Workers in the United States Deserve a Raise

By Yuqi Wang, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

Millions of workers and their families are living in poverty despite being employed and working back-breaking hours. This is largely because the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 for the last six years, while the cost of living, food, education, and health care have continued to soar.

Worse, the minimum wage for tipped workers has been frozen at $2.13 for more than a quarter of a century. It’s clearly time to raise the minimum wage—workers deserve a better standard of living that doesn’t force them to struggle to cover standard necessities.

The “Raise the Wage Act” introduced yesterday by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Representatives Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) would go a long way toward strengthening middle-class families by raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024, and gradually increasing the tipped minimum wage each year. This legislation would help lift full-time workers out of poverty, reduce their need for public benefits, and increase their ability to afford basic living costs such as food, visits to the doctor, and home repairs.

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Access to Small-Dollar Credit Leads to Immigrant Financial Inclusion

By Sabrina Terry, Senior Strategist, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

The size of the U.S. immigrant population has grown significantly over the past 40 years, from 4.7 percent of the total population in 1970 to 13.5 percent in 2015. Of the 43 million immigrants living in the United States in 2015, 45 percent (19.5 million) were Latino. The hard work and ingenuity of the immigrant community has produced many important contributions; for example: the foreign-born labor force participation rate (65.2 percent) exceeds that of native-born workers (62.2 percent); immigrants are more than twice as likely to start a business as native-born citizens; and foreign-born Latinos who have become naturalized citizens vote at higher rates than native-born Latinos.

Yet there are also areas where immigrants lag behind their native peers, and targeted interventions are needed to help people fully integrate into American society. One such area is financial inclusion, the ability to access and utilize affordable financial services and products, which is essential to building a financial identity, assets, and wealth in this country. Many Latino immigrants lack knowledge of how to navigate the U.S. financial system. In addition, immigrants tend to have unique financial backgrounds—uneven income streams or cash income, less likely to be banked, and more likely to have thin or no credit histories.

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Trump’s Budget: A Slash-and-Burn Approach that Will Hurt Americans

Today the president released his first full budget proposal for the fiscal year 2018, and it’s as bad as we expected. Included in the plan are drastic cuts to many of the most successful assistance programs that have helped working and middle-class families move ahead during tough economic times. It would cut $1.7 trillion in funding that provides a lifeline to millions of Americans, and it would gut key programs that help families afford food, housing, and health care.

A budget is a moral document that should reflect our values. The Trump Budget is an assault on children and working families.

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The Trump Budget: Padding the Wallets of the Wealthy at Your Expense

By Amelia Collins, Policy Analyst, NCLR

Photo: peasap

Next Tuesday, the Trump administration is expected to release its full fiscal year 2018 (FY18) budget request, which will be a blueprint for funding levels for federal programs. Many of those programs, like nutrition assistance for families, affordable housing initiatives, early childhood education opportunities, and Medicaid and Social Security, help millions of Americans.

If the “skinny budget” Trump released in March is any indication, the full Trump budget will gut programs that provide basic living standards for millions of low-income Americans to pay for tax cuts for millionaires, to increase defense spending, and to ramp up immigration enforcement by funding an unnecessary wall and a deportation force.

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Congress Could Jeopardize Retirement Security for Millions

By Marisabel Torres, Senior Policy Analyst, Wealth-Building Policy Project, NCLR

Photo: http://401kcalculator.org

An upcoming vote in the Senate will determine whether states can help their residents prepare for a time that all workers should have the right to enjoy: retirement. While that seems like a goal Congress should support, the House and Senate already voted to block the Department of Labor (DOL)’s rule allowing cities to establish their own retirement plans. Now, they’re looking to put state plans in jeopardy with a vote on S.J. Res 32.

Many workers recognize that pensions, which used to be a common employee benefit in supporting a robust retirement, are not a guarantee in today’s labor market. And increasingly, neither are employer-sponsored retirement plans like a 401k. Currently, more than 45 percent of working-age households in the United States do not have access to a retirement savings plan through their employer. For Latinos, 60 percent do not have access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan. The city and state plans proposed would provide auto-enrollment Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) for private sector workers who tend to be lower-income, and don’t have access to such benefits through their employers. This would also benefit employees of small businesses, where 50 percent of employers don’t offer retirement plans. Workers who participate are automatically opted in to a retirement savings account that takes out a predetermined amount from their monthly paychecks and saves it in an IRA. Workers also have the option to opt out at any time.

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