By Jim Koppel, Ann Kaner-Roth, and Kris Jacobs
We've all heard about current efforts by state and national policymakers to quickly jumpstart our sluggish economy. But the economic squeeze being felt in Minnesota and across the country has been building for many years, and it will take more than a one-time "stimulus package" to provide real economic stability for Minnesota's working families. We've all heard about current efforts by state and national policymakers to quickly jumpstart our sluggish economy. But the economic squeeze being felt in Minnesota and across the country has been building for many years, and it will take more than a one-time "stimulus package" to provide real economic stability for Minnesota's working families.
The thousands of Minnesotans who live paycheck-to-paycheck are already too aware that the rising cost of essentials like health care, child care are quickly outstripping stagnant wages. And the recent predictions of economic recession have only added to their concerns.
Minnesota's Economic Problems Didn't Appear Overnight
Quick-fix stimulus packages can give our economy a boost, but aren't a permanent answer for working families. Consider the most-recent evidence that economic instability now being felt by working families has been a long-term trend and did not appear overnight.
- More than 1 million jobs in Minnesota now pay less than a family-supporting wage of $12.24 per hour.
- In 2006, there were 86,000 families in Minnesota living in poverty (less than $20,650 in income for a family of four). Three fourths of those families have one or more worker.
- More than 152,000 Minnesota children now live in poverty, an increase of 35 percent since 2000. And the number living in extreme poverty (half the poverty rate) has doubled in that time.
- Nearly 70 percent of Minnesota's children under age 6 have both parents (or their single parent) in the workforce. But quality child care services, a key ingredient in keeping people in the work force and off of welfare, is becoming less affordable and less accessible across the state.
- In 2001, there were an estimated 56,000 Minnesota children without health coverage. Today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, that number has grown to 85,000. Health coverage is a key indicator of whether or not a child will succeed in school and in the future work force.
Investing in Our "Human Infrastructure"
With the tragic I-35W bridge collapse this summer, there has been a lot of talk about our need to invest in roads and bridges and other physical infrastructure next month when the State Legislature reconvenes. But we need to send the message to the Governor and our lawmakers that investments in our "human infrastructure" are just as important to our state's families and Minnesota's economic future.
(Jim Koppel is Director of Children's Defense Fund Minnesota, Ann Kaner-Roth is Executive Director of Child Care WORKS, and Kris Jacobs is Director of the Jobs NOW Coalition.)