The Fireman Foundation funded the reports below by Mass. Budget and Policy Center to further dialogue around state policies pertaining to workforce development for low-income families. Please read on!
How can the state help low-income parents succeed in the workforce?
Two decades ago Massachusetts and the US adopted reforms aimed at shifting our welfare programs towards supporting work. The goal was to help more low income parents to get and keep jobs that pay enough to support a family. To accomplish this, the state would shift funding away from cash assistance and towards important work supports like child care and job training. Since parents with young children can’t leave their kids home alone when they go to work, they need access to affordable early education and care for their kids. Those programs also play a very important role in preparing young children for success in school, and in life. Many low income parents also need access to job training and education programs to develop the skills they need to reach their potential. And those who can’t afford a car need access to reliable public transportation to be able to get to work.
While Massachusetts increased investments in some of these areas immediately after the welfare reforms of the mid-1990s, there have been deep cuts and chronic underfunding since then. Funding for child care is down 24% since 2001 and funding for the Employment Support Program, which provides job training and related supports for low income parents has been cut 78% since 2001. Our public transportation system has been chronically unable to make the investments needed to ensure reliability, as has become painfully clear in recent weeks.
Massachusetts has taken important steps to improve the wages and working conditions of low wage workers by significantly increasing the state minimum wage and by protecting the ability of workers who are too sick to work to be able to take a sick day without being fired. Our Commonwealth could build on that progress by providing low income parents with the job training, child care, and reliable transportation they need to succeed in the workforce.