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Not Waiting Around: States and Businesses Take Action to Raise Workers’ Wages

In case you missed it, Kentucky State University interim president Raymond Burse announced this week that he’ll take a pay cut of $90,000 to subsidize raises for those workers on the university campus who make very low wages. The college president’s move will ensure that the university’s hourly workers make at least $10.25 per hour. Approximately 24 workers on the campus will see a raise, including some workers who had been making the current federal minimum wage of just $7.25. By absorbing the pay cut himself, Burse saved the institution from making a difficult decision like deducting funds from other university program areas, while guaranteeing that the hardworking employees of Kentucky State University receive a raise they deserve – and very much need. Read more »

Poised to Affirm Fairness in All Four States, the Sixth Circuit Takes Up Marriage Equality

Protection of basic individual rights has had a tough time as of late in the courts. Marriage equality, however, is a happy exception, sweeping through the courts with extraordinary unanimity. The Supreme Court started the trend last June in United States v. Windsor. In Windsor, the Court overturned as unconstitutional Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing marriages between same-sex couples. Since then, every federal court to decide the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans has found the state laws unconstitutional. Next up are the rights of same-sex couples in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee—the four states over which the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction—with five district court cases under review by that court.

In Tennessee, married same-sex couples are looking to have their validly-performed, out-of-state marriages recognized in their home state. In Ohio, one case is seeking to have valid out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples recognized for the purposes of death certificates, and the other case is seeking the same recognition rights for birth certificates. In Michigan and Kentucky, same-sex couples are seeking the right to marry in their states. In all cases, the district courts found the challenged marriage bans and marriage recognition bans unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment. Read more »

Cuts in Child Care Assistance Put Thousands of Kentucky Children at Risk

Starting on Monday, July 1st, Kentucky lowered the income eligibility limit for child care assistance from 150 percent to 100 percent of the federal poverty level. As these drastic cuts go into effect, 8,700 families with 14,300 children are estimated to lose help in paying for child care. The state had already stopped accepting new families into the program earlier this year. Paying for safe, much less high-quality, child care on their limited incomes will be an extraordinary challenge for these families who have lost or been denied help. Some parents will have no choice but to resort to less expensive, potentially less stable child care arrangements. Without reliable child care, low-income parent will have greater difficulties holding onto their jobs.

Catherine Kaiser, a Louisville parent interviewed by WFPL News, fears what she calls the “domino effect” that could result from the child care cuts. “When you lose your assistance program, you lose your job; when you lose your job, you lose your income. When you lose your income, you’ve lost all hope,” she said. Read more »

Several States Boost Early Care and Education Funding

A number of states have taken important steps forward this year to expand access to high-quality early learning programs, according to a new National Women's Law Center fact sheet. While some states' budgets are still being debated, at least sixteen have already increased funding for child care and early education, and at least another eight are considering proposals for additional funding. 

Progress was made in a wide spectrum of states, including both states already providing substantial support for early care and education as well as states that had not previously made significant investments in this area. Indiana and Mississippi, which had been among the ten states that did not fund prekindergarten programs, established new prekindergarten programs, with Indiana investing $2 million and Mississippi investing $3 million. Michigan increased funding for its existing prekindergarten program by $65 million (60 percent), which will be used to serve at least 10,000 more children. 

A few states acted to enable more families to receive help paying for child care. Maryland has reduced the number of children on the waiting list for child care assistance from over 17,000 in 2012 to just 76 a year later. North Dakota increased its income eligibility limit for child care assistance from 50 percent to 85 percent of state median income (the maximum allowed under federal law) and provided funding to raise reimbursement rates for child care providers and to support grants for child care facilities and other efforts to increase the supply and quality of care. 

However, the news is not all good. Two states significantly reduced families’ access to child care assistance, and two additional states are considering cuts to child care and early education programs. Read more »

Expanding Early Education in Minnesota and Missouri, Cutting Child Care in Kentucky

Minnesota and Missouri have joined Massachusetts in proposing new state investments in early childhood education and care. However, just as we were cheering those states, Kentucky announced damaging cuts to its child care assistance program, reminding us yet again that these programs and the low-income women and children they support are in a fragile position.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has proposed to provide $20 million over the 2014-2015 biennium to increase rates for child care providers serving families receiving child care assistance. He has also proposed (PDF) to provide $44 million to expand scholarships to enable low-income families to purchase high-quality early care and education for their children. Read more »

NWLC’s Weekly Roundup: January 16-20

Welcome to another weekly roundup! We’ve got a few quick hits today, including the possible future of some domestic violence shelters, recognition for an inspiring young scientist, good news in the health care world, and a few celebrations coming up. Read more »