In 2017, Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice tracked the latest from the Trump administration, whether its policies are creating poverty or prosperity, and how families and grassroots organizations are working on those issues around the country. Here’s our last installment for 2017:
It’s been a wild year of policymaking and unmaking that could create mental whiplash for anyone trying to follow all of the progress and challenges for America’s low-income families.
Outside the fighting that often consumed Washington, D.C., working families, grassroots organizations, city councils, state lawmakers and governors took steps – both big and small – to make progress for the lives of the most vulnerable better.
Equal Voice looked at the year and assembled a list of five policy changes that not only represented progress, but reflected changes and debates happening elsewhere and locally around the country.
Immigration: Changes and Challenges
Immigration remained one of the most contentious issues in the public policy arena in 2017, as the U.S. government pushed for crackdowns and controversial new policy decisions, such as winding down Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
DACA, as its known, affects young people and their families nationwide.
Some cities and states responded with new protections for families, while others supported their own crackdowns. In Texas, immigrant families, grassroots organizers and their supporters are still battling SB 4, a state law that they say harms community trust of authorities.
Illinois joined states and cities that moved to protect immigrant families by enacting the TRUST Act, which restricts how local law enforcement cooperates with federal immigration authorities, according to the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
Health Care: Expansion in Maine and Debate in U.S.
In Maine, residents bucked their governor, Paul LePage, and voted to expand Medicaid to more low-income families, The New York Times reported.
Read more about the debate over expanding Medicaid in “Medicaid Denied: The Cost May Be Measured in Lives.” Learn more about what Medicaid is and who relies on the program in our special report: “Health Care in American: The Real Face of Medicaid.”
Criminal Justice Reform: The Golden State and Nationwide
In 2017, California remained a leader in the movement to reform criminal justice in America. This fall, Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature, for example, enacted the RISE Act, which will limit the practice of tacking on an extra three years to a felony drug conviction when a person has a prior drug conviction.
That wasn’t the only change they made in criminal justice policy. Here is a list of changes agreed to in 2017.
For a broader look at how local communities are taking the lead on everything from bail reform to juvenile justice, check out “Bet on Cities and States to Lead Criminal Justice Reform” by Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice.
Caregiving: A Big Win in Hawaii
In 2017, caregiving was a critical issue as waves of baby boomers retired. Hawaii emerged as a pioneer when it embraced an historic plan to provide caregivers and families relief – $70 daily for long-term costs – thanks, in large part, to grassroots leadership and families affiliated with Jobs With Justice, Caring Across Generations, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
With the nation’s caregiving challenge only expected to grow, it will remain a big issue in 2018.
Child Care: Moms and Dads Cheer in California
Parents struggling with the high cost of child care won relief in California in 2017, when Gov. Brown signed legislation that raises income limits tied to child care subsidies. Families applauded the move, saying the governor listened.
Since the income cap had been frozen for about 10 years, working moms and dads might have turned down a raise or promotion because their higher pay would have pushed them over the income limits, and jeopardized their child care support. Parent Voices, a grassroots advocacy organization made up of families, has been fighting for this change for years.
Reading: It Keeps Your Mind Moving
The good news is that these policy changes – powered largely by people directly affected by a variety of laws and who are working together – represent only a small holiday sampling of the progress for families this year, and that shows progress and change are possible in 2018. Stay tuned.
Happy holidays and a successful New Year from Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice.
Equal Voice is Marguerite Casey Foundation’s publication featuring stories of America’s families creating social change. With Equal Voice, we challenge how people think and talk about poverty in America. Paul Nyhan is the senior writer for Equal Voice.