2009 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 2009 state legislative session, JOTF will support legislative and budget initiatives that support post-secondary education, family-friendly sick leave, ex-offender employment, unemployment insurance benefits, and workforce training for low-income families among others.
Establish and maintain family-friendly sick leave policies.
Managing work and caring for young or elderly family members is a fact of life for many. Thanks to the newly enacted Flexible Leave Act, Marylanders now have the right to use their earned paid leave for the care of a child, parent, or spouse. Nationally, less than one in three workers with paid sick days can use their leave when their child gets sick. Businesses that offer flexible leave benefit from lower turnover and training costs, and higher levels of productivity and customer satisfaction.
- Protect Flexible Leave: Ensure that employees continue to have the flexibility to use their accrued paid leave to care for an ill child, parent or spouse.
Strenthen Maryland’s unemployment insurance safety net.
Unemployment insurance (UI) is a critical safety net for workers forced to leave their jobs involuntarily. In Maryland, unfortunately, the UI system gives only minimal support to only a fraction of workers facing this sudden hardship. Only one-third of unemployed workers receive benefits, with an average weekly payment of $305. This is not enough to keep workers and their families out of poverty as they transition into new jobs, or to bolster the economy in times of recession.
- Extend benefit coverage to part-time workers whose wages are already taxed for unemployment insurance.
- Increase unemployment insurance benefits so that workers can pay their bills while seeking employment.
Establish an initiative to address long-term poverty reduction.
Despite Maryland’s ranking as the wealthiest state in the nation, a large number of residents live in poverty. One in five Marylanders – over one million individuals – live below 200% of poverty. 16% of all working families in the state are low-income. Programs and services that give Marylanders the opportunity to achieve economic security must be identified and supported.
- Implement and evaluate poverty reduction programs, set goals, and track progress.
Help Marylanders access and succeed in post-secondary education.
Over 1.3 million working-age Marylanders lack a college degree. More education could help many of these workers move into high-demand, better-paying jobs, but many cannot afford the tuition. Nearly half of all students at two- and four-year colleges are enrolled part-time. State policies often overlook these non-traditional students.
- Expand eligibility for the Part-Time Grant Program to students attending less than half-time.
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.
- Support education and job training programs for inmates and former inmates.
- Ensure that inmates leave prison with a Maryland state identification card.
Enhance basic education opportunities for working adults.
One in five Marylanders reads at less than a fourth-grade level. Nearly half read at or below an eighth-grade level. Since a solid education is the cornerstone of a qualified workforce, investing in adult education for Maryland’s workers benefits employers, low-income families, and the economy.
- Ensure a smooth transition of Adult Education and Literacy Services from the State Department of Education to the State Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
- Increase accountability by tracking outcomes for adult education students. The State Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation should collect and analyze data regarding adult learners’ success in employment and post-secondary education.
For more information, or to receive weekly policy updates during Maryland’s legislative session, contact Melissa Chalmers Broome at 410-234-8046 or firstname.lastname@example.org.