Policy Matters Blog

A rousing forum, a hollow tax giveaway, an unhealthy proposal: News from Policy Matters

by Policy Matters Ohio on August 17, 2016
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Poverty forum – Panelists from diverse backgrounds and an enthusiastic audience gathered July 18 to kick off the Republican National Convention with a conversation about poverty at Cleveland State University. Policy Matters, partnered with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity and CSU to talk about how federal policy can create opportunity and provide pathways out of poverty. The event drew about 200 people, including terrific speakers John Corlett, Colleen Cotter, Baldemar Velasquez, Ronnie Dunn, Jimmy Kemp and Jim McLaughlin. Our Executive Director, Amy Hanauer, moderated the panel, along with CNN political editor Juana Summers. Check out Spotlight’s recap of the Cleveland forum and a similar forum during the DNC in Philadelphia. Busy week — During that week of policy focus, we also had Zach Schiller speak at the Cleveland Public Library about who’s been left out in Cleveland, Daniel Ortiz be part of a panel on what women want from public policy (Amy, Amanda, Cynthia, Hannah, Kalitha and Wendy all gave him ideas!), Amy moderate a talk at Transformer Station on the intersection of art and politics, and Amy and Daniel each participate in a “dialogue den” organized by artists. (read more)

Sales tax holiday, other new tax breaks to cost Ohio $43 million

by Policy Matters Ohio on August 5, 2016
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Ohio’s budget office recently released new estimates of how much revenue the state will take in this fiscal year and they were down. One cause: A set of new tax breaks approved by the General Assembly in the past year. Altogether, the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) estimated, they’ll cost $43 million this year. That’s $43 million that instead could go into allowing more kids to go to preschool, cutting the cost of college tuition, or helping our inadequately supported public transit systems serve more riders, among Ohio’s many needs. What’s in this bundle of breaks? Most costly is the sales-tax holiday Ohioans will get this weekend, whose cost is pegged at $17.7 million. While the ability to buy back-to-school items without paying sales tax may seem like a good deal, it’s a poorly targeted policy that isn’t the best way to reduce a tax that falls more heavily on lower-income Ohioans. (read more)

What’s Ohio doing about hunger? Making it harder to put food on the table

by Policy Matters Ohio on July 27, 2016
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Ohio is a state where too many people are hungry. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ohio has the seventh-highest rate of food insecurity in the country, with almost 17 percent of Ohioans classified as “food insecure,” or having trouble putting food on the table. When it comes to the designation of “very low food security,” which represents having to skip meals because of inability to pay for them, Ohio does even worse, with only Arkansas and Missouri topping Ohio’s 7.5 percent rate. One of the main tools available to combat food insecurity in Ohio is the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a 2.5 billion dollar enterprise that serves more than 1.6 million Ohioans every month. SNAP is a federal program that is administered by state governments, so the state of Ohio has ample oversight of the program. (read more)

Our Report to the Community

by Policy Matters Ohio on July 26, 2016
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When employees face assaults on their rights at work, they can count on Policy Matters Ohio. When young parents need help affording childcare so they can keep a job, they rely on Policy Matters. When citizens want to understand how tax giveaways benefit the 1 percent and leave out schools, public transit and communities, they turn to Policy Matters. Policy Matters has your back, fighting for policies to make our communities sustainable, give our families opportunities, and create an Ohio that works for all of us, not just the few. We win policies that create green jobs, put more money in the wallets of working families, and give Ohio’s next generation access to education from early childhood through adulthood. With your support, we had a great 2015. (read more)

Legislature’s attempt to undermine Medicaid not healthy for Ohio

by Policy Matters Ohio on July 21, 2016
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The Ohio Department of Medicaid is asking the federal government for permission to change Ohio’s Medicaid program in ways that will make it far less effective. Medicaid provides health care to those who can’t afford health insurance. It is our largest insurer, covering a quarter of Ohioans. The new program is called the “Healthy Ohio” plan, even though it will make Ohioans less healthy. The plan is so problematic that 99 percent of the 956 comments on the program raised concerns. Under it, the state would impose premiums and higher co-pays on Medicaid enrollees. Enrollees would be given a form of health savings account modeled on plans used by high-income employees of large corporations. People could be kicked out for non-payment and locked out until they pay the debt. (read more)

A dubious tax break for Amazon

by Policy Matters Ohio on July 6, 2016
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Ohio is giving Amazon.com a tax incentive worth $270,000 over six years for locating a new sorting center in Twinsburg. The retailer is expanding its distribution facilities all over the country – including two much larger warehouses in central Ohio – to be able to deliver products more quickly. According to outside reports, the company has opened numerous sorting centers, including one in Pittsburgh and another outside Detroit. It appears that the new Twinsburg center will serve the Cleveland market. If as a result the facility could not have been located outside the state of Ohio, the award of such an incentive by the Tax Credit Authority is unnecessary and inappropriate. The project is expected to create the equivalent of 150 full-time jobs (10 full-time positions and 300 part-time ones, according to the Twinsburg Bulletin) and an annual payroll of $4.056 million, or average hourly pay of $13 an hour. (read more)

The state of public transit is nothing to celebrate

by Policy Matters Ohio on July 1, 2016
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Hundreds of thousands of people who trekked downtown for the spirited Cavaliers NBA Championship celebration last week were encouraged to take the RTA. Many did, and the public transit system was quickly overwhelmed. Lines to catch the Rapid Transit stretched the length of eight football fields. When the celebration ended, RTA users struggled to get home. At Tower City, people waited for hours for a train (see photo). A line of buses stretched a half-mile on Veteran’s Memorial Bridge. While our transit system is not designed to handle such a crush of people in a short period of time, the problems highlight shortcomings of our grossly underfunded public transit system. Ohio is the seventh most populous state with the 14th highest public transit ridership rates, yet we rank 47th in public transportation funding. (read more)

Guest Blogger: This Fathers’ Day, support working fathers through the EITC

by Policy Matters Ohio on June 18, 2016
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As a father, I work hard to take care of my child. Even though I am not married to his mother, I’m still an important part of his life. I respect and love his mother, provide financial support, make sure his homework gets done, cheer from the sidelines at his basketball and baseball games, and give him sound advice when he faces challenges. As a fatherhood practitioner for over 20 years I’ve observed and worked with thousands of fathers who display the same passion and commitment to their children. As Father’s Day approaches, I can’t help thinking about low-income working fathers struggling to support their kids financially. A large majority of the fathers I’ve worked with are noncustodial parents. Like me, they provide financial and emotional support for their children, but they have difficulty making ends meet. (read more)

Ohio extends a lifeline to foster kids

by Policy Matters Ohio on June 14, 2016
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As our state legislators broke for summer recess, they did good by aligning Ohio with dozens of other states that have extended services to foster kids until age 21. House Bill 50 provides for housing, educational and other assistance for the more than 1,000 Ohioans a year who age out of the system at 18. The services until age 21 also apply to kids adopted after age 16. In a powerful op-ed published last year, former Policy Matters research intern Brant Duda detailed the many risks faced by 18 year olds aging out of the foster system: Many go from foster care to homelessness and prison. Half don’t finish high school or earn an equivalency degree. Brant, a child-welfare advocate who pushed for the bill, knows the perils of being on your own at 18 with no supports. (read more)

Policy Matters op-ed: Taking care of the caretakers

by Policy Matters Ohio on June 6, 2016
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New federal labor rules aim to ensure home-care workers are paid fairly, but Ohio can do more to make sure the workers receive the wage and hour protections they deserve, our Wendy Patton writes in an op-ed on Cleveland.com. Society increasingly depends on home-care workers to help disabled and elderly loved ones. It’s one of the fastest-growing jobs, and a demanding one. Yet few states pay a living wage for home-care workers, Wendy writes. “Until the new rules were put in place, many states did not even pay them minimum wage.” The new rules protect home-care workers with a wage floor, time sheets and overtime pay – steps that will help stabilize the workforce and improve quality of care, she said. (read more)