a long battle over the bill’s promise and potential weaknesses. It’s not perfect. The legislation will apply to relatively few projects and waivers are available that could further reduce its impact. Still, it is important step toward linking the goals behind large-scale publicly funded projects and the need to get our residents working. Right now, Baltimore has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the state, with more than 26,000 residents unemployed, and of the city’s unemployment insurance claims, 9.1 percent of those people work in construction.

By JOTF on 5/16/2013
by Melissa Broome

As communities, businesses, government and health care organizations celebrate and promote National Women’s Health Week, I can’t help but think of the women who struggle daily to care for themselves without access to paid sick leave.

The first step women are urged to take as a part of Women’s Health Week is to “Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings.”

Sounds simple, right? If we value women and their health, then naturally we expect them to take the time each year to visit a cadre of doctor’s for their checkups. Unfortunately, this modest goal is unattainable for countless American women.  

By JOTF on 5/2/2013

by Caryn York
A new law championed by JOTF is giving some Marylanders a renewed shot at employment. Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the state’s “Ban the Box” legislation on May 2, making Maryland the ninth state to eliminate a requirement that prospective employees check a box on job applications to indicate whether they have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. 

 

After four long years of urging Maryland lawmakers to remove the “box,” the victory is a welcome accomplishment. Today, more than one in four adults – roughly 65 million Americans – have some sort of criminal record. In Maryland, this means nearly 1 million adults face discriminatory barriers, such as the arrest/conviction question on state job applications, to securing stable employment. 

By JOTF on 2/1/2013

Legislation filed this week would create a standard to assure that workers in our state could earn up to seven days of paid sick time each year.

 

The Earned Sick and Safe Time Act, cross-filed by Sen. Robert J. Garagiola (D-Montgomery) and Delegate John A. Olszewski, Jr. (D-Baltimore County), would enable workers to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work.

 

More than 700,000 people in Maryland cannot earn paid sick days from their employers. Many of these employees are low-wage workers who already face significant financial hurdles and worry that taking a day off work could mean they are unable to feed their children or pay their rent.

 

By JOTF on 10/16/2012
by Andrea Roethke

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation delivered welcome news to employers Monday. After three years of elevated unemployment insurance tax rates, relief is coming in 2013. Many employers will see their tax rate cut in half from $187 to $85 per employee, and all employers will see at least a 22 percent cut. Most importantly, this is a sign that people are getting back work and that Maryland’s economic recovery is on solid footing.  It is also a sign that our unemployment insurance system is working as intended.

 

It is also a sign that our unemployment insurance system is working as intended.  When the recession hit, many were not sure we’d be able to weather the storm while still providing adequate benefits to workers.  The fact that rates are dropping shows that it is possible to maintain a strong safety net without putting undue strain on employers. 

By JOTF on 10/1/2012
by Sarah Breitenbach


New Maryland adult drivers no longer need to complete a cumbersome amount of driver training and child support orders will be automatically suspended for people who are incarcerated. 

The measures, championed by JOTF and several lawmakers during the 2012 General Assembly Session, are among dozens of new Maryland laws taking effect today. 

By JOTF on 6/28/2012
by Melissa Broome
On June 5, the Maryland State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hosted a briefing in Annapolis to gather information on racial disparities in incarceration rates in Maryland prisons.  Numerous policymakers and justice advocates, including myself, testified before the committee to urge further exploration of this area.
By JOTF on 6/13/2012
by Melissa Broome

It's been almost seven years since I first interviewed for the position of Senior Policy Advocate at JOTF and - as embarrassing as this is to admit - I spent the night before the interview frantically researching how a bill becomes a law. Memories of my high school government course were foggy and I was worried that I would get asked. Thank goodness I didn't. No textbook or webpage could ever fully encompass the grueling, gut-wrenching, heart-palpitating, roller-coaster-ride of a process otherwise known as passing a bill. 

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