For Immediate Release: March 29, 2012
The Rebuild America Act Would Help Build Strong Families, Stable Middle Class
Following is a statement by Alan W. Houseman, executive director of CLASP, regarding the Rebuild America Act introduced today by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate HELP Committee.
"The stock market is returning to levels last seen in 2008 before the financial meltdown. The unemployment rate is more than 2 percent lower than its highs in 2009. The country is inching forward in its economic recovery but the truth is that recovery is uneven and prosperity is not shared. Far too many low- and middle-income Americans continue to struggle in a slow job market and without access to the supports they need to get a hand-up. In recent years, middle-class families have faced eroding incomes, and in many cases have fallen into poverty as a result of the worst job market in generations. A middle-class existence is further and further out of reach for millions of low-income families in our country.
"The Rebuild America Act, introduced today by Sen. Harkin, recognizes that the health of a nation depends on a thriving middle class, which requires opportunities for low-income families to access the education, training, and supports that they need to enter the middle class.
"A stable middle class means stronger families, better outcomes for children and stronger fiscal health for the nation. The Rebuild America Act would offer opportunities such as education and training, child care assistance, and paid sick leave to ensure more ordinary families have the tools they need to access jobs have the chance to reach the middle class."
Specifically, CLASP supports the following provisions of the Rebuild America Act:
- The Act would provide funding for quality child care to alleviate the high costs of care for working families. For families with young children, child care costs comprise significant portions of household budgets, at times exceeding costs for rent or mortgage payments. Child Care that meets quality standards is out of reach for most families. In addition to expanding access to quality care, the Act would provide funding to support the training and education of the child care workforce and essential quality improvements.
- The Act includes the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers to earn up to seven days of paid sick time annually. Workers can use this time to stay home and get well when they are ill, to care for a sick family member, to obtain preventative or diagnostic treatment, or to seek help if they are victims of domestic violence without fear of losing income or their jobs.
- The Act includes a competitive grant program, Regional Partnerships for High Quality Jobs, to develop and improve career pathways and adult learning strategies that prepare individuals for existing or emerging employment opportunities. The bill's provisions prioritize services for individuals with low literacy levels and out-of-school and out-of-work youth, ages 16 to 24, without a high school diploma. Regional or state partnerships composed of employers, community colleges and other partners would participate in the competition, with expected priority given to partnerships in areas with high unemployment and poverty.