Tag Archives: campaign for hoosier families

IN General Assembly TANF Reform Bill – 2019

Learn More & Help Make A Change

Several state senators have authored a bill which seeks to begin much-needed reform to the TANF program. As highlighted in our previous newsletter, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families provides much-needed temporary financial assistance benefits for families as well as individuals which find themselves in dire financial situations. It is intended to ensure some sense of stability for those in such situations, but as we discussed, has been in need of reform for quite some time.

Senate Bill 440 aims to expand the eligibility requirements for receiving such benefits – based on the family’s income in relation to the federal poverty level. The bill would gradually increase the maximum allowable income to qualify for benefits under TANF up to 50% of the federal poverty level by July of 2021. The new threshold would be an increase of 17% providing access to benefits for many more Hoosiers in need. In addition, the bill aims to increase the payments made under the TANF program for most qualifying individuals and families, and would require these benefit amounts to continue to be monitored and adjusted according to increases in the Social Security cost of living adjustment. New payments would range from $248 monthly for most qualifying individuals and $409 monthly for families.

While the new payment amounts are not nearly enough to provide stability for qualifying people on their own, this is an encouraging move in response to awareness efforts by advocates such as yourselves to make the need for reform known. Expanding eligibility requirements is also a positive move forward for reforming this program and addressing the needs of those most impacted. To track the progress of this bill, as well as all bills moving forward in the 2019 session related to topics covered in the Campaign for Hoosier Families newsletter, see our Legislation Tracker (click HERE).

by Rob Krasa, LUM intern

Solving Food Deserts: One Bill at a Time

Families Need Healthy Food Locally

House Bill 1143 (http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2019/bills/house/1143#digest-heading), authored byRepresentative Robin Shackleford and co-authored by Representative Steven Davisson, Edward Clere, and Vanessa Summers seeks to combat the prevalence of food deserts in the state, establishing both a healthy food financing fund and a healthy food financing program under the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA). The new fund will act to provide financing, in the form of loans and grants, for projects that will help increase the availability of fresh food in underserved communities. This is an important step in ensuring the health of Hoosiers across Indiana.

The bill has not moved since it was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means in the Indiana House of Representatives on January 7th. While the bill has yet to be heard by committee, its presence in the state’s legislative agenda illustrates legislators is encouraging since it signals that legislators are aware of food security problems within the state.  This map of Indianapolis illustrates the prevalence of food deserts,indicated by purple block groups, in Indianapolis. This map is courtesy of Savi, one of the nation’s first and largest community information systems.

by Eli Heindricks, Purdue Political Science student

Highlighted Legislator – Carey Hamilton

Indiana State Representative Carey Hamilton

Representative Carey Hamilton recently authored House Bill 1098, a bill to cap the interest rates on payday loans. The cap on payday loans interest rates will make it so families are able to pay off the loans without having to worry about astronomical interest rates. (See the article above titled “Targeting Low Income Families & Children” for more information about the threat posed by the predatory lenders and Representative Hamilton’s bill.)

State Representative Carey Hamilton has done tremendous things during her time in office. Representative Carey Hamilton currently serves as the Democratic whip in the Indiana House of Representatives and represents Indiana House District 87 in Northeast Indiana. Representative Hamilton serves as the ranking minority member of the Financial Institutions Committee as well as serving on the Environmental Affairs and Ways and Means Committees.

Representative Hamilton has quite the impressive background before she was even elected into the Indiana House of Representatives in 2016. For nine years, Representative Hamilton served as the executive director of the Indiana Recycling Coalition. Furthermore, she worked as a nonprofit executive for over 20 years.

On behalf of the Campaign for Hoosier Families, we would like to thank Representative Hamilton for all she has done to push back against unscrupulous payday lenders. We will continue to follow and support House Bill 1098.

by Angela Weaver, Klinker-Alting Family Advocacy intern

Cap Payday Lending Interest Rates

Targeting Low Income Families & Children

The fight to cap the interest rates charged by payday loans is all the talk around the Indiana State Capitol. The Indiana Coalition for Human Services of which LUM is a member has been has been fighting vigorously for this cap. The cap has gained a lot of traction and attention by advocates such as yourselves spreading the hashtag “#36IsTheFix.” Many of the payday lenders that market themselves to low income families charge anywhere from 390% – 790%. Given the severe economic harm to the most vulnerable in our state, it is vital that interest rates be capped at 36%. Since the last newsletter, Senator Breaux, Senator Stoops, and Senator Ruckelshaus have been added as co authors on Senate Bill 104. Senate Bill 84 has been referred to the Insurance and Financial Institutions committee. House Bill 1098 has been referred to the Financial Institutions committee, as well. On behalf of the Campaign for Hoosier Families, we would like to thank Representative Carey Hamilton, Senator Eddie Melton, Senator Greg Walker, and Senator Mark Messmer for authoring these bills. We would encourage them to send them a note thanking them as well. Their names and email addresses are listed below:

If you have ever been personally affected by payday loans, please share your story below to help the Indiana Institute for Working Families increase awareness on this predatory lending. If you would like to show your support for these bills, please contact your legislators today.

To share your story, click HERE.

by Angela Weaver, Klinker-Alting Family Advocacy intern

Highlighted Legislator – Mark Messmer

Indiana State Representative Mark Messmer

Senator Mark Messmer recently authored Senate Bill 104, a bill to cap the interest rates on payday loans. This bill will help low income families everywhere that need help from payday loans occasionally to cover their bills and to be able to pay off the loan at lower interest rates.
Senator Messmer is a state Senator for District 48 in Southern Indiana and is the Republican Majority Floor Leader. During the 2019 Session, Senator Messmer will be serving as the Chair in the Environmental Affairs Committee, as well as the the Chair in the Joint Rules Committee. He is the Ranking Member in the Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee. Senator Messmer also serves as a member in the Public Policy Committee and the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee. Graduating from Purdue University with a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Senator Messmer is the owner of Messmer Mechanical, INC. He is also a member and music minister for the Holy Family Catholic Church.

by Angela Weaver, Campaign for Hoosier Families intern

Legislation to Fix Food Desert

Families Need Healthy Food Locally

In the 2019 legislative session, the Indiana Senate will consider a bill which will help residents in food deserts. Food deserts are urban or rural areas where affordable, fresh food isn’t easily available. Food deserts are currently defined as areas with no or few healthy food options available at retail outlets (more than one mile from a supermarket in urban areas and as more than 10 miles in rural areas). Numbers from the USDA indicate that roughly 10% of Marion County residents live in food deserts as of 2015. This lies in stark contrast to other Indiana counties. Only 2% of Hamilton County residents live in comparable food deserts for example. Senate Bill 143 aims to help fix the food desert problem. The bill proposes the implementation of a sales tax, not to exceed 1%, that will finance the healthy food and community development financing fund (IHCDA), a fund which will finance projects relating to healthy food, affordable housing, and community development. The bill will allow the fiscal body of an Indiana county to adopt the tax in areas designated as food desert districts.

by Eli Heindricks, Purdue Political Science student

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Learn More & Help Make A Change

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, is a program designed to provide assistance for families in desperate times of need. Operating as a federal block grant which is managed and regulated at the state level, it is intended as a resource of last resort for individuals and families who have fallen on severely hard circumstances. Established out of the effort for welfare reform in 1996, the original funding source expired at the end of the government’s 2002 fiscal year (September). Funding has since operated as a bandage for the program, consisting of a long series of short-term continuances. 

Accordingly, the qualifications and benefits of the program have severely eroded in that time. As of this writing, only those families at 17% or less of the federal poverty level qualify, and even then, standard financial assistance of $288 monthly don’t even approach the lowest of rent or mortgage payments. This means that only about 16,000 of the nearly 1,000,000 Hoosiers experiencing poverty received TANF assistance last year, and most did not receive enough assistance to make a meaningful difference in their circumstances. Additionally, while TANF is intended to provide direct assistance to families in need, states are able to get somewhat creative with their appropriation of TANF grant dollars so long as there is some relation between the spending and benefits for qualifying families. As recently as 2016, this resulted in Indiana using only about 6% of the allotted $302 million for direct financial assistance. A vast majority (94%) goes to programs and case management service that help parents find jobs. Cash benefits as well as education/training benefits are necessary to help parents focus on obtaining the skills necessary to compete in an increasingly technological job market.

Change is long overdue. For more information and to learn what you can do to make a difference and help make a change, visit the Indiana Institute for Working Families website. To view click HERE.

by Rob Krasa, LUM intern

Cap Payday Lending Interest Rates

Targeting Low Income Families & Children

Payday loans are hurting low income families each and every day. But, what are payday loans? Payday loans are short term loans, but come with extreme interest rates. According to Credit.com, payday loans are specifically targeted to people with certain characteristics: renters, no four-year college degree, earn less than $40,000 a year, African-American, and separated or divorced. Payday loans may seem like a useful thing, which they can be. However, many borrowers get into trouble when they are unable to repay their debt quickly. These loans are more expensive than other types of loans because the interest rates are astronomical. According to PayDay Loan Consumer Information, “For two-week loans, these finance charges result in interest rates from 390 to 790% APR”. That is why Hoosiers all around are fighting for a cap on interest rates for payday lenders, specifically to 36% APR. If you have ever been personally affected by payday loans, please share your story below to help the Indiana Institute for Working Families increase awareness on this predatory lending. There are currently three bills this Session regarding payday loans that we will be following: SB 104SB 84, and HB 1098. If you would like to show your support for these bills, please contact your legislators today. On behalf of the Campaign for Hoosier Families, we would like to thank Representative Carey Hamilton, Senator Eddie Melton, Senator Greg Walker, and Senator Mark Messmer for authoring these bills.

by Angela Weaver, Campaign for Hoosier Families intern

Minimum Wage in Indiana

Set the Standard – Don’t Just Comply

By Rob Krasa, LUM intern

As discussed in our previous newsletter, the effects of income inequality are felt just as hard here in Indiana as they are across the country.  One big step to take to help close this income gap would consist of a raise in our minimum wage. While opinions regarding such an increase are certainly mixed, the results of such increases across the country have been largely positive, and have not had the sweeping negative impact on local businesses and economies that some may fear.  The history of the minimum wage here in Indiana reveals that a significant increase is long overdue, and studies done regarding numerous increases across the country show that workforce numbers and employment rates would not take the hit that one may expect. In short, it is time for Indiana to buck the past trends, raise the minimum wage, and take a major step toward fighting back against the inequality in income that affects our communities. 

It is important to note that fighting to raise the minimum wage on a state or even local level is a much more approachable method than doing so on a national level.  Although the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) entitles workers nationally to a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, those working in states which have established a higher minimum wage – as 19 states plus the District of Columbia have done – are entitled to the higher state-based minimum wage.  Though it is the true that many of these places have done so in response to a higher general cost of living, that is not necessarily the case.  Three of the four states which border Indiana – Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois – all have established a minimum wage higher than the federal standard, and a vast majority of communities in those states carry a similar cost of living as Hoosiers experience.  Being that state standards which surpass federal standards are recognized as the default when it comes to labor practices, fighting for the increase here at home where it means the most to us is the logical step to take. 

Additionally, it has come time to change course in relation to Indiana’s history in terms of setting a fair minimum wage.  The minimum wage here in Indiana actually lagged behind the federal minimum all the way until 2000, when at that time the statewide minimum was raised to match the then-federal minimum of $5.15 an hour.  From that point on, the statewide minimum has matched the federal minimum as it has increased to $7.25 an hour, with the last increase having come in 2009.  This, all while income inequality has steadily increased since the recession in 2008, and while those same three neighboring states previously mentioned have passed a collective total of sixteen increases to their minimum wage to remain consistently ahead of the national standard during that same timeframe.  Our neighbors have seen the value and importance of staying ahead of the curve when it comes to staging the fight against income equality, and it’s come time for Hoosiers to join the fight as well. 

It would also be remiss to forget that the $7.25 an hour which was settled upon as the federal (and accordingly state) minimum in 2009 doesn’t even carry the same meager value that it did just that short decade ago.  When accounting for inflation, an item costing $7.25 in 2009 would cost $8.52 today, a cumulative rate of in inflation of 17.5%.  Another way to look at this inflation which has gone unaccounted for: even a full one-dollar increase in the minimum wage would not give a worker making minimum wage the same ability to make ends meet as they had ten years ago.  While some may make the argument that “people just need to go get better jobs,” it is the same income inequality and disparity in educational and skill-building opportunities that this inadequate minimum wage perpetuates that acts as the main set of barriers to these workers doing exactly that.  Without a change in policy, people working at these wages to make ends meet will never have a fair opportunity to improve their situation. 

It is clear that a raise in minimum wage is long overdue, especially here in Indiana.  The all-too-common argument in opposition to such an increase – that raising minimum wage would harm local economies and business owners – is not necessarily the result we would experience by doing so.  A collection of 10 U.S. cities, seven states, and many smaller communities are in the process of raising their minimum wage to between $12-$15 per hour. Studies and reports of the effects of these increases are showing no detrimental effect on the labor market – meaning employers are still thriving and able to maintain and pay staff through the increases – and that real earnings for workers are, of course, significantly increasing.  This has led to less turnover, higher employee productivity, and in turn, an overall reduction in expenses for employers.  To broaden the view, another study took into account 137 different state-level minimum wage increases since 1979 and found similarly that workforce numbers and employment rates remained constant and were effective in increasing meaningful earnings for the affected employees. 

Fighting income inequality is up to us here and now.  It is not a far away problem experienced by others, it is something we all feel the effects of every day here in our community and across the state and country.  Raising our minimum wage is a meaningful, achievable, and effective means of contributing to this fight. It’s time for Indiana to set the standard, not begrudgingly comply to dated and ineffective policy, and become an example of what it means to do what is right. 

  1. United States Department of Labor, https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/elg/minwage.htm#Relation
  2. United States Department of Labor, https://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/america.htm#stateDetails
  3. United States Department of Labor, https://www.dol.gov/whd/state/stateMinWageHis.htm

Too Much is Apparently Not Enough

Growing Income Inequality in Indiana and Across the Country

By Joe Micon, LUM executive director & Rob Krasa, LUM I\intern

The gap between the 1% and the rest of the country continues to grow.  While our state falls somewhat behind the pace of the country as a whole in terms of the ever-growing increase in income inequality, the average income of Indiana’s top 1% is still more than seventeen times that of the average income of the entire remaining 99%.  In addition, in comparison to the rest of the states over the last decade, Indiana has seen some of the highest growth in income inequality when comparing the wealthiest 20% to the rest of the population.  Indiana’s middle class has seen the 5th largest decline in their share of total income across the state during that time period as well, coinciding with a recent loss of nearly 5% of the state’s manufacturing jobs – one of the largest such declines across the country.  Hoosiers who experience the far less prosperous end of these discrepancies face steep barriers to resources and opportunities readily available to those with a stronger financial foothold, including adequate health care, educational opportunities, easy access to basic needs, and stable places to call home.  Educating ourselves and each other about income equality at home and across the country – this being the first in a series of articles on issues surrounding wages and income – is the first step toward making substantive changes that can really make a difference.

Relevant policy change on local, state, and federal levels alike becomes more and more difficult to achieve for those who would benefit from it the most.  Money talks, and more often than not, politicians listen. The few and wealthy are far more able to make their voices heard in the political arena on account of the power and influence represented by their financial capital than the vast majority who do not hold such wealth.  Couple this with the fact that a disproportionate amount of non-voters fall into a family income range below $30,000 annually, and the result is often a disadvantaged, underrepresented, and disenfranchised majority who are caught between a rock and a hard place by policies supported by the wealthy minority.  

When income inequality grows, opportunities and resources for those on the lower end of the income spectrum tend to become more sparse.  Health care and nutrition are a glaring example.  Not only do those making lower incomes face barriers accessing and paying for proper health care coverage and services, but nutritional challenges contribute to these health care problems as well.  Due to much less freedom and flexibility in choosing where they live, over 16% of Hoosiers live in areas known as food deserts – parts of cities and rural areas where there is no easy access to nutritional food options, and where the food options that are available frequently come at a higher cost.  As a result, rates of nutrition-related diagnoses and complications, such as diabetes, heart disease, and many others are higher in those with lower incomes.  Conditions related to obesity like these in turn raise health care costs in America by almost $150 billion annually, which averages out to nearly $1500 per person – a cost that most cannot readily absorb.  Those living below the federal poverty line are ultimately twice as likely to die from diabetes, for example, and one study estimates that nearly 4,500 fewer Hoosiers overall would die each year if everyone statewide had equal access to health care resources.

Educational opportunities which can help people improve their financial standing become more difficult to engage as well.  This can be attributed at least in part to influence in policy by the wealthy – educational programs and support tend to come at least in significant part from public funding sources, and as the influence of the wealthy on political decision making gets stronger, funding and policy in support of such programs tends to decrease. Societies with wide income disparity like ours tend to have a lower overall education level on average, but a relatively higher number of educational elites than societies with more equally distributed income.  Income inequality not only creates resource disparity, but perpetuates a society of intellectual haves and have-nots which only reinforces the power of the wealthy.

On top of all of these concerns, it is important to remember that years and years of income inequality helps those with high incomes consolidate their assets and power.  Not only is there such a gulf in average incomes, but the inequality of wealth – a measure of total consolidated assets and net worth as opposed to how much money comes into a household in a given time – is even more egregious, and has consistently become more so since the 1980s.  The top 10% in America hold about 78% of the total wealth in the nation.  When invested and manipulated, “money makes money,” which only leads one to conclude that the problem perpetuates itself with very little effort.  Those who have accumulated such wealth, and who receive such high incomes, have the capital to keep expanding these gaps year after year, especially in the wake of the recent passing of the tax bill supported by Trump and the GOP, which cuts taxes for corporations and the country’s highest individual earners while raising taxes for nearly half of the country in the next ten years. A concerted effort to raise the minimum wage significantly not only here in Indiana but across the country is necessary to begin to balance the distribution of this wealth and bring us us at least closer to bridging the income gap.

These facts and figures can be uncomfortable and discouraging, but the best solution is to take action.  Continue to educate yourself and others regarding the wide-ranging impacts of income inequality. Support one another, by directly helping family and neighbors or by giving and volunteering when and where you can.  Learn not only about federal political races but certainly those on a state and local level, and find out what candidates are saying or planning to do about the causes and effects of income inequality. Speak out and support policy changes, such as supporting the introduction of a bill in the upcoming 2019 General Assembly session to raise the minimum wage in Indiana. The introduction of bills for this session has already begun; there’s no better time to take action than now.  And by all means, vote. Vote in all elections, whether local, federal, primary, or general. One fact stands above all others we’ve examined: the 99% will always outnumber the 1% as long as we make sure our voices are heard.

  1. The new gilded age: Income inequality in the U.S. by state, metropolitan area, and county. epi.org/publication/the-new-gilded-age-income-inequality-in-the-u-s-by-state-metropolitan-area-and-county/?blm_aid=20193l#epi-toc-3
  2. Economic disparity: 10 States where the middle class is being left behind. usatoday.com/story/money/economy/2018/03/01/economic-disparity-10-states-where-middle-class-being-left-behind/378376002/
  3. The Party of Nonvoters. people-press.org/2014/10/31/the-party-of-nonvoters-2/
  4. Indiana Healthy Food Access Coalition. http://inhealthyfoodaccess.com/
  5. County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/sites/default/files/state/downloads/2015IndianaHealthGapsReport.pdf
  6. A Guide to Statistics on Historical Trends in Income Inequality. https://www.cbpp.org/research/poverty-and-inequality/a-guide-to-statistics-on-historical-trends-in-income-inequality