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Community Advocates Public Policy Institute was proud to host U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Senator Cory Booker as they unveiled The Stronger Way Act on Friday.
The senators’ legislation aims to reward work and increase incomes by reforming taxes and creating a new partnership to support local jobs programs.
Speaking to a full room of local anti-poverty advocates, policy makers, clergy, and students, Baldwin said, “Too many people are being left behind by Washington, when tax reform should help them get ahead. I believe tax reform should reward the dignity of work, raise incomes for working families, let them keep more of what they earn, and help small businesses create jobs.”
Booker said the economy has fundamentally changed since the previous generation was in the workforce, making it more difficult for an average worker to get ahead in today’s economy.
“We have a different type of economy that now is benefiting those who are extraordinarily wealthy and making it harder and harder for folks who are working harder and harder to make ends meet,” Booker said. “There are literally tens of millions of Americans who work full-time jobs and cannot make ends meet. They find themselves with more month at the end of their money than money at the end of their month.”
The Stronger Way Act is rooted in PPI’s Working Our Way Out of Poverty policy package, which the Urban Institute found could cut poverty by 50% or more.
“We appreciate working with [Senator Baldwin] on this legislation and making our made-in-Wisconsin ideas come to the national stage,” said Community Advocates CEO Andi Elliott.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without the partnership of Community Advocates and their strong record over many decades,” Baldwin said.
A Strong Emphasis on Work
David Riemer, Senior Fellow at PPI and a primary researcher on the Working Our Way Out of Poverty package, noted that the EITC has always had bipartisan support and was championed by Republican Ronald Reagan.
The Stronger Way Act “is the perfect instrument for bipartisan agreement,” Riemer said. “Its strong emphasis on work – honoring the dignity of work, encouraging work, and making work pay – make it ideal for bipartisan inclusion in any tax reform bill that Congress adopts.”
The Stronger Way Act would reform the Earned Income Tax Credit for working families with children as well as for workers without dependent children; strengthen the Child Tax Credit; and commit to making Transitional Jobs available by building a new federal partnership with state and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations.
‘There’s a Lot of People Like Me’
Kimberly Diamante of Kenosha explained how the EITC helped her when she was laid off from her full-time job, then went back to school to become a registered nurse. She worked as a child care provider and picked up other jobs while she continued her studies and raised her three children as a single mom. Although she was employed, she piled up debt from her investment in her education.
“The Earned Income Tax Credit allowed for my family to have somewhat of a refresh each year and start to pay down this debt,” Diamante said. “Without the EITC, my return would have been substantially less, probably half.”
She said that without the EITC, she would have lost her house and could have been financially ruined.
“Today I stand before you as a registered nurse with a career that I am truly passionate about,” Diamante said.
PPI convenes the Milwaukee Transitional Jobs Collaborative and has championed transitional jobs as a way to help remove barriers to work for those who are entering or re-entering the workforce.
After difficulty getting results from his job applications, Willie Bryant said the Transitional Jobs program gave him a foot in the door of a new job so that he could prove himself to an employer.
“At the end of the program, the company I was working for, who I’m still working for, said, ‘We’re going to hire him. He’s doing a great job.’ And that was ten years ago,” he said.
He’s worked in a number of positions at Hunger Task Force and now is a driver.
“I really do love my job,” Bryant said.
Bryant said expanding the Transitional Jobs program would help a lot of people who aren’t having any luck finding work.
“I think this should be pushed through because there’s a lot of people like me across the country probably that can do the work and just want to work but they’re unable to get their foot in the door,” he said.
Couldn’t attend Baldwin and Booker’s announcement? You can find the video on PPI’s Facebook page.
Photo credit: Robyn Vining
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