2011 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 2011 state legislative session, JOTF will support legislative and budget initiatives that promote employment and training opportunities for out-of-work residents, ex-offender reentry, and post-secondary education.

 
Reduce barriers to work for out-of-work Marylanders

Maryland’s official unemployment rate has doubled over the past three years – from 3.6% in September 2007 to 7.5% in September 2010.  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.  More importantly, there is no research to show any statistical correlation between what is in someone’s credit report and their likelihood to fail on the job.   

Solution

    • Limit employers’ use of credit checks in hiring.  About 60% of employers use credit history checks as a tool 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 adopting policies that will promote the long-term employment of former inmates, we can help ensure that these Marylanders find legitimate work, contribute to the economy, and turn their lives around.

Solutions

    • Address the issue of monthly parole fees.
    • Remove the question from job applications that asks applicants if they have ever been convicted of a crime.
    • Reduce the impact of a criminal background on employment.

 
Enhance training, employment opportunities for low-skill, low-wage workers

Maryland’s low-income workers need access to training in order to advance in the workplace and obtain jobs with family supporting wages.  In these challenging economic times when jobs are scarce and employers are looking for workers with specific skills, it is even more important for the state to increase its investment in training and hiring. 

Solutions

  • Expand state and local policies to increase employment opportunities for low-skill adults through public works expenditures.
  • Increase funding for workforce training programs that will upgrade the skills of entry level and incumbent workers.
  • Reduce the barriers for adults to obtain a driver’s license.


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.  Projections show that the jobs of the future will require at least some education after high school.  Despite this reality, many Marylanders continue to struggle to advance in post-secondary education and training.  Without more affordable access to post-secondary education, employers will continue to struggle to fill positions.  


Solutions

  • Protect funding for adult education. 
  • Explore ways to improve student transition rates from developmental education into credit bearing courses.
  • Work with the state to ensure that its collection of longitudinal data tracks students as they move from K-12, postsecondary, and into the workforce.

 

Protect 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.  Without adequate benefits, these workers and their families struggle to meet their basic needs as they seek new jobs, and the economy suffers as a result of lost revenue. 

 

Solutions

  • Preserve Maryland’s unemployment insurance system to ensure that out-of-work residents receive appropriate assistance.

 

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 important 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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