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Play it Again… No, Don’t: Ryan Poverty Plan Sticks to Theme of Consolidating Programs, No New Funding

Posted by Emily Wales, Fellow | Posted on: July 24, 2014 at 05:08 pm

Rep. Paul Ryan’s new plan [PDF] to fight poverty is out, and I’ll give him this: He’s staying the course. Not a course that works, mind you, but Ryan’s proposal sticks with a predictable path of – wait for it – block grants with little federal regulation, no new funding, elimination of some critical programs, and complaints that safety net programs discourage low-income families from working.

A new era? More like a blast from the past.

Ryan’s proposal states that it’s not about budget-cutting, and it “does not make judgments about an optimal level of spending.” Instead, he argues, this is about finding new ways to alleviate poverty. That’s hard to take seriously from someone who, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, has proposed past budgets that would deeply cut safety net programs. (Even the conservative National Review noted that Ryan’s budget proposals would go too far in cutting programs for low-income families: “But balancing the budget like Ryan did last time around . . . means cutting programs rather than fixing them or replacing them with wholly new ones that will better accomplish their goals.”) With this new poverty plan, Ryan seems to think you can have it both ways – draw up one plan to cut programs and another that ignores your plans to cut. Confusing, eh?

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Repeat Offender: NWLC Files Complaint Against Georgia School District for Ongoing Pregnancy Discrimination

Posted by Samantha Hall, Intern | Posted on: July 24, 2014 at 11:37 am

Today, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) filed a complaint against Georgia’s Washington-Wilkes Comprehensive High School (WWCHS) and Wilkes County Schools for violating Title IX, the federal civil rights law that protects students from sex discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination. The complaint alleges that WWCHS is violating Title IX in a number of ways, such as excluding pregnant students from receiving homebound instruction services made available to students with other medical conditions, and refusing to excuse pregnancy-related absences.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s regional Office for Civil Rights in Atlanta, details the discrimination experienced by Mikelia Seals, a WWCHS student who was pregnant during the 2013-2014 school year. Mikelia was seven months pregnant when her doctor told her she needed to go on bed rest because she was at risk of premature delivery. Mikelia and her mother then asked Mikelia’s guidance counselor for homebound instruction. The guidance counselor told Mikelia that WWCHS doesn’t provide homebound instruction services (not true). So Mikelia did the best she could with the work she got from her individual teachers – that is, until the principal told her she would not get any credit for that work or for the semester because she had exceeded the allowable number of unexcused absences. She never had the chance to finish the semester and never received a report card. The new school year starts in a couple of weeks and she is worried that she will not be able to graduate in Spring 2015 as scheduled. She hopes to go to nursing school after she graduates.

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5 Years Too Long: Why It's Time to Raise the Federal Minimum Wage

Posted by Therese Salazar, Intern | Posted on: July 24, 2014 at 11:29 am

The last time the federal minimum wage went up was on July 24, 2009, when it reached its current level of $7.25 per hour. It might seem like regular adjustments would be the norm (ever heard of inflation, anyone?), but amazingly, legislation to raise the minimum wage has been passed only three times in the past 30 years. And even when those rare increases happen, the minimum wage steadily loses its purchasing power since it is not tied to inflation, leaving low-income workers struggling to make up the difference.

A lot has changed since American families last saw an increase in the federal minimum wage five years ago — from gas prices to college tuition — but  one thing has stayed the same: workers still deserve a meaningful raise that will help lift families out of poverty and keep up when the cost of living rises.  And this is an especially important issue for women, who make up about two-thirds of minimum wage workers. 

In honor of the 5-year anniversary, we debunk 5 minimum wage myths with the facts.

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Can Your Family Live on the Minimum Wage? Mine Can't.

Posted by Julie Vogtman, Senior Counsel | Posted on: July 24, 2014 at 11:18 am

Today is July 24th – five years to the day since the federal minimum wage last went up. At $7.25 per hour, the current minimum wage typically leaves a full-time worker with just $77 per week to spend after accounting for housing costs and taxes. To shed light on what that kind of income really means for working families, advocates across the country, including NWLC, are promoting the “Live the Wage” challenge. From today through July 30, participants in the challenge will attempt to live on a minimum wage budget – just $77 to cover food, transportation, and other expenses for the entire week.

The Live the Wage challenge presents an important opportunity to grasp the daily struggles facing low-wage workers, and I hope huge numbers participate. But for me, I know taking the challenge means failure on the very first day. That’s because I’m a new mom, just recently back at work, and I have a staggering new expense in my weekly budget: child care.

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Workers Are Making Their Voices Heard in Support of The Schedules That Work Act!

Posted by Liz Watson, Senior Counsel and Director of Workplace Justice for Women | Posted on: July 23, 2014 at 03:54 pm

Yesterday, Representatives Miller and DeLauro and Senators Harkin and Warren introduced the Schedules That Work Act. This groundbreaking legislation would give all Americans a say in when they work and curb the most abusive scheduling practices in certain low-wage jobs. At a congressional briefing, workers from the restaurant, retail and fast food industries explained to a standing room only crowd what it’s like to have no clue what your schedule will be from one day to the next, and why we need the Schedules That Work Act.

Schedules That Work

Schedules That Work Act Press Conference –7.22.14. From Left to Right: Sandy Kossangba (ROC), Representative Rosa DeLauro, Melody Pabon (RAP), Sherry Hamilton-Elder (RWDSU), Tiffany Beroid (OW), Liz Watson (NWLC), Representative George Miller, and Mary Coleman (Wisconsin Jobs NOW).

Here’s what they said:

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House Set To Vote on Child Tax Credit Improvement* Act (*Improvement Not Included)

Posted by Susanna Birdsong, Fellow | Posted on: July 23, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Improvement. It’s a subjective word, I guess. Otherwise how does H.B. 4935 get to call itself the Child Tax Credit Improvement Act of 2014? The House is set to vote on the bill this week, and although it sounds like a winner, for millions of low-income working families it is exactly the opposite.

First, a little background. The Child Tax Credit was created in 1997 to help families meet the expenses of raising children. Since then, it has had a couple of edits (dare I say improvements?) that make it more valuable to lower-income families. In 2003, the credit value was raised from $500 to $1,000 per eligible child—but millions of working-poor families got little or no benefit from the credit until 2009. That year, the amount that a family must earn for the refundable portion of the credit to begin to phase in was lowered to $3,000. The 2009 provision meant that parents could receive 15 cents for every dollar they earn above $3,000 (up to the $1,000 per child limit) as a refund. For a mother with two children working full-time at the minimum wage and earning $14,500 a year, this boosted the value of the credit from less than $200 to $1,725.

Now that’s an improvement.

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Senate Poised to Vote on More Judges

Posted by Amy K. Matsui, Senior Counsel and Director of Women and the Courts | Posted on: July 23, 2014 at 11:27 am

Yesterday evening, the Senate confirmed three district court nominees (Andre Birotte to the Central District of California, Robin Rosenberg to the Southern District of Florida, and John deGravelles to the Middle District of Louisiana). These votes follow on the heels of the confirmation of Julie Carnes to a Georgia-based seat on the Eleventh Circuit, 94-0, on Monday evening. In addition, last night, Senate Majority Leader Reid filed cloture on the nomination of Pamela Harris to a Maryland seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senate is scheduled to vote tomorrow on the question of whether or not it will move to a confirmation vote on Harris’ nomination.

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The Next Effort to Gut Health Reform – A Tale of Two Decisions

Posted by Dania Palanker, Senior Counsel | Posted on: July 22, 2014 at 01:21 pm

Today, two circuit courts ruled on whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows individuals enrolled in health insurance through the Federally Facilitated Marketplace to receive federal subsidies to help with health insurance costs, specifically premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions.

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