Paving a Pathway to Prosperity: Working People


Providing Income to Unemployed Workers

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance—enacted by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act—helped people unable to work due to the pandemic. This included self-employed workers, those seeking part-time employment, or people who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for regular unemployment benefits. At the pandemic’s peak, 1 in 4 workers received this assistance. 

Strengthening Tax Credits for Workers 

2021’s temporary expansion of the earned income tax credit (EITC) nearly tripled the maximum benefit for workers without children in the home, raising it from $543 to $1,502 and making it available for the first time to workers younger than 24. This expansion supported over 17 million people who work for low pay. 

Congress also expanded the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and made fit fully refundable in 2021. The expanded credit kept nearly 3 million children out of poverty, especially benefiting families earning too little to receive the full CTC previously. 

Ending Worksite Raids 

In October 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ended its practice of worksite raids, which have devastating consequences for families, workers’ rights, and local communities. DHS was also required to work with the U.S. Department of Labor on policies that encourage immigrant workers to collaborate with law enforcement in holding unscrupulous employers accountable—to include providing relief to workers who come forward—and prevent employers from misusing the E-verify program to exploit immigrant workers. 

Passing Emergency Paid Family and Medical Leave 

In 2020, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, implementing the first national requirement for paid family and medical leave and paid sick days. These provisions were extremely effective in combatting COVID-19, reducing cases by 400 or more per state per day. Policymakers allowed both provisions to expire in December 2020.  

Using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, states and municipalities created, expanded, or supported paid sick leave, paid family leave, and paid medical leave programs. 

What’s Next?

Make the CTC & EITC Expansion Permanent 

The expanded CTC led to an unprecedented decline in child poverty. However, Congress didn’t extend it in 2022, and immigrant children without Social Security numbers remain ineligible for this proven poverty-fighting tool. Congress should make the EITC and the CTC expansions permanent. The CTC should include: 

  • full-refundability so families with the lowest incomes can access it,  
  • monthly payments, and  
  • access to all taxpayers, regardless of immigration status. 

Pass the Care Agenda 

While a historic step, the 2020 paid family and medical leave and sick leave provisions were temporary and flawed. Millions of workers in low-wage industries were either excluded by employer carve-outs or unaware of the program. Congress must pass the full care agenda to support working families. This includes: 

  • universal paid family and medical leave and sick leave, 
  • robust investments in child care, and 
  • home care for seniors and people with disabilities. 

Care jobs, which have long been underpaid and undervalued, have historically been held by women—and disproportionately by women of color. Congress must invest in child care and home care to transform care jobs into family-sustaining jobs—while also establishing a national paid-leave program to help more working people care for loved ones. 

Strengthen Collective Bargaining & Workers’ Rights 

Pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act to protect workers’ rights and hold employers accountable for violations of labor law. 

Pass the bipartisan Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act to ensure pregnant workers can prioritize their health and maintain their financial security at a critical time. 

Ensure Access to Good Jobs for All 

Make good on the infrastructure and climate job creation investments in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act by ensuring these bills support diverse workers with the resources needed to enter and succeed in these sectors and occupations. 

Fully fund President Biden’s Civilian Climate Corps and ensure pathways to these quality jobs through equitable subsidized employment and pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs. 

Codify and fully fund the Reentry Employment Opportunities Program to meet the scope and scale of mass incarceration and correctional control. 

Create a Safe Pathway to Citizenship 

Congress must pass a pathway to citizenship for Deferred Access for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, farmworkers, and other undocumented immigrants. Our workforce and economy depend on immigrants, many of whom filled essential roles during the pandemic and beyond.