In recent months and years, JRLC and our friends have been working on a piece of legislation that packages together three recommendations from the Legislative Commission to End Poverty in Minnesota by 2020. Called the Family Economic Security Act (FESA), this bill would raise the minimum wage in Minnesota, expand child care supports to all working families who qualify, and beef up tax credits for working parents with children.
And now, my top five reasons why I think the Family Economic Security Act is the most important piece of legislation this session:
- It rewards work. By raising the minimum wage and expanding child care for working parents, the FESA creates a framework in which work actually pays. All three elements in this bill are crafted to help all families become more self-sufficient and be able to provide a stable, healthy environment for kids.
- It moves Minnesota families toward a living wage. At $7.25 per hour, the current Federal minimum wage (Minnesota's law is stuck at $6.15) doesn't even begin to cover all the expenses of a household with children -- let alone necessities like food, clothing, and shelter. The proposed increase to $9.50/hr doesn't come close to a living wage of $14/hr, but it does get us a whole lot closer.
- Child care is crucial to the success of all working parents. Right now, over 7,000 families are on the waiting list to receive child care in Minnesota. By the time many of them reach the front of the line, their children will have aged out of the program. Making affordable, quality childcare available to all parents in our state will be a huge step in expanding the economic stability of all families.
- It lowers and prevents toxic stress in the lives of children. Studies have shown that the stress of instability in the lives of young children (such as frequent moves, a lack of food, or emotional trauma) can drastically affect their brain development over time. By improving the means by which parents can help themselves -- through reasonable wages, tax credits, and child care -- the Family Economic Security Act can very literally have an impact on reducing the toxic stress affecting the brains of small children.
- The Family Economic Security Act is a clear solution that moves us toward ending poverty in Minnesota. So often, people speak of "Poverty" as a huge and nebulous problem, with complex causes and ill-defined solutions. While certainly this is the case, it is not as if we don't have any clues for how to improve the situation of our neighbors, our peers, our own selves. If passed, the policies in the Family Economic Security Act could reduce poverty in Minnesota by as much as 27%.
In a world full of hand-wringing on the subject of poverty, maybe it's time to put our hands to good use. Call your legislator. Tell them to support the Family Economic Security Act in 2013.