2010 Public Policy Agenda


Our advocacy work stems from a recognition that a healthy Maryland economy requires public policies that meet the workforce needs of employers and promote fair and equitable access to economic opportunities for low-income Marylanders.


During the 2010 state legislative session, JOTF will support legislative and budget initiatives that support unemployment insurance benefits, adult and post-secondary education, ex-offender employment, and workforce training for low-income families among others. 

 
Strengthen Maryland's unemployment insurance program.

Unemployment insurance (UI) is a critical safety net for workers forced to leave their jobs involuntarily.  Unfortunately, there are still many gaps in Maryland’s UI safety net, and less than half of all unemployed workers receive benefits.  Many workers are excluded simply because the system ignores recent wages when determining eligibility.  Without adequate benefits, these workers and their families struggle to meet their basic needs as they transition into new jobs, and the economy suffers as a result of lost revenue.  The federal government recently passed the Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act to help states like Maryland strengthen their systems.  By making the changes below, Maryland will receive an infusion of $126.8 million into the declining UI trust fund.

Solutions 

    • Modernize Maryland’s unemployment insurance system to ensure that out-of-work residents receive appropriate assistance.
    • Adopt the alternative base period and require the state to use the most recent earnings data available when calculating UI benefits.
    • Make technical amendments to Maryland’s existing provision which expands coverage to part-time workers. Provide extended benefits to unemployed workers who are participating in an approved job training program.
    • Consider appropriate measures to alleviate employer distress without harming workers. 

 

Help Marylanders access and succeed in adult and post-secondary education.

Over 1.3 million working-age Marylanders lack a college degree and nearly one million are without a high school diploma.  More education could help many of these workers move into high-demand, better-paying jobs but many cannot afford the tuition, and state policies often overlook these non-traditional students.

Solutions

    • Protect funding for adult education.  Maryland's $213 per learner investment lags significantly behind the East Coast states' average of $964.
    • Establish a longitudinal data tracking system that tracks outcomes for students as they move from K-12, post-secondary and into the workforce.

Reduce barriers to work for out-of-work Marylanders.

Maryland’s unemployment rate has doubled over the past two years – from 3.6% in September 2007 to 7.2% in September 2009.  In these trying economic times, many unemployed residents are experiencing financial hardship, which negatively impacts their credit.  Job-seekers are behind on their bills because they don’t have a job, but they can’t get a job because they’re behind on their bills. 

Solutions

  • Limit employers' use of credit checks in hiring.  About 43% of employers use credit history checks in their pre-employment screening even if the information has no relation to the job.


Promote successful re-entry and employment of ex-offenders.

Each year approximately 15,000 inmates return from prison to communities across Maryland.  Their criminal record and low education levels are enormous barriers to mainstream employment.  By investing in transitional services in prison and in the community, we can help ensure that these Marylanders find legitimate work, contribute to the economy, and turn their lives around.


Solutions

  • Require the Division of Parole and Probation to conduct front end evaluations of individuals’ specific situations before the monthly parole fee can take effect.
  • Remove the question from state job applications that asks applicants if they have ever been convicted of a crime. 

 

Preserve the safety net for vulnerable Marylanders.

As more Marylanders are forced to turn to the state for assistance in meeting their basic needs during these difficult economic times, it is more important than ever to ensure that the state’s safety net programs are protected.  As legislators struggle to balance the budget, agencies serving the state’s most vulnerable residents should be spared from harmful cuts.

Solutions

  • Protect low-income residents from harmful budget cuts.
  • Ensure that Maryland's stimulus money is spent effectively.

 

For more information, or to receive weekly policy updates during Maryland's legislative session, contact Melissa Chalmers Broome at 410-234-8046.

 

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