By Melissa Young, Director, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity and Chris Warland, Associate Director for Field Building, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
At Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity, our policy goals and program recommendations are based on research, evidence, and data—but they are also driven by values rooted in human rights and the dignity of all people. These are the values that have guided our work in the employment field since our inception. This Labor Day, we are reflecting on our commitments and looking forward to help establish these values and principles throughout the nation for the benefit of every person who wants to work.
By Hilary Gawrilow, Federal Policy Director, Corporation for Supportive Housing and Caitlin C. Schnur, Coordinator, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
Affordable rental housing is in short supply and the availability of subsidies to assist extremely low-income renters has not changed in over a decade. Only one out of four eligible households actually receives federal rental assistance. Various policy proposals have been put forth to increase the turnover in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s assisted housing stock, including imposing work requirements and time limits.
Time limits and work requirements for families receiving housing assistance through HUD will undo years of progress and push people back into poverty. Rather than cutting off assistance, efforts would be better spent ensuring that those struggling to find a job and pay rent have access to robust workforce development services through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) that meet their employment needs and interests.
By David T. Applegate, Research and Policy Assistant, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
In recent months, mental illness and its repercussions have received an increasing amount of attention. This is in large part due to startling and public tragedies such as Robin Williams’ death and the spate of horrific mass shootings across the country. While these events deservedly garner a rush of headlines and national attention, it’s important to remember that millions of Americans struggle with the day-to-day impacts of mental illness. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that upwards of twenty percent of Americans suffer from some form of mental illness and 10 million of these individuals have a “serious mental illness.”
For many of these individuals, having a serious mental health condition acts a significant barrier to employment and economic well-being. This is especially true for already-vulnerable individuals, including people experiencing homelessness and people returning home from incarceration. At Heartland’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity, we believe that every person deserves the opportunity to work and support themselves and their families. In recognition of World Mental Health Day on October 10 and Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), the National Initiatives team is highlighting why it’s critical to address the employment needs of people with mental illness and offers some strategies for doing so.
Innovations in Child Support Policy: 3 Ways to Increase Employment + Economic Opportunity for Noncustodial Parents
By James Jones, B.MORE Initiative Coordinator, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
In 1995, President William “Bill” Clinton proclaimed August National Child Support Awareness Month. The goal was to raise awareness about the critical role child support plays in the lives of millions of American children. Clinton was responding to a social problem that appeared to be on the rise. In the mid-nineties, there was a growing percentage of single parent households in America and children in those households had a high chance of suffering from poverty. Today, almost two decades later, the child support program serves half of all poor children in the country and 17 million children in total.
While many noncustodial parents want to be involved with their children, many also 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 steady income is a major barrier to fulfilling parental obligations. At the same time, child support payments represent a significant portion of the income of families living in poverty. Oftentimes, these payments are responsible for keeping children out of extreme poverty.
The National Initiatives on Poverty and Economic Opportunity team is focused on developing and expanding sustainable policy solutions that benefit children and increase employment and economic opportunities for low-income noncustodial parents. To that end, this July we led a strategic policy/advocacy planning and campaign development summit with our partners at Connections to Success (CtS) in Missouri and Kansas. Working with Connections’ leadership and program staff, we equipped them to identify and advance child support policies in Missouri that could better support low-income, noncustodial fathers’ efforts to access employment opportunities, support their children, and advance in the labor market. Drawing from our training with CtS, in this blog we’re highlighting three child support policy innovations that would increase employment and economic opportunity for low-income parents.