A New Safety Net For The Least Fortunate
Oct 20, 2008
There has been much discussion the past few weeks in Washington about Wall Street and Main Street. Since Congress passed the large economic rescue bill, there has been more talk about the need to provide economic relief for the middle class. But there has been little discussion about how any economic relief package would help the most disadvantaged.
An op-ed in the Washington Post yesterday, highlighted the need to consider the country's most vulnerable during the current economic downturn. It is the least skilled, low wage laborers who are most vulnerable to job loss and unemployment. Moreover, the country's safety net is limited and fails to protect many disadvantaged youth, adults, and families:
...As welfare has become far more restrictive, perhaps a fourth of all low-income single mothers are "disconnected" from both work and welfare during any given year. That fraction would rise during a serious recession, with many of their jobs disappearing while welfare is less available than before. Public assistance would also be very limited for other low-earning groups, including legal immigrants, when their jobs disappear in the downturn.
Disadvantaged young people, who are much more likely to drop out of high school and less likely to attend or finish college than those from families with higher incomes, will face severe employment challenges in a much weaker job market."
Authors Mark Greenberg, Peter Edelman and Harry Holzer recommend improvements to the country s safety net so that more workers and families receive the help they need, through expansions to the food stamp and unemployment insurance programs and the earned-income tax credit.
In addition to these critical supports, we know that workers will need affordable child care to find and retain employment, and now, more than ever, child care costs are squeezing household budgets. State and federal governments should consider investments in child care assistance as another means of supporting low-income workers in a weak economy. Ultimately, an improved, modernized safety net should consider the needs of disadvantaged children, youth, and adults by improving access to a wide-range of necessary supports and with a focus on prevention, rather than crisis-driven interventions.