Another day older with little hope of moving up the economic ladder, according to a report on the working poor issued by the Connecticut Association for Human Services. These are not your Ronald Reagan-inspired welfare queens sitting around on the dole, but rather hard working folks trying to get by in the richest state in the nation. A few ideas on how Connecticut can help.Reverand Bonita Grubbs (right), executive director of Christian Community Action in New Haven, speaks on a CAHS panel today. “There’s a trend across the country,” she said, “which is: ‘We don’t care about people who are poor. We don’t really care about those individuals. We’ve done enough for them.’”
The CAHS report generally focused on two categories of workers, author Judith Carroll told a packed hearing room today at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. First, there are those workers who, with assistance, could move up into higher paid jobs. Usually that advancement involves more education and training, so the state could help by removing the cap on adult education spending, expand English as a Second Language, along with financial aid for non-credit higher education courses. Second, there are the workers who will be remaining in those low wage jobs. One example are thousands of people over the years who have been trained to be certified nurses assistants, explained Dr. Alice Pritchard, executive director of the Connecticut Women’s Legal and Education Fund. “There is no movement from that job. You don’t graduate unless you go back to school,” Pritchard said. Because CNA certification requires so little education, in order to move up to being a licensed practicing nurse, many workers with very remedial math and reading skills quickly become frustrated. “They hit an enormous academic wall,” Pritchard said, and cannot proceed without intensive case management.If these workers are not able to move into higher paying jobs, one way to help them is through a change in tax policy. With a 20 percent state earned income tax credit, low income people can then receive one-fifth of the federal credit, even if they do not owe state income taxes. That’s more money to pay the bills.“What we need to do is highlight that this is not a support for passivity or lack of enterprise, but support for those who are working,” said Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney (D-New Haven) of the tax credit.House Majority Leader Chris Donovan (D-Meriden) urged people in the cities to organize and actively lobby legislators, lest the CAHS report fade away. “Reports that have legs get listened to,” Donovan said.