Although there is no easy solution to poverty, there are proven methods that can help people find financial stability and economic security. Policy changes in the government can expand the middle class and help families become more secure. Congress moves slowly and has different agendas. Change may need to start within the community. Here are some of the things that individuals and communities can do to help families become more stable.
Create Jobs That Pay
One of the best ways to get someone on a financially secure path is with a well-paying job. It's estimated that the U.S. needs about 5.6 million new jobs to get employment levels back up. Here's the catch. Congress can help create employment opportunities, but if people are not trained for these new and better-paying jobs, it won't help. Here's one place the church can step in. When a single parent needs to go to school, what do they do with their children while they're doing homework and in class? There needs to be a support system to help families get ahead without taking on more stress and debt.
Paid Time Off for Sick Family Members
About 70 percent of low-wage workers do not have paid sick days. If a child gets sick or the individual gets sick, do they forego income for an entire day or come to work sick? Could you lose 20 percent of your week's income if your child got sick tomorrow? The United States is the only developed country in the world without paid family leave. At the very least, employers should give employees a way to earn sick days to prevent the economic hardship of taking a day off to take a child to the doctor. Having a child should not lead to someone being in poverty.
Employers Need to Establish Predictable Work Schedules
Another problem many low-wage workers face is not knowing their work schedule more than a week ahead. Constantly shifting schedules at work make planning out life's tasks very difficult. Imagine wondering whether you can make it to the parent-teacher conference next week or trying to plan a routine doctor's appointment two weeks out when you don't know what your work schedule is going to be? What about trying to take a class when you have a shifting work schedule? Although there are bills before Congress that would protect employees, couldn't employers work with their staff to make balancing life and work much more possible?
Reform the Criminal Justice Program
When a person is incarcerated, the family has to make ends meet without that person's income. That's tough enough. However, when a person has a criminal record, it comes with many consequences that make it hard to climb out of poverty once the sentence is served. People with a criminal record have more barriers to finding good paying jobs, housing and education. It can be difficult for someone convicted of a DUI to even get their license back. Some of these barriers are well-earned, but there needs to be a balance between consequences and punishment.
Give Parents High-Quality Child-Care and Invest in Education
Many states have had to cut the education budgets in the last year due to financial concerns. Unfortunately, this leads to children missing out on foundational skills that are necessary to getting better education, jobs and earnings as an adult. It especially impacts low-income children whose parents do not have the additional income to provide the opportunities on their own.
Americans cannot expect Congress to solve the problem of poverty. It's going to take corporations, individuals and communities to work together to find solutions for specific families. Instead of focusing on the problem, look for how you can make a difference in your own backyard.