Budget Beat – August 28, 2015

No Matter Where They Live, Women In Unions Earn More

To commemorate Women’s Equality Day and the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, this week the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released a new report on women in unions. The report found that women in unions earn more than women who are not in a union. This holds true in every state including West Virginia.

According to the study, women in unions earn an average of $212, or 30.9%, more per week than women in nonunion jobs.

Here’s more in Sean’s blog post.

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How Much Does it Take to Make Ends Meet in West Virginia?

A new Family Budget calculator from the Economic Policy Institute shows that a two-parent family with two children living in rural West Virginia needs $61,579 to get by and afford basic expenses. That same family earning the state’s minimum wage earns just $33,280.

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Enacting a refundable West Virginia Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) would give a boost to these families by putting more money in their pockets to pay for basic necessities. It would also improve our state’s upside-down tax system and help create more jobs in its rural areas.

Read more in Ted’s blog post.


Jennifer Thacker, Executive Director of the WV Alliance for Sustainable Families,and WVCBP board member, takes the state EITC message on the road this week.

National Headlines: West Virginia Only State to Lose Jobs in July

Having the highest unemployment rate in the nation garnered West Virginia national attention in recent days.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week how falling energy prices are impacting the state’s coal industry. The effect of cheap natural gas on the coal industry was also cited in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week.

WVCBP Executive Director Ted Boettner was quoted in both articles, here in the Journal-Constitution: “People want cleaner energy, but the coal industry just doesn’t know how to pivot and produce a cleaner product. Many of West Virginia’s remaining coal seams are also thinning out, making it harder to produce coal at a competitive price.”

Federal assistance could help struggling coal communities through President Obama’s proposed Power Plus Plan. The plan would provide $20 million to retrain laid-off coal miners and $25 million to the Appalachian Regional Commission to assist those communities in making an economic transition to new technologies.

For more on West Virginia’s jobs crisis, and which employment sectors are being hit the hardest, read Ted’s blog post from this week.

Black Students in West Virginia Disproportionately Punished at School

A study this week from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education found that 13 southern states, including West Virginia, had more than half of all suspensions of black students in the nation.

Here’s more in this week’s Charleston Gazette-Mail.

 

 

West Virginia Health Impact Assessments Meeting

Help create healthier, wealthier and wiser Communities! Find out how you can utilize Health Impact Assessments to assess population health during the decision-making process about a broad range of public policies, programs and projects before they are implemented on September 3 in Charleston from 9:00 AM to noon.

Register today!

Registration Open for Our Children Our Future Policy Summit!

Join West Virginians from across the state on September 14 and 15 to lead policy strategy sessions on 27 issues affecting kids and families. This event is an opportunity for citizens to learn more about policy efforts throughout their communities, engage with their elected officials and interact with dozens of policy organizations!

Register here.

2015 Summit poster

New Family Budget Calculator Shows What it Takes to Make Ends Meet in West Virginia

How much money does it take to make ends meet in West Virginia? A new Family Budget calculator from the Economic Policy Institute shows what is required for families to attain a secure yet modest standard of living in rural and urban communities in West Virginia. While the cost of living around West Virginia varies for families, those making poverty-level wages cannot begin to cover basic expenses.

Compared with the federal poverty line and Supplemental Poverty Measure, EPI’s family budgets provide a more accurate and complete measure of economic security in America and West Virginia. For example, a two-parent family with two young children in rural West Virginia, with both parents making the state minimum wage of $8 an hour, would make only $33,280. This is about half of the $61,579 the family would need in annual income to have a modest standard of living that covers the basics – such as housing, food, child care, and transportation. This helps explain why so many people across the country have been demanding a minimum wage of $15 an hour, because that is about what it would take for this family to have decent standard of living without any public assistance. 

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Here is a breakdown of a monthly estimate of expenses for rural West Virginia families. The calculation assumes that families prepare all their meals at home, live in modest housing, and only travel for work and non-social reasons. The measure also takes into account items such as cell phones and home furnishings, but not vacations or saving for retirement or college.

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According to the latest American Community Survey, about half or 47 percent of children in West Virginia were in families where their parents (or guardians) made less than twice the poverty rate in 2013 – which is below what families with children need to cover the basics. While West Virginia offers some services to these families such as health insurance, child care assistance, and other programs, these policies are not enough. Working families need better-paying jobs and policies that reward hard work for low-income families that are playing by the rules.

Enacting a refundable West Virginia Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) would be a step in the right direction. It would not only put more money in the pockets of the states’s low- and moderate-income workers but it would  also improve our state’s upside-down tax system and help create more jobs in its rural areas.

Unionized Women Earn More in West Virginia

In honor of Women’s Equality Day, recognizing the certification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released a new report on women in unions. The report found that women in unions earn more than women who are not in a union in every state including West Virginia. 

Women have been growing as a share of total union members in the past three decades, from 33.4% of union members in 1984 to 45.5% in 2014. In West Virginia, women make up 41.9% of union membership. Overall 11.7% of working women are members of a union in West Virginia, compared to 11.9% nationwide.

Union membership tends to result in higher wages and improved benefits, particularly for middle- and low-wage earners, many of whom are women. According to the IWPR study, nationwide, women represented by labor unions earn an average of $212, or 30.9%, more per week than women in nonunion jobs. The union advantage for women is smaller, but still significant when controlling for age, education, and industry. In West Virginia, women in unions earn $176, or 29% more per week than nonunionized women.

West Virginia was one of 32 states where the size of the union-wage advantage was enough to cover the costs of full-time child care for an infant. The report also found women who are labor union members are more likely to participate in a pension plan, and more likely to receive health insurance benefits through their job than women who are not union members.

The report acknowledges that while unionized women enjoy a number of advantages, inequality in the workforce does not disappear for them. The report suggests a number of policies to support working women, including opposing “right to work” laws, increasing the minimum and tipped minimum wages, increasing the overtime threshold, expanding access to affordable and quality childcare, and enacting paid family and sick leave policies.

West Virginia’s Jobs Crisis Continues in July

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its employment and unemployment survey for July 2015 and the news for West Virginia’s economy continues to be bad. West Virginia not only has the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 7.5 percent, it is also the only state to have lost a statistically significant number of jobs since July of last year.

West Virginia’s economy has performed particularly poorly over the last six months. Between January and July of 2015, West Virginia has lost 22,500 jobs or about 2.9 percent of its job base, after adjusting for seasonal patterns. 

A Blip on Measuring Local Government Jobs?

According to BLS, about half, or 9,900, of the job losses since January 2015 were in local government, however, almost all occurred between May and June when the school year ended. Since about two-thirds of local government employment in West Virginia  is comprised of people who work for the school system, there is a good chance that this may be a blip in the data. Even though these numbers are seasonally adjusted, meaning BLS takes into account things like school schedules when adjusting the job levels, there is always a lot of volatility in measuring local government employment. As the chart below highlights, even when local government employment is seasonally adjusted, there is always a month or two in which there are large spikes in the data.local gov blip

While there have been recent news stories about local government layoffs due to the decline in the local share of coal severance taxes, we need to wait a few months to see if the data jump back up now that school is back in session.

Construction and Mining Still Shedding Jobs

Outside of local government, the sectors that have suffered the worst job losses are construction and mining. Over the last six months, the state has lost 4,000 construction and 3,400 mining jobs, largely due to the sharp drop in energy prices, especially natural gas, and the continuing decline of West Virginia coal production. Other sectors that lost a lot of jobs over the last six months include finance and insurance (-1,200), professional business services (-900), and leisure  and hospitality (-800).

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Since the beginning of the Great Recession in December 2007, West Virginia has had the third-worst job growth in the nation at -2.6 percent, behind only New Mexico and Alabama. Outside of Ohio, each of our neighboring states has more jobs today than before the Great Recession. West Virginia had 19,700 fewer jobs in July 2015 than in December 2007.

Back to the Future?

Moving from the establishment survey, which counts the number of jobs by industry, to the household survey that looks at unemployment, West Virginia’s doesn’t look any healthier than it did in 1980. The number of West Virginians employed and the size of the labor force is roughly what it was nearly 35 years ago. Similar to 1980, there are about 785,000 people in the state’s labor force and between 720,000 and 725,000 people employed.

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The only good news from July’s jobs report was that the state’s labor force has grown by about 5,000 over the last year and 7,400 over the last six months. Without this growth, the unemployment rate would have been lower, 7.1 percent compared to 7.5 percent. So, a higher unemployment rate is not so bad as long as there is growth in the labor force. That said, even at 7.1 percent, West Virginia still has the highest unemployment rate in the nation.

Time to Power Up

While an aging population and lack of population growth appear to be large factors negatively affecting employment, the state’s energy sector is being hit hard by low prices, competition, and public demand for clean energy. One way West Virginia policymakers could boost the state’s economy would  be to push hard for the White House’s POWER Plus Plan that includes over $5 billion in funding to coal states to help them diversify their economies and help coal miners retrain and retool. Letting politics and ideology get in the way of this investment would not only be a disservice to working families, but will ensure that our coalfield communities continue to decline and deteriorate. 

Budget Beat – August 21, 2015

Tax Overhaul Committee Looks at Tax Credits

The legislature’s Tax Reform Committee met again this week, this time to discuss the state’s wide range of tax credits and their effect on economic development.

An important tax credit in place in 26 other states is the Earned Income Tax Credit which is modeled after, and augments, the federal credit. These pro-work credits incentivize work, and help low-income workers pay for child care, transportation and other expenses.

Here’s more in this week’s Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

And here’s more in the Charleston Gazette-Mail on one single mother’s success story in starting her own business with the help of the federal EITC and the staff at a Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site in Huntington.

There are more details on how a state EITC could benefits tens of thousands of West Virginia families in this WVCBP report.

Power + Plan Could Bring Much-Needed Resources to Struggling Communities

Workers who have lost their jobs due to the coal industry’s decline could get relief under President Obama’s Power + Plan. The plan would provide retraining for coal miners and other resources to help the region’s economy transition as coal declines. Here’s more in this week’s Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram.

Faced with low natural gas prices and falling coal productivity, the coal industry is facing big challenges in West Virginia. Here’s more in the Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram on why it’s time for West Virginia to begin producing the cleaner energy sources of the future.

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Freedom School Registration

Do you know young people ages 14-22 who are passionate about learning how to end racism in West Virginia? Encourage them to attend next weekend’s Freedom School in Charleston from August 28-30. Spots are filling up quickly, so encourage them to apply as soon as possible! 

Place Matters Webinar

Plan to join the Place Matters webinar to highlight the recently published report “Blueprints to Action: Community Strategies to End Racism and Promote Racial Healing” on August 26 from 2:00 to 3:15 PM.

Register here.


The webinar is a collaborative effort of the PLACE MATTERS national learning community. PLACE MATTERS is a national initiative of the National Collaborative for Health Equity designed to build the capacity of leaders and communities around the country to identify and address the social, economic, and environmental factors that shape health and life opportunities.

Using a place-based approach, PLACE MATTERS seeks to address community issues such as poverty concentration, residential segregation, and the inequitable distribution of health risks and resources that too often accompanies them.

West Virginia Health Impact Assessments Meeting

Help create healthier, wealthier and wiser Communities! Find out how you can utilize Health Impact Assessments to assess population health during the decision-making process about a broad range of public policies, programs and projects before they are implemented on September 3 in Charleston from 9:00 AM to noon.

Register today!

Save the Date – Eric Foner to Speak in Charleston

Presented each October, the McCreight Lecture affords West Virginians the opportunity to hear nationally respected scholars and public intellectuals on a variety of humanities topics. McCreight Lecturers have included Ken Burns, Joyce Carol Oates, Joseph Ellis, Sylvia Nasar, Henry Louis Gates, Elaine Pagels, Gordon Wood, James McPherson, and Edmund Morris.

This year’s McCreight Lecturer is Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Eric Foner. His 7:30 p.m. lecture on October 22 at the University of Charleston is free and open to the public. 

Registration Open for Our Children Our Future Policy Summit!

Join West Virginians from across the state on September 14 and 15 to lead policy strategy sessions on 27 issues affecting kids and families. This event is an opportunity for citizens to learn more about policy efforts throughout their communities, engage with their elected officials and interact with dozens of policy organizations!

2015 Summit poster

Register here.

Tickets Available Now

Tickets are now available for West Virginians for Affordable Health Care’s Annual Reception and Fundraiser, featuring keynote speaker, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Mathews Burwell. Email WVAHC Executive Director Terri Giles for more information.

Budget Beat – August 7, 2015

Swift Reaction to Clean Power Plan

Reaction to President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which calls for a decrease in carbon emissions in order to combat climate change, came quickly this week, as reported in the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Many policymakers in West Virginia are threatening legal action in what they see as an attack on the region’s already-struggling coal industry.

Coal production has been on the decline for years, particularly in central Appalachia, in large part due to the huge increase in natural gas production, much of that right here in West Virginia. As Ted stated in the article, “coal is running out of customers and we need to adapt our economy to one that produces more clean energy that customers want. A crucial aspect of ensuring that the Clean Power plan works for West Virginia will be the ability of our congressional delegation to push strongly for investments to help coal communities diversify their economies and protect the pensions and benefits of coal miners.”

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More Manufacturing Jobs Lost

Along with coal-mining jobs, West Virginia has lost many of its manufacturing section jobs in recent years. A reminder of those losses came this week when Century Aluminum announced it would shut down.

It is also a reminder that West Virginia needs to do more to build jobs of the future, as Ted states in this Charleston Gazette-Mail article.

Medicaid Important to West Virginia Children

As Medicaid turns 50, an oped by WVCBP President Renate Pore explains why it is such an important program for West Virginia families and children.

More than half of all children in West Virginia are covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). And research shows that providing children with quality health care coverage makes them healthier, more productive adults.

Sid and Maddie 8.6.15

Youngest members of the WVCBP family: Madeline O’Leary (held by dad Sean) and Sid Boettner (photo by Rebecca Roth).

Save the Date – Eric Foner to Speak in Charleston

Presented each October, the McCreight Lecture affords West Virginians the opportunity to hear nationally respected scholars and public intellectuals on a variety of humanities topics. McCreight Lecturers have included Ken Burns, Joyce Carol Oates, Joseph Ellis, Sylvia Nasar, Henry Louis Gates, Elaine Pagels, Gordon Wood, James McPherson, and Edmund Morris.

This year’s McCreight Lecturer is Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Eric Foner. His 7:30 p.m. lecture on October 22 at the University of Charleston is free and open to the public.

Register Today for the Beckley and Huntington Our Children Our Future Policy Workshops!

2015 WVRPW Weirton