Read the full analysis of the Ohio budget through a gender lens on the Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network’s website.Ohio’s new two-year state operating budget brought numerous improvements for the livelihood of women, but that’s not to say there weren’t plenty of drawbacks and lack of action on key issues as well.
Progress was made to improve the quality of childcare in Ohio. But there’s more work to be done.The new state budget allocates $198 million to improve the quality of Ohio’s publicly funded childcare system. This increase in funding will allow improvements in ensuring that workers within the childcare sector are paid fair wages, and will also help to facilitate professional development and facility improvements. Where the budget falls short is allocating resources to increase the access and affordability of childcare. By increasing the accessibility of childcare, children would enter school well prepared, and parents would have the opportunity to participate in the workforce. While the DeWine Administration stated that increasing eligibility for childcare was a policy priority, ultimately no funds were allocated to support this endeavor.
After attempts to restrict access to Medicaid via the inclusion of the “Healthy Ohio” Program in the budget, Medicaid services were ultimately left unharmed.The provision of the so-called Healthy Ohio Program would have required premiums to access Medicaid, which would have had crucial implications on women, who comprise more than half of Ohio’s Medicaid population. Medicaid has long been a lifeline for women, and the legislature’s decision to ultimately remove the “Healthy Ohio” language was crucial to protect access to the program.
Progress was made towards addressing wage theft, an issue that faces many working-class Ohioans, particularly women and people of color working in low-wage jobs.When workers are paid less than they were contractually promised, it is known as wage theft. Whether it be through violation of minimum-wage laws, not getting paid overtime, or forcing an employee to work off-the-clock, Ohio clocks in with the second-highest amount of wage theft among the ten largest states. Additional funding was allocated to the Ohio Bureau of Wage and Hour to help address this issue.
The state budget also codified some policies that we expect to negatively impact Ohio women and working-class families.By continuing to support a business tax cut known by many public service advocates as the “L.L.C. loophole,” Ohio loses out on about $528 million per year or $1.1 billion for the duration of every state operating budget where it remains intact. There is little evidence to suggest that this tax break for L.L.C.s has created any significant number of new jobs in the state. Ohio is missing out on billions of dollars of revenue that could have been allocated towards programs to address our school funding crisis, increase childcare assistance eligibility, or invest in a refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (which we’ll discuss in just a moment), to name only a few ways this money could be better spent.
There were also some issues facing Ohio women and their families that the state budget failed to address, entirely.
Ohio’s Earned Income Tax Credit remains non-refundable.One of these crucial areas of inaction was the budget’s failure to make Ohio’s Earned Income Tax Credit (E.I.T.C.) refundable, a policy that would have given a major economic boost to low-income families across the state.
#OHBudget — Women’s Public Policy Network (@OhioWPPN) September 10, 2019Nationally, the E.I.T.C has been crucial in lifting working families out of poverty. However, it is not without its limitations here in the state. The greatest shortfall of Ohio’s state E.I.T.C. is that it is non-refundable. If this gap in anti-poverty policy had been addressed, the state budget would have been able to put money back into the hands of working families.
Despite the 2020 Census being right around the corner, the bill allocated no funding towards planning or conducting a complete census count in the Buckeye state.About $33 billion dollars in federal funding rests upon the outcomes of the U.S. Census, which determines how those federal dollars are dispersed, state-by-state. Without a correct and complete count, the well-being of women and historically undercounted communities, populations which rely heavily on these federal grant dollars, are undermined.
No efforts were made to create a framework for statewide paid family leave.Paid family and medical leave policies allow workers to address the needs of their families or their own health without risking their financial health. Currently, only 17% of American workers have access to paid leave through an employer, but lawmakers made no effort through the state budget to increase those statistics here in Ohio… To learn more about the push to bring paid family leave in Ohio, check out the Women’s Public Policy Network’s Paid Leave Advocacy page on their website.
Read the full analysis of the Ohio budget on the Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network’s website.
By David Milender
MASON, OHIO – While I was glad to get five days of paid leave for the birth of my son, it was still a frustratingly short amount of time. When my wife, Kaitlin, gave birth to our son, George, one Monday in January 2016, I confirmed with my boss that I would be starting my paid parental leave period that day. The company I worked at the time for allowed five paid days off for new parents.
Welcoming George into the world was a whirlwind experience, and too soon, our family of three were back home from the hospital. The next few days were a blur as we adjusted to life with an infant. My wife had six weeks of reduced pay leave from work through short term disability, but we felt neither of us was allowed nearly enough paid time off with our son.
Back in the office the following Monday, I obsessively checked my phone to make sure George and Kaitlin were doing well. Sitting through monotonous conference calls and in traffic commuting to work felt like a dreadful waste compared to the time I could have been spending with my wife and son. Five days off for the biggest event of our lives was woefully inadequate.
Kaitlin’s leave likewise flew by. Finding a good daycare for our weeks-old son was a harrowing experience, as we had to balance what we could afford with what was safe. While he is a healthy child and the daycare staff had the best intentions, I will never forget the guilt and regret I felt from having to leave my fragile weeks-old son in the care of strangers.
That spring, my employer updated its employee handbook. I studiously read the new document, and a section on family leave stood out. That afternoon I informed my supervisor that I would like to apply for additional time off under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as a new parent.
The application process was a learning experience for everyone. My supervisors initially stated that as I was not a new mother, I may not qualify for FMLA leave. After some back and forth over email and consulting the new HR manual and federal regs, they allowed me to apply through our corporate office and humbly apologized, explaining that in all their time overseeing 100+ employees, they had never had a father try to take leave under the FMLA. I was the first one in the office to do so.
My FMLA request was approved, and we disenrolled George from daycare. On my last day in the office before taking leave, another co-worker approached me, explaining that his fiancé was due to give birth soon. Then he asked, “So how do you get them to give you more time off? I thought dads only get a week.”
The FMLA leave was unpaid, and we had to practice the art of frugality. Fortunately, Kaitlin had a full-time job, and I was able to keep George and I enrolled on my company’s insurance through my leave. Cutting out daycare expenses saved us a small fortune, but I still spent plenty of time cutting coupons and comparing ads while George got in his naps.
Still, we nonetheless depleted my savings.
Regardless of the cost, the twelve weeks I spent with George were amazing. I will never regret taking that time to watch him grow and explore the world around him. Nothing could replace being there when he rolled over for the first time or taking him for walks around the neighborhood in those first warm days of late spring.
This blog post originally appeared on the Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network’s website
Proposal Makes Citizen Initiatives Harder, Does Nothing to Block Big MoneyThe full text of the Koehler proposal has not been made public yet, so we don’t yet know whether signature gathering could be carried out over several years as needed to reach the 10 percent requirement, or if signatures would expire after six months as HJR19 required. That distinction could make or break citizen initiatives. Like HJR19, the Koehler proposal would not stop deep-pocketed special interests from hiring all the signature gatherers they need to meet the 60-district requirement. So, while getting big money out of the game of amending Ohio’s constitution was the rationale behind the lame duck attack on ballot measures, this proposal seems to abandon that argument completely. It simply makes it harder for grassroots groups to succeed. And while committee members hearing HJR19 seemed to recognize that the best way to keep people from attempting to amend Ohio’s constitution was to make the process of a citizen-initiated statutory change more appealing, this proposal does nothing on that front either.
What Next?Koehler is currently seeking House consponsors with a deadline of Wednesday, February 6. If you are concerned about the outlines of this proposal, consider reaching out to your State Representative today before they add their name as a cosponsor.
Tuesday, November 13
Wednesday, November 14
Thursday, November 15
More Information about This Week’s Agenda
- Complete House Committee Schedule
- Complete Senate Committee Schedule
- House Session Calendar for November 15
Innovation Ohio Releases New Medicaid Report Policy report looks at gubernatorial candidates, includes county by county Medicaid numbersColumbus, OH – Today, Innovation Ohio released a new policy report on what is at stake for Medicaid in this year’s gubernatorial election. The analysis, titled “Healthcare is on the Ballot in Ohio: Medicaid and The Governors Race,” examines the importance of Medicaid and where candidates Rich Cordray and Mike DeWine stand on the program. The report is online here. The report looks at new state and county-level numbers, as well as the potential impacts of each candidate’s plans. It also lays out the vital role Medicaid expansion has played in combatting Ohio’s opioid epidemic. In Washington County, where the next gubernatorial debate will be held, nearly a quarter of the population relies on Medicaid for their healthcare. In neighboring counties in Appalachia, that number rises to nearly a third. “Healthcare truly is on the ballot this fall,” said Innovation Ohio President Janetta King. “Medicaid is a vital program for all of Ohio, but it plays an outsized role in our Appalachian region. It’s important that voters know how their healthcare could be impacted by each candidate.” While Cordray has expressed his support for Medicaid, DeWine has laid out plans that would cripple the program. DeWine sued to stop the Medicaid expansion and has expressed support for changes that could risk the healthcare of hundreds of thousands of Ohioans. The report notes that DeWine has still not taken a position on the legislature’s passage of a Medicaid expansion freeze, which Gov. John Kasich vetoed. Other key findings in the report include:
- 21% of Ohioans rely on Medicaid for their healthcare. In some counties, this number is as high as 40%.
- Medicaid expansion has helped to lower Ohio’s uninsured rate from 13.9% to 6% in four years.
- DeWine’s proposed changes to Medicaid could risk the healthcare of at least 318,000 Ohioans.
- 59% of Ohio nursing home residents use Medicaid coverage for that service.
Ohio’s Poor Record for WorkersOhio uses a complaint-driven model of enforcement in which workers must closely monitor their paycheck to ensure they were paid for all their hours, were not forced to work off the clock or denied mandatory breaks, and were paid the overtime for which they are eligible. Enforcement agents respond to their complaints to assess their merits and assess a judgement. Workers who are unaware of their rights or afraid to challenge their employers are unlikely to make a claim, meaning the state is only looking at a fraction of the overall wage theft that takes place. One recent study found that Ohio ranks 2nd among the 10 largest states for minimum wage violations, and estimates that overall, Ohio workers collectively lose $600 million each year in shorted paychecks due to wage theft. One reason cited by experts for the high rate of wage theft is that, in the past decade, the Wage and Hour Enforcement unit at the Department of Commerce — responsible for enforcement of wage and hour laws — has been gutted; its already-meager staff was reduced from 12 to just 6. That’s six individuals who are responsible for enforcement of all wage and hour violations in a state in which over 5.5 million people work outside the home for pay. By comparison, Idaho, a state with 1/10th Ohio’s population has five inspectors. The results are about as poor as you might expect. According to a Cleveland Plain Dealer investigation, just 31 percent of workers who file complaints with the state see them approved by the department. And, even among those lucky enough to have their claims approved, only half of those recover the back pay they were denied. Responsibility for collection is shared by the Department of Commerce and the Office of the Attorney General.
Role of PolicymakersIt’s clear that enforcement policy is at least partially to blame. In 2009, a similar review by Policy Matters Ohio found the state resolved cases in favor of workers nearly 65 percent of the time. Since then, the enforcement workforce has been cut in half. Another factor is a change in policy to waive penalties for employers the first time they violate the law. Researchers at Northwestern University found the number of wage theft cases in Ohio rose almost immediately after that change, signaling that penalties are an effective deterrent. Lawmakers have not helped. While they have consistently refused to add funding, improve oversight, or extend overtime and minimum wage protections to more workers, in 2017, the Ohio House voted to adopt a measure (HB494) that would exempt certain franchise workers from existing wage and hour protections. It’s worth noting that the 2009 study and the Plain Dealer review earlier this year both found that food service is by far the biggest offender, so exempting franchisees from wage and hour protections would only make the problem worse.
Looking forwardThe next Governor can play a big role in ensuring workers get to take home more of what they earn in their paychecks by giving the office of wage and hour enforcement a higher profile, bigger budget and more authority.
Addressing wage theft is just one way to better make work pay for working Ohioans. Read our blog (“10 Ways Ohio’s Leaders Could Increase Take Home Pay for All Ohioans“) for other ideas and check our Winning Economic Agenda for Ohio’s Working Families to review all the ideas we’ve proposed, along with our friends at Policy Matters Ohio, for Ohio’s next Governor to consider.