Gov. Wolf: Poverty Report Shows Need to Raise Wages, Invest in Working Families

June 18, 2019

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today commented on a United Way of Pennsylvania report about families and households earning above the Federal Poverty Level, but still struggling to cover basic needs and make ends meet. Governor Wolf said the report confirms the need for living wages, more education and job training opportunities, and supportive services in an economy that works for everyone.

“More Pennsylvanians have jobs than ever before, but too many hardworking people are making poverty wages,” said Governor Wolf. “It should be unacceptable to all of us when people are working harder and harder, but still struggling to pay for housing, food, childcare, transportation and other basic needs”

“I applaud the United Way of Pennsylvania for continuing to bring attention to the many people in our community who are working, but low wages and rising costs make it hard for them to keep up. We must act to ensure workers stop falling behind.”

Governor Wolf has proposed to increase the middle class by prioritizing good jobs with higher wages, better education and job training, and improved services. As part of a comprehensive workforce development strategy, the governor launched PAsmart last year to invest in science and technology education and job training, and this year proposed the Statewide Workforce, Education, and Accountability Program (SWEAP). The program expands early childhood education, increases investments in schools, and collaborates with the private sector and stakeholders so workers have the credentials and training that employers need.

Parents cannot break out of poverty if they cannot work. SWEAP would expand home-visiting programs for pregnant women and at-risk infants and toddlers, reduce waiting lists for childcare, and provide wrap-around services so parents can attend college or other training to get skills for family-sustaining jobs.

The governor is also urging the General Assembly to boost incomes for more than 2 million workers by raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour with a pathway to $15 by 2025. Pennsylvania’s $7.25 minimum is at the federal floor.

“Pennsylvania is behind other states – including all of our neighbors – in ensuring fair wages that keep up with the cost of living,” said Governor Wolf. “We must act so families stop falling behind. Our communities cannot afford to have so many working people struggling to keep food on the table and pay the rent. It’s time for the legislature to finally raise the wage.”

Governor Wolf has enacted or proposed other initiatives to improve the financial stability of working families, including:

• Expanding Medicaid, giving an additional 720,000 Pennsylvanians access to health care.
Reducing the uninsured rate to 5.5 percent, the lowest it has ever been;
Increasing enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program by 21 percent to now serve nearly 180,000 children.
• Proposing fairer overtime rules to boost wages for 460,000 workers, because people should be paid for their work;
Increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities by signing the Employment First Executive Order, making Pennsylvania a national leader;
Helping people on public assistance to find and keep good jobs that can support a family by seeking to overhaul state work and housing programs within the Department of Human Services;
Enabling students on public benefits to attend community college to break down barriers to good jobs in rewarding careers;
• Proposing to reduce barriers to employment by reforming occupational licensing requirements and criminal justice reform to provide reentrants with a second chance,
Increasing on-the-job skills training by creating the Apprenticeship and Training Office that has grown participation of non-traditional businesses and under-represented Pennsylvanians.
• And addressing the skills gap, worker shortages and other workforce challenges by establishing the Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center

“Pennsylvania must be a land of opportunity where people can get ahead,” said Governor Wolf. “Too many people are being left behind in our economy. We’ve made progress, but we must do more. It’s time to raise the minimum wage, get people education and training so everyone has the skills to find good-paying jobs, remove barriers to employment so workers can support their families, and build a stronger Pennsylvania for everyone.”

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