The tough conditions facing working people in Connecticut are very similar to those we faced among health care workers in New York State — inadequate pay coupled with increases in child care costs.  This burden is especially heavy on single moms. We learned it doesn’t have to be this way.

As articulated in a newly released report authored by UConn economists, now Connecticut appears poised to take our lessons to a higher level.

As the founding director of a statewide fund that provides child and youth programs to more than 20,000 health care providers, I saw firsthand how far these funds ease the burden on working families—and on our economy.

When we negotiated this employer-supported fund, it allowed us to establish a wide variety of support programs, including: reimbursements for child care costs; the development of two early learning centers; programs to support parents during holidays, summers and after-school hours; and a college prep program for students ages 14 to 17.

Surveys of parents over the years found these benefits helped them in many ways.  We expected that the small contributions pooled together would allow parents to shift to better, more reliable childcare.  We were surprised to also find economic benefits for both family and employers.

Imagine this type of benefit for people working in low-paid jobs at fast food franchises, as proposed in a new law called the Connecticut Low Wage Employer Fee (SB 1044).  This law would require highly profitable corporations like McDonald’s to either pay their employees to cover the basics or else pay a fee per employee to cover the costs citizens now absorb for state-funded child care and health care.

In a recently released study by University of Connecticut economists, the benefits of this bill were further illuminated.  If the legislation passes, Connecticut will see an increase of 532 to 1,388 additional jobs and an increase in revenue of at least $184 million. This is good news for working families, and for the state.

The Connecticut initiative takes our idea to another level, holding large employers responsible for fair compensation and redirecting their cost of doing business back on their own books instead of Connecticut taxpayers.  This, in turn-benefits the broader economy and generates a greater shared prosperity for all residents.

It is heartening to know that when we share our wealth and ensure that costs are appropriately distributed we can indeed create a thriving state economy — as working people again earn enough to not only get by, but to get a leg up in life.

Carol Joyner is director of the Labor Project for Working Families and also is the founding director of a statewide fund for child and youth services. 

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