Building an Agenda for Modernizing the Safety Net

Building Secure Retirement

Tobias Read
State Treasurer,

Mike Frerichs
State Treasurer,

Daniel Biss
Evanston, IL

Paid Family Leave

Bob Buckhorn
Tampa, FL

Jorge Elorza
Providence, RI

Elizabeth Brown
City Councilmember,
Columbus, OH

Paid Sick Leave

Aaron Ford
Senate Majority Leader,
Las Vegas, Nevada

Improving Nutrition

John O’Grady
County Commissioner,
Franklin County, OH

Building Secure Retirement

Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read, Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs, and Illinois Senator Daniel Biss are working to alleviate Americans’ worries about saving for retirement through efforts that give employers the choice to either provide qualified retirement savings options, or facilitate employees’ enrollment into a state program.

Making the Case: Why it’s important

Read this great op-ed by Treasurers Read and Frerichs to learn more about what they’re doing in their states and why expanding retirement is important both for American workers and for the American economy.

Expanding Paid Family Leave

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, and Columbus Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown are demonstrating the importance of investing in parental leave, recognizing that workplace policies haven’t kept up with the reality of the modern American family. In Tampa, city employees will receive eight weeks of paid leave for a child’s primary caregiver and two weeks for the secondary caregiver. Elorza’s proposed budget includes up to six weeks of paid parental leave for city employees to care for their newborn or adopted children. Brown has successfully championed giving city workers family leave, including partially-paid six weeks of parental leave and partially-paid four weeks of leave to care for a seriously ill family member. Employees receive 70 percent of their pay after the first two weeks off. As is the case in many workplaces today, Columbus’ only previous paid leave benefit was for birth mothers using short-term disability, while employees could take 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Making the Case: Why it’s important

While more workers have gained access to paid family leave recently, most remain without it, with only about 14 percent of workers covered by paid family leave policies in 2016. Access to paid leave after the birth of a new child offers a wide range of health benefits for mothers and children. Providing paid parental leave also improves the ability for an employer, including for government, to recruit and retain talent, decrease worker turnover, and boost productivity.

Ensuring Fair Sick Leave for All

Legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, which has passed the Senate, mandates paid sick leave in the private sector. The bill impacts businesses with 50 or more workers and requires at least 24 hours (three work days) of paid sick leave per year with full pay. Workers would be eligible after three months at their job and companies would need to provide it within a year of doing business in Nevada. If signed into law, Nevada would become the 8th state to modernize their safety net with this support for workers.

Making the Case: Why it’s important

A 2013 report found that “40% of private-sector workers in the United States do not have paid sick leave, and the disparity is more pronounced among those employed in low-wage jobs. Lack of paid sick leave can have substantial adverse consequences for public health, including the spread of infectious disease.”

Improving Access to Nutritious Foods

Franklin County, OH Commissioner John O’Grady has worked to fund better access to fresh produce, and better nutrition, for people on public assistance, giving participants an additional $10 (on top of regular benefits) to spend at farmer’s markets, where they can access fresh fruits and vegetables. A previous partnership with farmer’s markets ensures they can accept SNAP and EBT benefits.

Making the Case: Why it’s important

O’Grady and his colleagues have noted that “at some point this year more than 200,000 in Franklin County (one in five county residents) won’t have access to fresh food, either because of location or affordability.” They have also received support from local farmers who expect to sell tens of thousands of dollars of produce as a result of the county’s overall efforts. SNAP benefits are critical to many families to make ends meet, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found that 45% of SNAP recipients are children, about 9% are 60 or older, while more than 40% live in households with workers.

Accountability for Results

A review fromAuditor General Eugene DePasquale found opportunities for the major state agencies on the front lines of the opioid crisis to make better use of their resources. Recommendations include making treatment-center inspection information on the Drug and Alcohol Programs website easier to find and interpret, expanding effectiveness monitoring beyond just recidivism for all seven corrections treatment programs — only one does so now — and ensuring accuracy of data that Human Services uses to monitor its network of Centers of Excellence, which coordinate addiction treatment services.

DePasquale has also recognized that state efforts need federal support, such as through the proposed Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, which would require mail shipped through foreign postal services to be required to use the same electronic advanced data as private carriers to better screen for deadly synthetic drugs. The electronic data would include who and where it is coming from, who it’s addressed to, where it’s going and what’s in it before it enters the country.

Why It’s Important

DePasquale’s audit of the Pennsylvania Departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Human Services, and Corrections showed that “measuring effectiveness is complicated because each agency has a different definition of effectiveness.” In addition, where there are opportunities for progress, like at Centers of Excellence that the state created to coordinate and integrate behavioral and physical health services for people needing treatment and recovery, effectiveness will be limited if the state cannot fully evaluate the progress they make.