More needed to support low-wage adult workers

by Policy Matters Ohio on November 19th, 2014
For immediate release
Contact: Hannah Halbert, 614.221.4505
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Comments on Ohio’s Uniform Workforce Plan

The state uniform workforce plan announces 10 reforms and three goals for the Ohio workforce system: to help more Ohioans compete for quality, living-wage jobs with opportunity for career advancement, to help employers succeed and grow, and to provide job training in high-demand occupations that also results in work-place valued credentials. Helping more Ohioans gain marketable job skills and helping more people connect to decent work is a step in the right direction. But, as with most strategic plans, “the devil is in the details,” or rather in the implementation of the strategic vision. This draft plan falls in the waning months of the Workforce Investment Act. About six months after this draft plan is finalized, the rulebook will change. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) takes effect in July, with state plans due in March 2016. This draft plan will be in effect during a critical transition period and for that reason the plan should focus on reforms that set the stage for success under WIOA. To be better prepared for WIOA’s focus shift to low-income adults and youth with barriers to employment the state plan should do the following:

  1. Registration with Ohio Means Jobs should be optional, or at least include waivers and alternative equivalent services for those that have access barriers.

  2. The state should include workforce programs embedded in TANF and SNAP in their uniform strategic plan.

  3. The state plan should include higher education as a critical workforce partner.

  4. Ohio should eliminate the sequence of service requirement, and focus on connecting clients to the tools they need to compete for decent work.

Sanctions under WIOA are tough. Consistent failure in one program’s metrics will lead to a financial sanction at the state level. Planning the WIOA transition now will give Ohio a better chance to meet and exceed the new measures. But more importantly, WIOA-focused planning will help vulnerable populations gain access to quality employment and training services, improving the lives of individuals, the stability of families, the labor pool for employers, and ultimately, the vibrancy of our Ohio communities. Read our full comments at www.policymattersohio.org/workforce-plan.

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Policy Matters Ohio is a non-partisan, non-profit policy research institute,

on the web at www.policymattersohio.org.

Vet leaders: Honor veterans by enacting strong federal rules on payday lending

by Harlan Spector on November 10th, 2014

On the eve of a holiday designed to honor the men and women who have served and protected the country, the leaders of two Ohio Veterans Service Commissions are calling for federal policies that would help protect veterans from the payday lending debt trap. Federal rules are necessary since payday lenders sidestep the state law meant to regulate them while charging upwards of 400% APR.

“Payday lending continues to be a serious problem for a growing number of our clients,” said John Warrix, the assistant director of the Franklin County Veterans Service Commission, a county agency that provides advice and emergency financial assistance to veterans and active duty members.

“The payday lenders make lending too easy. They enable people to build up a debt that they can’t get out of. Many of our clients are involved in two or more payday lenders, making the cycle nearly impossible to break.”

Legislative efforts to rein in payday lending in Ohio spanned four years, beginning in 2006. The Short Term Lender Law with a 28% APR rate cap passed in 2008. The payday industry challenged the law in a referendum and lost in a landslide. Six years later, it’s business as usual for the exploitive industry. Lending under inappropriate statutes such as the Mortgage Loan Act, payday lenders continue to trap Ohioans in a cycle of debt with interest and fees that have climbed back into the triple digits.

Cuyahoga County VSC Director John Reiss sees many of his clients also caught in the debt trap. “We have many veterans who are struggling with the cycle,” he said. “Payday loans are designed so that once you get in, the ways out are extremely difficult.” 

Reiss also expressed frustration at how payday lenders target veterans and others on fixed low incomes. “They know exactly where the needy are. They put themselves in locations where people are struggling; where people are likely to be impulsive,” he said.

The number of veterans Warrix sees trapped in payday lending debt hasn’t changed since 2008, he said. “Once the payday lenders found the loopholes, they started popping right back up. We have clients who are wrapped up in four different loans at the same time.”

Payday loans are advertised as a way to meet a one-time need but are specifically designed to act like financial quicksand, forcing borrowers to take out loan, after loan, after loan at an average interest rate of nearly 400 percent. The vicious cycle of debt is not a side effect of payday lending, but rather the business model of payday lending – a debt trap by design.Three quarters of payday loan fees come from borrowers with 10 or more loans per year.

By 2007, so many troops had fallen into the debt trap that the Defense Department considered it a threat to military readiness and fought for protections that were eventually enacted in the Military Lending Act. This year, the Defense Department proposed broader rules to close gaps and provide more protections for active duty military.

“We need policies that prevent the debt trap among veterans as well, so that it doesn’t take five years to pay off a loan that was originally worth only a few hundred dollars,” Warrix said. 

Warrix and Reiss said they both support strong payday lending rules currently being considered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, including ability to repay standards like those that exist for mortgages and credit cards. “We went through this whole subprime lending meltdown a few years ago,” said Reiss. “You’d think we’d have learned our lesson about predatory lending.”

“After their service to our country, our veterans and their families deserve protection from financial predators,” Reiss said. “But why stop there? All Americans should be protected.”

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COHHIO, the Ohio Poverty Law Center and Ohio CASH, a project of Policy Matters Ohio, frequently work together and against predatory lending products and schemes.

Weatherize, Educate, Nominate, Vote: News from Policy Matters Ohio

by Harlan Spector on November 3rd, 2014

In this e-news: Home weatherization funding urgently needed; new research shows Medicaid expansion is working; job growth in Ohio continues to trail the nation; and a new report shows income taxes don’t drive income out of state.

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Policy Matters Ohio names Harlan Spector Communications Director

by Harlan Spector on November 3rd, 2014

Media veteran Harlan Spector to take over Policy Matters communications post. 

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Nominate Amy Hanauer for TED Talks

by Policy Matters Ohio on October 31st, 2014

TED talks are coming to Cleveland, and this November, you can nominate our very own Amy Hanauer to give the talk. Here’s how.

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Ohio’s Affluent are Big Beneficiaries of 2013-2014 Tax Changes

by Policy Matters Ohio on October 30th, 2014

State tax changes approved over the past two years have further tilted Ohio’s tax system in favor of the wealthiest.

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Boosting post-secondary and career success

by Policy Matters Ohio on October 22nd, 2014

Navigating the higher ed landscape in Ohio can be daunting.  Read this guide for pointers and resources to help chart your course.

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Medicaid expansion benefits Ohio

by Policy Matters Ohio on October 21st, 2014

Medicaid expansion in Ohio delivers better care, broadens access.  Ohioans see improved health outcomes, lower costs; providers get reliable pay for delivery; Ohio economy sees $2.5 billion boost  Policy Matters Ohio reports on progress in Ohio’s Medicaid Expansion, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzes problems in Indiana’s waiver program. 

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Weatherizing Homes of Ohio’s Low-Income Families

by Policy Matters Ohio on October 14th, 2014

Low income home weatherization pays big dividends for Ohio households – averaging over 20 percent home energy cost savings and returning $2.51 per dollar spent.  But the freeze and possible elimination of the clean energy standards threaten to squash investment by utility firms.

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Press Conference Call Advisory

by Policy Matters Ohio on October 9th, 2014

Big Impact of Weatherization Program Is Threatened

Policy Matters Ohio will hold a conference call for journalists on Tuesday, October 14 at 10:00 a.m. to discuss a new report that finds that Ohio’s Home Weatherization Assistance Program saves households over 20 percent in energy costs, reduces pollution, conserves energy, and creates jobs.  However, recent decisions by policymakers, particularly freezing the Clean Energy Standards, threaten this vital investment.

What: Press conference call

Who:  Lead author Amanda Woodrum, Researcher for Policy Matters Ohio,

           Dave Rinebolt of Ohio Partnership for Affordable Energy

           Mike Piepsny of Environmental Health Watch

When:  October 14, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.

Where: Call Number: 559-546-1000

              User code: 1005721#

After opening remarks, the panelists will take questions. The report, “Weatherizing Homes of Ohio’s Low-Income Families: Reduces pollution, cuts energy bills, creates jobs,” will be released on Tuesday, October 14 at 8:00 a.m.

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Policy Matters Ohio is a nonprofit, nonpartisan state policy research institute

with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.