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NH Senate Stops Attempt To Weaken Weekly Pay Law

Legislation would have hurt low wage workers living paycheck to paycheck

money cash CONCORD – Today, a bipartisan vote defeated an attempt to weaken New Hampshire’s weekly pay law. HB 1252 failed on a 12-12 vote, with 2 Republicans joining the Senate Democrats in opposition. After the vote on HB 1252, Deputy Democratic Leader Sen. Donna Soucy released the following statement:

“HB 1252 not only attempts to solve a non-existent problem, it would encourage more employers to pay biweekly instead of weekly, which makes budgeting more difficult for low wage workers living paycheck to paycheck,” said Senator Soucy. “There is no problem with the current weekly pay standard and I am pleased that the Senate defeated this legislation that hurts low wage workers. We should be protecting our low wage workers and giving them more opportunities to succeed, not creating unnecessary barriers for those living paycheck to paycheck.”

Under the current law, New Hampshire employers must pay their employees weekly unless they seek permission from the Department of Labor. According to testimony by the Department, unless there is a problem with the employer not paying workers comp insurance or the employer not able to make payroll, employer’s requests for biweekly pay are routinely approved. 

“The current process allows the Department of Labor to ensure that employers are living up to their legal responsibilities to their employees by maintaining adequate workers comp insurance and ensuring adequate cash flow in order to make payroll. This is not an onerous process and most employers who want to pay bi-weekly are able to.”

Granite State Republicans Continue To Vow Support Trump Even Though It Will Cost Them The Election

Donald Trump (Image by Gage Skidmore CC FLIKR)

Donald Trump (Image by Gage Skidmore CC FLIKR)

Republicans worst nightmare has come true. Donald Trump has won their nomination for President.

Former New Hampshire Republican leaders have been warning that a Trump led ticket would be disaster for Republicans all the way down the ticket.

“Here in New Hampshire, if Donald Trump is the nominee, we will not get a Republican governor. We will lose the New Hampshire state Senate, and we could lose the New Hampshire state House… and we could lose Sen. [Kelly] Ayotte.”
Former GOP Gov. John H Sununu

“I think they’re very concerned if they’re up for reelection . . . Clearly Trump at this time is not going to carry swing states. I’m thinking of New Hampshire, for example.”
Former New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg

“If Donald Trump is the nominee, Kelly Ayotte might as well resign because it’s all over.”
Former NHGOP Chair Fergus Cullen

Even with strong warnings from former party leaders, Republican candidates are still refusing to reject Trump and his racist, fascist, misogynistic rhetoric.

Senator Kelly Ayotte says she will support Trump’s nomination by voting for him but will not endorse him. Pledging to vote for him is in the eyes of everyday voters, the same as endorsing him.

Aaron Jacobs, Communications Director from Maggie for NH blasted Ayotte in a recent statement for her vowing to vote in support of Trump.

“While Kelly Ayotte just today made her support for Donald Trump official, they’ve long been in agreement when it comes to critical issues such as their desire to defund Planned Parenthood, undermine Roe v. Wade, and obstruct the Supreme Court confirmation process. And all Granite Staters should be concerned that Ayotte has announced her support for Trump despite national security experts and members of both parties have condemned his foreign policy positions as dangerous to our country’s vital interests. The people of New Hampshire will soundly reject the Trump-Ayotte ticket in November.”

Women’s health and equal pay are on the forefront of the minds of many women voters in the Granite State. Both Ayotte and Trump oppose equal pay for women and want to nominate a Supreme Court Justice to overturn the forty-year decision of Roe v. Wade.

senators_onnotice_03.1

Image from EMILY’s List

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Image from EMILY’s List

National women’s rights advocacy group EMILY’s List has routinely highlighted the connections between Trump and Ayotte.

“Kelly Ayotte stepped even further away from New Hampshire women and families today with her confirmed support for Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. She chose her extreme party over the women she was elected to represent by pledging to support a nominee who has called women ‘fat pigs’ and ‘slobs’ and who spews hateful rhetoric every chance he gets,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock.

“Although really, it should come as no surprise to anyone that she’s lining up behind Donald Trump — they both share a radical agenda of wanting to defund Planned Parenthood, opposing meaningful efforts to end gender discrimination in pay, and wanting to take away women’s rights to make their own health care decisions. If New Hampshire women can’t even count on Kelly Ayotte to stand up to Donald Trump, they definitely can’t count on her to stand up for them in the Senate,” added Schriock.

It is not just Ayotte who is vowing to support Trump. Congressman Frank Guinta and Rich Ashooh, who are both vying for the GOP nomination in NH’s 1st Congressional District, have also said they will support the Republican nominee, even if it is Trump.

Ashooh recently told NH1 last month that he wouldn’t commit until Trump had the nomination. With Ted Cruz and John Kasish leaving the race, Ashooh is left with little choice.

Guinta told NHPR in March that he will support the eventual nominee. Carol Shea-Porter, candidate for Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st District, has already called on Frank Guinta to denounce Trump’s deeply offensive statements.

Shea-Porter additionally called on Guinta to return a personal contribution Trump made to Guinta’s re-election campaign earlier last year. Frank Guinta refused to comment to WMUR on whether he’d return the contribution.

“Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee, Rich Ashooh and Frank Guinta need to admit to Granite State voters that they pledged to blindly support their nominee, including Donald Trump and his ignorant and dangerous views. We already know where Frank Guinta’s loyalties lie, as he refused to condemn Donald Trump for his hateful and divisive remarks, and he has also refused to return the campaign money he took from Trump earlier last year,” said Shea-Porter. “Rich Ashooh and Frank Guinta have already said that they will commit to supporting the eventual nominee, so now Granite Staters will see whether Ashooh and Guinta will follow through on their promise to Republican voters.”

Trump Sununu Campaign SignTrump’s Presidential campaign is already having an impact on the NH Gubernatorial election.

Last month, Democrats led by New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley unveiled a new campaign sign for the Trump/Sununu ticket, highlighting their shared far-right policies of defunding Planned Parenthood, opposing Medicaid expansion and denying climate change.

“The fact is that Donald Trump’s out of touch views are shared by Chris Sununu and the whole Republican gubernatorial field,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley. “Some Republicans are lining up to denounce Trump because they know how devastating his selection would be for down ballot Republicans. But not Chris Sununu, who said he’ll absolutely support whoever the Republican nominee is, even if it is Trump. I guess we’re not surprised since their policies line up so well.”

With Trump at the top of the ticket this means disaster for the GOP all the way down the ticket. This means that we, as Democrats, have a strong chance of retaining the Governor’s seat and taking back the state House and Senate.

“The Republican party has spoken and chosen the dangerous and offensive Donald Trump to carry their banner into the general election; unfortunately for New Hampshire Republicans, the general electorate won’t make the same mistake,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley. “That’s why Republican leaders in the Granite State have been warning against his candidacy for months. They know that Trump as their party’s nominee means disaster for Kelly Ayotte, Chris Sununu, Ted Gatsas, Jeanie Forrester, Frank Guinta, and the rest of the New Hampshire Republican ticket who have refused to condemn Trump and his destructive policies.”

The NH Citizens Alliance Reacts To Passage Of Watered Down Version Of Pregnancy Protection Bill

pregnant woman Earlier today the NH House passed SB 488, a simple bill that improved the working conditions for pregnant women and lactating mothers.

The original bill had provisions like providing extra bathroom breaks or a stool for pregnant women and a private place for mothers to express milk on their breaks.

The New Hampshire Citizens Alliance and its Stand With Women campaign were on the forefront of effort to pass this bi-partisan bill.

After the final bill was approved by the NH House, Kary Jencks, Executive Director of the NH Citizens Alliance released the following statement:

SB 488 in its original version was relative to reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. It was a bi-partisan, business and family friendly bill that supported equal employment opportunities for women staying in the workforce. NHCA and its Stand with Women Campaign know that protecting the rights of pregnant and lactating workers is vital to NH’s economy.

In order to protect the rights of pregnant and lactating workers NH needs legislation that holds all employers accountable for making NH a state where young professionals choose to live, stay, play, and raise their families. Stripping SB 488 of its accommodation provisions to just being an Advisory Council on lactation is a disservice to NH’s economy.

Being business friendly also means being employee supportive. NH strives to be a business friendly state, but it must also attract and keep an educated, productive work force to fill the positions, grow our economy, and to inhabit and secure our communities.

By dismissing common sense workplace policy bills such as SB 488 GOP House leadership is standing in NH’s way of attracting a much needed vital workforce.

If the elected leaders are really serious about attracting younger workers and families to live and work in New Hampshire then they pass more legislation like the original version SB488.

NH Breastfeeding Bill Passes Senate And House, But Barely Produces A Drop of Protections

The New Hampshire House strips away reasonable accommodations for pregnant and lactating mothers in the workplace, leaving women open to discrimination and termination.

Today, the NH House passed SB 488- establishing an advisory council on lactation, which included breastfeeding and pumping rights.  “I’m not sure why it took 3 years to pass so little.  The bill offers no protections for breastfeeding mothers and no enforcement mechanisms against discrimination.  I think this 3-years struggle in the legislature is indicative of what employees go through when requesting accommodations from their employers,”  said Kate Frederick of Intervale, NH.  Frederick and NH are currently #1 on google for “Fired for Breastfeeding.”   House Representative Amanda Bouldin knows first hand, how much controversial breastfeeding legislation can be.  She stood up to a few or her colleagues in the House and Senate who made nationally publicized comments against breastfeeding mothers and herself.   

Bouldin commented, “I hope that NH employers, both in the public and private sector, will take it upon themselves to provide reasonable accommodations to breastfeeding mothers regardless of what the law dictates.  If there are any state offices that have interfered with breastfeeding among their employees, management should remedy the issue immediately. A government that claims to exist for the welfare of the people shows its hypocrisy in preventing children from accessing their food.”

On Tuesday, April 12, 2016, NH House Commerce Committee passed an amendment to SB 488 – EEO for Pregnancy and Related Conditions Including Lactation, sponsored by Senator Martha Fuller-Clark (D-21).    

The house committee voted to put the bill on the consent calendar for a vote in the full House next week. The amendment establishes an Advisory Council to report on breastfeeding best practices and make recommendations for future legislation. All other provisions that previously passed both the full Senate and the House Commerce Committee did not pass. 

Senator Fuller Clark stated, “This was both a business and family friendly bill that supported equal employment opportunities for women staying in the workforce.   Taking care of our pregnant and lactating workers is vital to NH’s economy.  We need stronger language on the books with clear consequences for violations.  Those who voted against the accommodations provisions just did a disservice to NH’s economy.  NH runs the risk of having women and their families move to other states that currently provide better workplace accommodations.” 

state level preg and bf rights

 The reasonable accommodations sections  that didn’t pass included:  

  • Pregnancy: Being able to drink water during the usual course of the working day; Use of a stool to sit on if needed; more frequent bathroom breaks; physical accommodations, if needed.  
  • Lactation: Unpaid break time for lactation; appropriate space to express milk using a pump, or to go off site to pump or breastfeed, if adequate sanitary space not available.  

Numerous working mothers, advocacy organizations, legislators, medical professionals and business owners had testified in support of various amendments and met numerous times in work group sessions for the last three years on the need for these provisions to be legislated.   

House Representative Ed Butler serves on the House Commerce Committee and has been a leader in fighting for the bills passage.     “After  almost three years of considering the need for space and time accommodations for working mothers who are breastfeeding and need to express milk while working, the House Commerce Committee could only agree upon a further study committee.  To say that I am disappointed is an understatement.”    

Besides the bills bi-partisan sponsors, other legislators testified in support of the bills, including Reublican House Representatives Karen Umberger and Katherine Prudhomme-Obrien.  The only person who testified in opposition of any of the bills was Deputy House Majority Whip, Claire Rouillard, who stated on Tuesday before the House Commerce sub-committee work group session,  “NH’s doing great with breastfeeding, we don’t need this bill.”     

Even though the NH House Commerce Committee had all the information they needed to pass a strong bill, they couldn’t come to an agreement.  Issues and concerns were addressed with information provided regarding enforcement measures and current Federal laws.  This week the committee asked questions they had asked a year ago,  as if an agreement hadn’t been reached as evidenced in their 19-1 vote of ‘ought to pass’ last fall.  Why was SB 219 taken off the consent calendar and tabled?  House leadership submarined that effort at the last second, for reasons known only to them. I was disappointed with yesterday’s result, but perhaps next year will bring new leadership and a new opportunity, said House Representative Bart Fromuth, R, who also serves on the Commerce Committee. 

Senator Fuller Clark and House Representative Fromuth both tried to save the bills accommodations content by bringing forth amendments on Tuesday, but they were all voted down.  

Martha Fuller Clark and two momsPictured Above:  Senator Martha Fuller Clark attends a breastfeeding awareness event at the State House 

Advocates and some legislators aren’t happy that most of the provisions of the proposed bill were scuttled but, instead of letting the bill get killed, decided to support passage of the Advisory Council, the only provision that most agreed upon with a vote of 18 to 2.  Kary Jencks, a New Boston working mother and Executive Director of NH Citizens Alliance for Action has been the lead advocacy group coordinating communications amongst the others and has supported each bills strongest amendment.    

Breastfeeding AwarenessPictured Above:  Kary Jencks takes a knee to Stand with Women, alongside Senator Jeb Bradley, Senator Martha Fuller Clark, representatives from US Senator Shaheen and US Senator Ayotte’s offices and numerous other advocacy organizations and individuals.  

 


Please see Public Service Announcement Video – Breastfeeding Awareness Event at the NH State House

http://scottbarberfilm.com/big-latch-on

To learn more about SB 488 or to get help with requesting reasonable accommodations, go to The Rustik Baby Project at www.RustikEvents.com.   

Kate Frederick is the Founder of The Rustik Baby Project and President of the NH Breastfeeding Rights Coalition.  She was fired due to requesting accommodations for pregnancy and lactation when her infant was 2.5 months old.  Now a toddler, her son continues to breastfeed as recommended by the World Health Organization.  

 

NH Senate Passes Medicaid Expansion, Heads To Governor For Signature

In a truly bipartisan vote of 16-8, (10 Democrats and 6 Republicans) the New Hampshire Senate approved HB 1696, which would reauthorize the New Hampshire Health Protection Program (NHHPP) through December 2018.

Governor Maggie Hassan applauded legislators from both parties and said she will sign the bill.

“Two years ago, we worked across party lines to pass the bipartisan New Hampshire Health Protection Program, which has made a real difference for our people, for our businesses and in our efforts to combat the heroin and opioid crisis,” said Governor Maggie Hassan. “With its bipartisan vote today, the New Hampshire State Senate has taken another important step forward to build on that progress, joining the House of Representatives in its recognition of the importance of this critical program.”

“Thanks to our bipartisan healthcare expansion plan, nearly 50,000 hard-working Granite Staters have access to quality, affordable health insurance, reducing healthcare cost-shifting onto all of our people and businesses. I applaud legislators from both parties, the medical community, advocates and other stakeholders for their efforts to reauthorize our bipartisan New Hampshire Health Protection Program, and I look forward to signing this legislation into law so that we can continue this critical program that is strengthening the health and financial security of our people and boosting our economy,” concluded Hassan

“We applaud the Senate reauthorization of the NH Health Protection Program, which will ensure that the nearly 48,000 Granite Staters currently on the program can continue to have affordable access to preventative and primary care in New Hampshire,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Granite State Progress Education Fund Executive Director. “Families struggling in low wage jobs or caught between tough times don’t need health concerns to further hold them back. Being able to see a doctor when you are sick or access preventative care means less time away from work and better health in the long run. We are pleased that the Senate vote had strong bi-partisan support, despite a handful of politicians who chose to stand in the way of New Hampshire families.”

“The next step is to address the underlying reasons why so many Granite Staters are in need of this program. Raising wages, tackling outdated workplace policies that discriminate against women and minorities, and empowering families to be able to take control of their reproductive health are all important pieces of the overall puzzle.,” added Rice-Hawkins.

NH Citizens Alliance Executive Director Kary Jencks added, “The biggest issue for reauthorization was the percentage of the total cost the State of New Hampshire was required to cover. Let’s pay our workers the worth of their jobs so that New Hampshire women and families don’t need these safety nets; saving our tax payer dollars and in turn allowing hardworking families greater financial security.”

Along with many other organizations, the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute has been very vocal in support of reauthorizing the NHHPP.

“New Hampshire has many fine traditions, but few can rival the bipartisanship and common-sense pragmatism that the Senate displayed today in reauthorizing the New Hampshire Health Protection Program,” said the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute Executive Director Jeff McLynch. “Its vote today – in combination with earlier efforts by the House of Representatives — will ensure that more than 48,000 Granite Staters continue to have access to affordable health insurance for another two years.”

The NHHPP is specifically designed to provide healthcare to those who fall between the cracks in coverage. These are people who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but make too little to qualify for healthcare subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

“Health Protection Program enrollees include many individuals who work in low wage jobs that keep the state economy moving, but that don’t pay enough to make ends meet. The program provides thousands of hard-working Granite Staters with access to the care they need to stay healthy and able to provide for their families,” added McLynch.

“NHFPI looks forward to working with the members of the upcoming study commission to identify ways to enhance the effectiveness of the Health Protection Program still further and to ensure that it remains a vital element of New Hampshire’s efforts to promote health and economic security for years to come,” concluded McLynch.

State Senators who stood with New Hampshire women and their families include the entire Democratic caucus and six Republicans: Senate President Chuck Morse (R), Majority Leader Jeb Bradley (R), Sen. Jerry Little (R), Sen. Nancy Stiles (R), Sen. David Boutin (R), Sen. Sam Cataldo (R), Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn (D), Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D), Sen. Andrew Hosmer (D), Sen. Molly Kelly (D), Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D), Sen. David Pierce (D), Sen. Dan Feltes (D), Sen. Bette Lasky (D), Sen. Donna Soucy (D), and Sen David Watters (D).

State Senators who stood in the way of access to health care coverage for Granite State families are: Sen. Jeanie Forrester (R), Sen. Andy Sanborn (R), Sen. Gary Daniels (R), Sen. Kevin Avard (R), Sen. Sharon Carson (R), Sen. John Reagan (R), Sen. Regina Birdsell (R), and Sen. Russell Prescott (R).

“Jeanie Forrester’s vote to take away healthcare from nearly 50,000 Granite Staters is the latest example of her putting far-right ideology ahead of the lives of everyday people,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley. “Just as shameful, in a time when our state is facing an opioid crisis, she voted to take away substance abuse services from 6,000 people receiving treatment. This disgraceful vote is a perfect example of the right-wing extremism spewing from the Republican candidates for governor.”

Forrester isn’t the first Republican candidate for governor to try to kill Medicaid expansion. In October 2013, Chris Sununu was the only member of the Executive Council to vote against endorsing Gov. Hassan’s call for a special session to consider the recommendations of a commission that endorsed Medicaid expansion. Then, in July 2014, Sununu was one of two councilors to vote against a $292 million contract that would allow Medicaid expansion to begin September 1, 2014. He touted these efforts as recently as last month.

 

Read also the statement from NH Senate Democrats. 

Granite State Rumblings: Reauthorizing Medicaid Expansion And Making Ends Meet In NH

I could not have said this any better. Thank you Jeff McLynch for this excellent piece in Sunday’s Concord Monitor.

My Turn: Much further to climb on journey to economic stability

By Jeff McLynch

For the Monitor

If you’ve ever been out for hike, you know it can happen. You’ve been trudging along for a few hours and the top of the mountain finally seems within reach. Yet, after climbing farther, you realize it was only a false summit hiding the true peak; you’ve actually still got a long way to go to reach your goal.

When it comes to ensuring greater economic security, New Hampshire has a false summit problem, too. At 9.2 percent, New Hampshire’s poverty rate was the lowest in the nation in 2014, the most recent year for which such data is available. However, because of flaws in the way the federal government measures poverty, that relatively positive news hides just how much further New Hampshire must go before everyone in the Granite State can truly make ends meet.

Consider that, in 2014, the income level at which a single person was no longer considered poor in our country was just over $12,300. For a family of four, the corresponding threshold was a little more than $24,000. All it takes is a moment’s reflection on the expenses we incur in our own lives each day to appreciate just how low those thresholds are – and by extension, how inadequate federal poverty statistics are for understanding what it really takes for Granite State families just to get by.

Analysts at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, have devised an alternative measure of need that provides a more comprehensive assessment of the incomes families need to be able to secure life’s necessities. Referred to as a “basic family budget,” this measure seeks to remedy the two principal shortcomings of the federal poverty threshold. It reflects not only the actual costs families encounter in purchasing basics like food, clothing, shelter, health care and child care, but also geographic variations in those costs.

EPI’s findings for New Hampshire are revealing. Under its basic family budget calculations, a single person living in the Concord area needs an income of close to $31,600 per year to be able to afford rent, groceries and other essentials. That’s more than 2½ times the income at which the same person would be considered poor. The gap is even larger for families. The basic family budget for a two-parent, two-child family in the Concord area amounts to about $67,932 – almost three times the official poverty level.

EPI’s research also underscores how much more expensive it can be to live in the Granite State than in other places across the country. For example, EPI devised basic family budgets for 618 distinct communities across the country. For a family of three, only about one out every five of those communities had a higher cost of living than in Concord and other parts of the state.

In its new paper, “Taking the measure of need in the Granite State,” (see Growing Up Granite below), the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute explores EPI’s basic family budget findings for four key family types in various regions of the state and builds upon the data to try to understand whether jobs here in New Hampshire allow families to meet their basic needs.

To be sure, wages and salaries can be higher here in New Hampshire than elsewhere, but it’s likely that a significant share of the jobs available in the state leave workers unable to achieve a modest standard of living. Based on EPI’s research, as well as data from the Occupational Employment Statistics survey, NHFPI estimates that about one-third of all jobs in New Hampshire pay less than what a single person would need to reach his or her basic family budget; as many as two-thirds of all jobs fail to pay enough for a single parent with one child to do so. Indeed, the typical wage in some of the most common jobs in the state – whether retail sales positions, waiters and waitresses, janitors, or cashiers – simply is insufficient to enable workers to secure even just the basics.

Unfortunately, a single solution to the challenges facing working Granite Staters does not exist. Rather, in the years ahead, the task before policymakers will be to identify and to implement a combination of reforms to help families make ends meet, both by bolstering incomes and by bringing the costs of basic necessities within closer reach. That kind of comprehensive strategy should aim to help people acquire the skills and education they need to find and to keep a job, remove barriers to full participation in the workforce, and ensure that everyone receives a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

The journey toward economic security is an endless climb for far too many Granite Staters. They work tirelessly each day, but remain unable to meet their most immediate needs, much less achieve their longer-term financial goals – saving for retirement, sending their kids to college or purchasing their own home. New Hampshire’s future will depend upon our ability to clear the path and ensure that economic stability remains achievable and within reach.

(Jeff McLynch is Executive Director of the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute in Concord.)

GROWING UP GRANITE

Taking the Measure of Need in the Granite State
NH Fiscal Policy Institute

New Hampshire’s poverty rate of 9.2 percent was the lowest in the nation in 2014.  While that distinction should inspire some pride, it should not engender complacency, for, as a means of assessing economic security, official federal poverty statistics often come up short.  Indeed, economists and other analysts have long understood that the federal poverty threshold does not accurately reflect the level of income required to secure basic necessities, particularly in a state like New Hampshire, where the cost of living tends to be higher than in many other parts of the country.

Research by the Economic Policy Institute has produced a more robust measure of need, referred to as a “Basic Family Budget,” that more fully captures the cost of acquiring essential goods and services, from housing and health care to clothing and child care.  In some instances, depending upon a family’s size and place of residence, their Basic Family Budget is three times as great as the federal poverty threshold, underscoring that many Granite State families, while not poor by official statistics, still struggle each day to make ends meet.

This Issue Brief describes the federal poverty threshold, examines some of its shortcomings, and explains the notion of using the Basic Family Budget calculation as an alternative measure of need.  It also attempts to assess the degree to which various jobs in New Hampshire pay wages that are high enough to allow Granite State families to meet their basic needs.

Official Federal Measure Shows Poverty Low but Rising in New Hampshire

gsrmarch16_1

In 2014, 118,000 New Hampshire residents lived in families with incomes below the official federal poverty threshold, according to estimates from the US Census Bureau.[i]  This number amounts to 9.2 percent of New Hampshire’s population, the lowest share of any state’s population to be considered poor.  However, the issue of Granite Staters not earning enough for basic needs has steadily become more pervasive, with the number of New Hampshire residents living in material deprivation in 2014 almost twice what it was in 2000.  Consequently, as the graph below depicts, the share of Granite Staters living in poverty remains considerably above the 5.3 percent rate that held at the turn of the century.

Each year the Census Bureau publishes figures by family type that are known as poverty thresholds.  Essentially, if a family’s income is less than the dollar amount of the threshold for its household type, all the members of that household are considered to be living in poverty.  Below is a subset of the official federal poverty thresholds for 2014.

When the federal poverty threshold was created in the 1960s, research on household consumption patterns revealed that a family of three or more spent about one-third of its budget on food.  Consequently, the official poverty thresholds were created by multiplying the cost of a minimum food diet by three.  The only adjustments to those original figures that have been made over time are to account for the general increase in all consumer prices, better known as inflation.

Shortcomings of the Federal Poverty Threshold

Given this information, the federal poverty thresholds suggest that a single person who earns $1,050 per month does not live in poverty.  The same holds for a married couple with one child who earns $1,600 per month.  gsrmarch16_2Nevertheless, given the costs people face today, these numbers instinctively feel inadequate, an intuition that is borne out when one examines existing data on household expenditures.  According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, a modest efficiency apartment in New Hampshire for a single person has a price tag of around $750 per month.[ii]  For a family of three, a two-bedroom apartment costs nearly $1,100 per month.  Based on these costs, shelter would constitute two-thirds of a poverty-level budget for each household, leaving little room to purchase food, clothing, health care, and transportation.

These examples demonstrate that the federal poverty threshold may not accurately capture the degree of economic insecurity individuals and families face. Supporting this conclusion, the Census Bureau concedes that the poverty thresholds are “…a statistical yardstick, not a complete description of what people need to live.”[iii]  One weakness of the federal poverty threshold is the assumption that households spend one-third of their budgets on food; current data show that number is closer to 12 to 13 percent.[iv]  Additionally, the federal poverty threshold does not account for geographic differences in housing and other costs, treating disparate places like New York City and Jackson, Mississippi equivalently.  Lastly, the official measure defines “family resources” only as cash income, such as wages, Social Security benefits, and investment income.  It does not add to a family’s resources non-cash governmental benefits (for example, SNAP or housing subsidies) or tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit.  It also does not subtract from a family’s resources such necessary expenses as out-of-pocket medical expenditures or commuting costs.

In response to these shortcomings, Congress requested that the National Academy of Sciences convene a panel to examine the federal poverty threshold in greater depth.  That panel produced a report in 1995 with a number of recommendations, which eventually led the Census Bureau to create what is called the supplemental poverty measure.[v]  This method did not replace the official measure, but rather exists to provide alternative figures for comparison purposes.  Unlike the official poverty threshold, the supplemental measure uses current data on household expenditures to approximate what it takes to purchase basic necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter, and utilities.  Moreover, the supplemental poverty measure accounts for geographic differences in housing costs, meaning that its dollar thresholds vary from state to state, whereas the official poverty thresholds are identical for the 48 contiguous states.  Finally, the supplemental measure adds non-cash governmental benefits and federal tax credits to a household’s income and subtracts out necessary expenses in order to capture the resources available to a household.

As of 2014, for twenty-six states, the poverty rate under the supplemental measure was lower than the official rate, meaning that the official measure is overstating poverty.[vi]  In eleven states, no statistically significant difference was found between the two measures.  In thirteen states, including New Hampshire, the supplemental measure found more people living in poverty.  Looking more closely at this final pool of states, two patterns emerge.  First, most of these places, such as California, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Northeast region, have above-average housing costs, which is not captured by the official poverty measure.  Second, the populations of the Northeast and Florida are older than the rest of the country.  This is germane because the supplemental measure deducts insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses (such as co-pays for prescriptions or doctor’s visits) from available financial resources.  Because this category of expenses tends to be significant for older people, subtracting them results in an increase in measured poverty for those 65 years old and over.[vii]

Basic Family Budgets: A Better Measure of Need

While the supplemental poverty measure is a meaningful improvement over the official method, it has its own limitations.  First, with the exception of housing, the supplemental measure does not reflect geographic variability in its estimates of costs that households encounter every day.  Second, the supplemental measure only provides information “at the national level or within large subpopulations,” meaning that it does not capture differences within states.[viii]  Finally, child care costs are not adequately measured.  Rather than surveying child care providers to approximate market-based rates, the supplemental measure uses information from working parents on what they spend on child care.  This distinction is important since many low-income families who are unable to afford market rates have to rely on alternatives for care, such as a relative or neighbor.

Given the supplemental measure’s constraints, researchers have attempted to construct more robust standards of need that reflect what it takes to achieve economic security and independence.  One such effort is the Family Budget Calculator compiled by analysts at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a nonpartisan think-tank based in Washington, DC.[ix]  Their objective is to estimate the “income necessary for families to secure an adequate but modest living.”  To achieve this, they identify the most basic expenses households incur: housing, food, transportation, health care, child care (if applicable), taxes, and other necessities (such as clothing).  From there, they price each expense as locally as possible for ten different family types, ranging from one adult with no children to two adults with four children.[x] These Basic Family Budget calculations are done for sub-state regions within all 50 states.

Driven mostly by geographic definitions from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, under EPI’s analysis, New Hampshire is divided into eight geographic areas.  Each is shown below along with a sample of towns, cities, and counties within each area.[xi]

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In the following table, annual budgets for four family types are shown for each area of New Hampshire, along with the official poverty thresholds as a percentage of EPI’s Basic Family Budget.  What is evident is that the federal poverty threshold is far beneath the income necessary for any family to attain an adequate living standard in the Granite State.

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A closer examination of EPI’s research reveals that health care, rent, and child care (for families with children) are the largest costs households face, rather than food, as assumed by the official poverty thresholds.  For instance, the figure below shows a Basic Family Budget for a two adult, one child family in Manchester, the state’s largest city.  As it illustrates, health care costs constitute 14 percent of their budget, rent comprises 20 percent, and child care makes up 16 percent.

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In addition to varying by family type, the costs of many basic necessities vary by geography, and, as noted above, those costs are often higher in the northeastern part of the United States.  The table below provides a helpful depiction of such variation.  Again, EPI estimates that a two adult, one child family in Greater Manchester needs an annual income of nearly $63,000 to secure a modest standard of living, a figure that ranks in the top fifth of the 618 family budget areas analyzed by EPI.  In other words, for a two adult, one child family, Greater Manchester is a more expensive place to live than 80 percent of US communities, outpacing such cities as Little Rock and St. Louis.  Greater Manchester’s comparatively high ranking is primarily due to higher costs for housing and child care.  More specifically, at $12,624 per year, housing costs for a two adult, one child family in Greater Manchester are among the top quarter of areas examined by EPI.  Likewise, annual child care costs of $9,826 for a two adult, one child family in Greater Manchester are roughly 10 percent higher than child care costs in Pittsburgh, which represented the 75th percentile of such costs in EPI’s analysis.

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Many Jobs in New Hampshire Leave Workers Unable to Achieve an Adequate Standard of Living

While estimates of the number and share of New Hampshire households with incomes below the federal poverty threshold are produced by the Census Bureau each year, comparable figures for the degree to which Granite Staters are unable to meet their Basic Family Budgets are not yet available.  Nevertheless, NHFPI has attempted, based on state occupational data, to approximate how many jobs in New Hampshire pay wages that are high enough to allow Granite State families to meet their Basic Family Budget.

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As explained in greater detail in the methodology section following the conclusion of this Issue Brief, NHFPI examined data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey on the distribution of wages paid in each of 603 different occupations in New Hampshire.  It then compared those wages to Basic Family Budgets for four key family types, and, using several simplifying assumptions, arrived at an estimate of the number of jobs in New Hampshire that pay above or below those budgets.  Accordingly, as summarized in the table above, NHFPI finds that:

  • Roughly 64 percent of New Hampshire jobs pay enough for a single, childless adult to attain an adequate standard of living, as measured by EPI’s Basic Family Budget.
  • Only about 30 percent of New Hampshire jobs pay enough for a single parent with one child to attain an adequate standard of living.
  • Approximately 64 percent of New Hampshire jobs pay enough for two working adults with one child to attain an adequate standard of living.
  • Roughly 56 percent of New Hampshire jobs pay enough for two working adults with two children to attain an adequate standard of living.

A review of the overall distribution of wages among all New Hampshire occupations provides a rough corroboration of these findings.  In particular, according to the OES survey, 25 percent of all occupations pay $24,230 or less, 50 percent pay $36,420 or less, and 75 percent pay $56,800 or less.  In turn, Basic Family Budgets for a single parent with one child range from about $51,600 to $61,600 – that is, ranging from just below to slightly above the 75th percentile wage.  In comparison, NHFPI estimates that nearly 70 percent of occupations do not pay enough for a single parent with one child to make ends meet.  Similarly, Basic Family Budgets for a single, childless adult range from $28,900 to $37,700, a span squarely above the 25th percentile wage but generally below the 50th percentile mark, largely consistent with NHFPI’s finding that about 36 percent of occupations pay less than the level needed for a single person to achieve an adequate standard of living.

To illustrate further the general finding that many jobs in New Hampshire do not pay enough for families and individuals to achieve an adequate standard of living, the table below compares the Basic Family Budget for the Strafford County-Great Bay Region for four main family types with the median wage for the 20 most common occupations in New Hampshire.  Check marks (P) indicate scenarios in which a particular median wage equals or exceeds the Basic Family Budget for that family type.  So, for instance, retail salespersons constitute the most numerous occupation in New Hampshire; the most recent data show that the median annual wage for such a job is $22,080.[xii]  That wage, in turn, is insufficient to meet the Basic Family Budget for each of the four main family types in the Strafford County-Great Bay Region.  Alternatively, there are 12,390 registered nurses in New Hampshire.  Their median annual wage is $63,820, a level of pay that exceeds those four Basic Family Budgets.

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Such comparisons should not, of course, be taken as definitive.  Median wages simply convey the “typical” wage for that occupation; there can be significant variation in wages even within a single occupation.  Consequently, some workers in an occupation with a comparatively low median wage may still be able to reach their Basic Family Budget.  In addition, the table above is obviously not a comprehensive catalogue of the types of employment available in New Hampshire.  High wage and low wage occupations alike are left out of this listing, along with the prospect of out-of-state employment.  Nevertheless, such comparisons do help to highlight the mismatch between the wages many workers earn and the costs they face for putting food on the table and a roof over their heads.

Conclusion

Whether in the private sector or in the public sphere, statistics can have great value, but they can also fail to depict completely the situations or trends they are intended to illustrate.  New Hampshire’s comparatively low poverty rate is an excellent case in point, as it stands at odds with the economic anxiety many Granite State families continue to experience.  A more robust assessment of basic needs, as embodied in the Economic Policy Institute’s Basic Family Budget calculation, offers a clearer understanding of how much further working families must go in the Granite State just to get by.  In the years ahead, the task before policymakers will be to identify and to implement a combination of reforms to help people make ends meet, both by bolstering incomes and by bringing the costs of basic necessities within closer reach.

For Methodology and Sources click HERE

NH Senate Passes SB 427 To Provide Funding For Police Standards And Training Council

police motorcycles manchester

Yesterday the NH Senate passed SB 427, which provides critical funding to ensure that the Police Standards and Training Council could continue training law enforcement officers across the state. 

“The Police Standards and Training Council does an exceptional job training our police officers and preparing them for the public safety challenges our state faces,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, the prime sponsor of SB 427. “In recent years, the council has had to do more with less funding due to declining revenue and we have reached the point of no return. To cut back on law enforcement, especially now with the opiate crisis, would be a huge mistake and I thank the Senate for their support of this vital funding.” 

“We must assure that New Hampshire has strong and well-trained police officers. This is one of our most important responsibilities. SB 527 ensures that we live up to that responsibility. I look forward to working with the House to get this important legislation to the Governor’s desk as soon as possible,” added D’Allesandro. 

“Public safety is our most important responsibility as a state, and it has never been more important than it is now for New Hampshire to continue our strong practice of unified training and community policing,” said Governor Maggie Hassan. “The Police Standards and Training Council helps prepare our dedicated officers for the challenges and dangers that they face every day, and this important measure will help address the funding challenge that the council faces.” 

“I thank the Senate for passing this critical legislation to support the Police Standards and Training Council’s work to help prepare our law enforcement community for the challenges that they face every day, and I urge the House to join their colleagues in support of this bill so that we can keep New Hampshire’s law enforcement officers among the most effective in the country,” added Hassan

NH Senate Votes Down Online Voter Registration

Concord, NH –Senator Bette Lasky (D-Nashua) released the following comments after the Senate voted down SB 507, authorizing online voter registration.

“I’m disappointed that my Senate colleagues did not support what was originally good, bipartisan legislation. SB 507 would have made registering to vote more consistent and accessible, while lessening the burden of same-day registration on our municipalities,” said Senator Lasky. “Allowing our citizens to register to vote online would have helped to create a more accessible system and increased the number of citizens exercising one of our most important rights.” 

23 states have already implemented online voter registration and 5 more states will be added to that list this year. Research has also shown in these states that online voter registration has sustained or increased voter registration.  

“New Hampshire has built a strong reputation for voter participation, but we can always do more to help busy Granite Staters take part in our elections. New Hampshire needs to continually move forward as technology advances and find new and creative ways to make voting more accessible. I am very disappointed that the Senate killed a bill that would have created a more effective and efficient election process for our Granite State citizens.” 


See also the statement from the New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights.


NH Senate Failure to Pass SB 507 and Strengthen Integrity, Innovation for Voting in New Hampshire

Legislation sought to bring New Hampshire voting, democracy into the 21st century

CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire Senate voted today against SB 507-FN, authorizing online voter registration, by a vote of 13-11. Statements from voting rights advocates:

“New Hampshire is missing out on an opportunity to bring elections into the 21st century and expand access to voter registration. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have, with bipartisan support, implemented this approach to election modernization, and have seen savings in time, money and other resources,” said Brittnie Baker, Staff Counsel at Fair Elections Legal Network. “We need to continue to fight for common sense elections reforms that would help New Hampshire residents participate in elections.”

“New Hampshire’s voter registration system should be modernized and brought online to give every eligible voter an opportunity to participate in our democracy. Citizens can file taxes, apply for jobs, receive financial aid and register vehicles online,” said Paula Hodges, State Director of America Votes-NH. “Allowing for voter registration online ensures our democracy is keeping up with the technological world we live in.”

“Enabling fellow Granite Staters to securely exercise their right to vote should not be a partisan matter,” stated Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire. “Online voter registration has been adopted in blue and red states throughout the country, precisely because it lessens the burden on local election officials and improves the integrity of the election system as a whole.”

“As the “First in the Nation” Primary state with one of the highest voter participation rates in the country, we believe New Hampshire can become a model for the nation in administering inclusive, transparent, and high integrity elections,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress & Education Fund. “Updating our voting systems to ensure that all voters have equal access, regardless of income, race, gender, disability, or age strengthens our democracy.”

SB 507-FN had previously passed the Senate on a voice vote, but was re-referred to the Finance committee. Voting rights advocates questioned the steep fiscal note that was attached to the bill, which was more than it cost the State of California to overhaul its entire voting system.

“The League of Women Voters NH is very disappointed with the Senate’s decision to kill the opportunity for New Hampshire to move to online voter registration. This was a good piece of legislation that was undermined by a fiscal note that was not credible. It’s not possible for online voter registration in New Hampshire to cost more than it costs for the entire state of California when most states have found the costs to be modest or nonexistent,” said Liz Tentarelli, President of LWVNH. “More than 30 states now have online voter registration, and election officials across the country have praised the benefits of a modernized voting system. Online voter registration increases voter roll accuracy and security, it reduces workload and costs for municipalities, and it encourages citizens to register and vote.”


The New Hampshire Campaign for Voting Rights is a three pronged plan to strengthen integrity and build transparency into the voting process and improve access to the ballot box. The coalition includes America Votes-New Hampshire, Open Democracy, New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters-New Hampshire, NextGen New Hampshire, New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, People for the American Way, Granite State Progress & Education Fund, and Fair Elections Legal Network.

NH Senate Refuses To Address Gerrymandering In New Hampshire Districts

Senate Kills Fair Redistricting Reforms, Sticks with Partisan Process

Gerrymandering

Concord – Yesterday, the New Hampshire Senate killed the common sense legislative approach to eliminate gerrymandering, the political power play that creates nearly guaranteed election wins for specific parties. SB 425,  would have established an independent redistricting commission to take power out of the hands of politicians restoring democracy to the people. 

“The voters of New Hampshire should be choosing their legislators; legislators should not be drawing district lines to choose their voters,” said Sen. David Pierce (D-Lebanon). “SB 425 would have enacted needed reforms and removed partisan politics from the process of drawing election district lines by creating an independent redistricting commission that would propose, not mandate, where the district lines are to be drawn after the 2020 census. I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the entrenched politicians in the Senate majority chose to defeat this legislation and stick with the partisan process.” 

After Republicans took control of the state legislature in 2010 accusations of gerrymandering were rampant.  The GOP did not even try to hide their attempts to create more GOP favorable districts by redrawing districts and creating floaterial districts to add more predominate Republican communities to give themselves an advantage in future elections.

SB 425 would create a seven-member independent commission to develop an apportionment plan for election districts following the decennial census. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate President, and Senate Minority Leader would each appoint 1 member to the commission and the Governor would get 2 appointments. No member of the commission could be an elected official in a partisan office, political party official, or a relative or employee of a member of the NH House, NH Senate, or US Congress. 

“As evidenced by the results of the presidential primaries across our country, voters have had enough of elected officials who prioritize their own political survival over the interests of the people. As a state, we need to listen to our constituents and ensure we have a redistricting process that voters can have faith in. We need to restore confidence in the people’s government, not continue to subordinate it to politicians’ selfish desire to stay in office. Free, fair, and competitive elections should be the goal, not gerrymandered districts to protect incumbents and create artificial majorities.”

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