March 2006 News from Policy Matters Ohio: Wages, Benefits, Inequality

- March 20, 2006

We’re settling in –
Our Cleveland office has a new address and phone numbers:
3631 Perkins Avenue Suite 4C-East
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
(216) 361-9801 voice (216) 361-9810 fax

Who needs a raise? – For 68 years the minimum wage has been an important part of an economy that works for all. Recently, the federal government has allowed the minimum wage to wither in value. It is now lower, in real terms, than at any other point in more than fifty years.  This new study examines a proposed initiative to raise the Ohio minimum wage to $6.85 an hour by 2007 with annual cost-of-living-adjustments thereafter. We find that the policy would bring us in line with economically vibrant states, benefit 719,000 workers, reduce poverty, ensure that inflation does not eat away low-wage workers’ paychecks and send a message that Ohio values its working families.

Ohio Could See Job Growth, Cleaner Energy, by Exploring Creative Policies –
Working with the Apollo Alliance, Policy Matters released a groundbreaking new report describing successful state-based clean energy solutions. New Energy for the States chronicles scores of proven clean energy solutions that are working in states across America. From clean power sources to fuel efficiency to smart growth, the new report highlights the best clean energy policies our states have enacted. Go here to read the report.

Coming Up: Inequality Matters: two chances to hear about the growing economic divide – and how to fix it – Join us on Monday April 10 from 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. at Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Urban Affairs on 1717 Euclid; or at 8 p.m. that evening at Mac’s Backs ~ Books on Coventry, 1820 Coventry Rd in Cleveland Heights. Both events will feature discussion of the new book Inequality Matters, which exposes the growing concentration of wealth and suggests remedies. Miles Rapoport, President of Demos and James Lardner, Senior Fellow at Demos will speak at both events, and the CSU forum will also feature Mittie Olion Chandler, Associate Professor and Director, Urban Child Research Center, Levin College of Urban Affairs.  Our own Pam Rosado will moderate both discussions.  Both events are free; registration is encouraged at CSU.  

Credit Where It’s Due: The Earned Income Tax Credit in Ohio – In 2003, more than 769,000 Ohio families received the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a refundable tax credit for workers in families that make less than $37,263. The average EITC in Ohio was $1,720, bringing more than $1.3 billion into Ohio communities. However, more than 65% of Ohioans receiving the EITC (500,000 families) went to a paid preparer and more than 60% of those families bought high-interest, refund-anticipation loans (RALs), costing Ohio families more than $100 million. This report details how an Ohio EITC credit and better regulation of loans would further help families receive their full refunds.

Public Benefits at Ohio Employers: An Initial Analysis – The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services issued a report on February 24 itemizing how many employees and their families use public benefits at 40 Ohio employers that appeared most frequently in the department’s data. Policy Matters, which had sought such data, reviews some highlights, finding that the state is paying about $90 million a year to cover Medicaid costs for these 40 employers, and that roughly seven percent of Wal-Mart employees – and even more of their children – have to rely on Medicaid. It’s important that the state help working families access basic needs, but what responsibilities do employers have? Read more here.

Revised Figures Show Somewhat Better Job Growth in 2005, But a Recent Lag – Revised figures from the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services show that Ohio added 29,300 jobs during 2005, a greater number than shown previously. Unfortunately, such gains did not continue in December and January. Manufacturing employment, the source of most of the state’s job losses during the decade, has failed to gain traction. Read more on our JobWatch page.

That’s all!
The Policy Matters Ohio Team 

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