Public Assets Institute, Montpelier This January, Vermont will have all new leadership at the State House. It’s the perfect time to zero in on three initiatives that are fundamental to Vermonters’ lives:
- Ensure that work pays and families meet their basic needs
- Make smart evidence-based investments
- Restore public confidence in state government
These are the recommendations in Public Assets’ recently released report, A Framework for Progress: Investing in Vermont’s people, infrastructure, and good government.
To help advance the first of the three, Public Assets joined a group of Vermont organizations this week to launch a campaign for paid family and medical leave for workers throughout the state.
We all need time off to care for a child, a parent, or ourselves from time to time, and we need to do it without losing income.
Times have changed. Increasingly, working parents are the norm, not a rarity. According to 2015 U.S. Census data, 3 out of 4 Vermont children live in families where all parents work. And workers without children get sick or need to take care of elderly parents. However, school schedules, employment policies, and cultural expectations are still based on the past, when most workers (men) had stay-at-home spouses (women). This is no longer reality. State policy needs to change to address the needs of today’s families.
The state has already taken steps to support working families. This year the Legislature passed and the governor signed paid sick leave into law, guaranteeing thousands of workers access to short-term leave for medical reasons. But there’s a long way to go to ensure the economic security of all of Vermont’s working families.
Public Assets’ recommendations would improve these families’ economic security and ensure that people working full-time can make ends meet. Taken together, these proposals begin to address the needs of working families.
Families whose incomes have been stagnant while their costs have gone up need a livable wage and a boost in the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit. Working parents, especially single mothers, can’t support their families without available, affordable child care. And workers who now fall over the “benefit cliffs,” where earning more makes them ineligible for critical public benefits, need to be able to bring their increased earnings home.
For these families, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, the ability to take care of themselves or a family member currently depends too much on luck. Vermont can be a family-friendly state by enacting policies that help working families. Paid family and medical leave is a good step in that direction.