While jobs numbers and unemployment remain strong as we head into the midterms, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities’ Public Policy Platform: Blueprint for Strong Families and Communities guides us in improving the financial well-being of adults, families, and communities by focusing on essential building blocks including employment that provides sustainable income, economic mobility, and comprehensive workforce supports.

Employability is an elusive opportunity for many, and, in a recent report by the Prison Policy Initiative, unemployment rates for the formerly incarcerated recently topped 27 percent. The report showed that unemployment rates vary by race and gender, ranging from 25 percent for white men to 60 percent for black women. The report, Getting Back on Course, provides educational and jobs trends data, as well as four recommendations, to reverse these tides:

  • Fix K-12 school inequalities, such as those arising out of zero-tolerance disciplinary policies
  • Ensure that incarcerated people have access to robust educational services
  • States should immediately “ban-the-box” on all applications for admission
  • Restore Pell Grants to incarcerated people and remove other barriers to financial aid*

*H.R. 6543 outlined below aims to address this issue.

Additionally, recent research by Harvard economist Raj Chetty shows that poor Americans are often left behind, even when the communities they live in benefit from hiring growth.

“Job growth is not sufficient by itself to create upward mobility,” Chetty said. “It’s almost as though racial disparities have been amplified by job growth.”  

In response, Chetty and researchers at the Census Bureau, Harvard University, and Brown University created the Opportunity Atlas, an initial release of mapped social mobility data to help drive local solutions so that more families and children rise out of poverty. The Opportunity Atlas was driven by a report by the same researchers, Mapping the Childhood Roots of Social Mobility.

Recently Proposed Employment Legislation

H.R.6543 - Aim Higher Act (Deferred to: House Committee on Education and the Workforce)
While introduced by Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-Va.) July 26, the 811 page bill has garnered recent attention, picking up a total of 68 co-sponsors. The bill is written to:

  • Expands federal Pell Grants to more “short-term courses,” in addition to the courses and programs already covered
  • Prohibits for-profit colleges that spend less than 50 percent of their tuition revenue on actual education or teaching from using any federal funding or advertising, marketing, or lobbying
  • Adds two additional factors to consider when accrediting a school, in addition to the 10 already required under current federal law: Completion/graduation rates and workforce participation rates
  • Simplifies the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), with those in the lowest income group receiving a full Pell Grant without having to answer any additional questions or fill out any additional forms
  • Allows children of undocumented immigrants (more commonly called DREAMers) and also prisoners to obtain federal financial aid for higher education

The Alliance Office of Public Policy and Mobilization is interested in your thoughts on this bill. Email us your comments to help guide our response.

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