5 Wins for Jobs in the Budget
Melissa Young, Associate Director, National Transitional Jobs Network
On Wednesday, April 10 President Obama released his FFY2014 budget proposal. As a whole, it reflects a strong commitment to battling back America’s stubbornly high unemployment, building pathways to work for many of our nation’s chronically unemployed individuals, and creating jobs in our communities. However, the President’s budget also reflects some concessions that leave us at the National Transitional Jobs Network feeling uneasy about the future of the safety-net system and our nation’s commitment to upholding the values that #AmericaBelieves should drive fiscal policy decisions.
5 Wins for Jobs in the FFY14 President’s Budget:
1. Creating & Building Ladders of Opportunity. The President’s budget calls for the creation of a Pathways Back to Work Fund to create pathways to work for every American. The Fund includes:
- temporary subsidized employment opportunities for low-income adults;
- summer and year-round employment opportunities for low-income youth; and
- a competitive grants program to support employment and training strategies designed to improve outcomes for low-income and long-term unemployed adults and youth.
Almost 23 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed, bringing the real unemployment rate to more than 14.4 percent. The length of unemployment remains daunting, with the average duration stretching to 35 weeks, and three out of five workers jobless for more than six months. America is desperately in need of a solution. Along with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Campaign for Human Needs, Half in Ten Campaign, and many others, we applaud the inclusion of the Pathways Back to Work Fund in the President’s budget. Additionally, the President’s budget calls for flexible funding to provide states the opportunity to design, develop, and implement innovative reemployment initiatives targeted to the long-term unemployed.
2. Strengthening Families through Employment Opportunities.
- The President’s budget commits to supporting the critical role that fathers play in their families by proposing to allow existing federal programs (like the child support program)to implement models that get more men working and engaging with their children. Additionally, the budget includes a set of proposals to encourage states to pay child support collections to families first rather than retaining a portion of those payments to reimburse state public assistance programs.
Many low-income non-custodial fathers are part of the child support system. The child support program serves half of all poor children in the United States and 17 million children in total. While many noncustodial fathers want to be involved with their children, many live in poverty and lack the resources to financially provide for their children. Most unpaid child support is owed by these parents and for many the lack of a steady income is a major barrier to fulfilling parental obligations. We applaud the President’s recognition of the essential role that employment plays in improving the lives of fathers and families.
3. Making Work Pay.
- The budget calls for an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9.00 per hour by the end of 2015 and to index the minimum wage to inflation thereafter.
Under current law, a full-time worker with two children earning the minimum wage will still raise his or her family in poverty. As the Center for American Progress has noted, this basic wage floor has lost 30 percent of its buying power since the 1960s due to a failure to index the minimum wage to inflation. Improving the quality of jobs in America – first and foremost by making work pay – is essential to improving the lives of millions of Americans and their families. The President’s proposal to increase the minimum wage would directly boost wages for 15 million workers.
4. Supporting & Growing Innovative Workforce and Anti-Poverty Solutions.
- Through increased investments in the Workforce Innovation Fund, the President’s budget renews his commitment to 1) Funding implementation and testing of innovative approaches to get more people working and learning new job skills, and 2) Innovative employment and training system reforms.
- Additionally, the budget builds its investment in Promise Neighborhoods and Choice Neighborhoods programs to establish Promise Zones in geographically targeted high-poverty communities across the country through leveraging funds from several federal agencies including the Departments of Justice, Housing and Education.
- Finally, the budget includes and maintains investments in the Social Innovation Fund.
5. Reversing Sequestration.
- The President’s budget calls to reverse sequestration or the across the board budget cuts triggered by Deficit Reduction Act. Unless the cuts are reversed millions more men, women and children will be negatively affected across the country.
Additionally, the President’s FFY2014 budget proposal contains a number of positive features that resonate with American values. The budget’s historic commitment to funding and expanding early education; doses of federal investments and policy proposals aimed at strengthening the country’s infrastructure; growing manufacturing and clean energy jobs; increased commitment to ensuring holistic criminal justice reentry planning and programs; increases in homelessness assistance funds; and targeted programs to help veterans and homeless veterans find work clearly reflect America’s commitment to ensuring that every person in America has access to a fair start in life, access to opportunity, and a life of dignity, safety, and well-being today and for generations to come.
At the same time, we cannot ignore elements of the budget that leave us wary about the future of our safety-net systems and other programs that support low-income and chronically unemployed Americans. Specifically, while the budget proposal reverses sequestration, the savings proposals pitched under a deficit-reduction approach include substantial savings through Medicare, the adoption of an alternative cost-of-living adjustment reducing Social Security payments, (which some are concerned could make other programs that specifically target low-income Americans more vulnerable to similar adjustments in the future), and cuts to non-defense discretionary programs (almost evenly split dollar for dollar between defense and non-defense spending, despite the fact that the defense budget dwarfs the non-defense discretionary budget), all of which set the stage for an already compromised negotiating position in which programs and services that ensure commitment to a fair start in life, access to opportunity, a life of dignity, safety, and well-being may suffer even more severe blows.
If you think our federal budget should reflect a commitment to giving every American a fair start in life, access to opportunity, a life of dignity, safety, and well-being then learn more about our #AmericaBelieves campaign and get involved today.