OPINION: Policies St. Louis should consider to support the working class in 2018 & beyond

By Michael Benson
Bankruptcy Attorney, A Bankruptcy Law Firm, LLC

The foundation of St. Louis is the working class. In order for St. Louis to succeed, the working class must simultaneously succeed.

The last decade has left blue-collar workers struggling to keep their heads above water. Factoring for inflation, statistics show that a 27-year-old worker in 2013 earns 31% less than a 27-year-old worker in 1969.

Family budgets are tighter than ever and there seems to be little to no signs of improvement in the future. Contributing to the improvement of the working class will help cultivate an economically stimulating environment that all residents of St. Louis can thrive in. The following three policies should be considered to support the working class.

1) Initiate A City Earned Income Tax Credit

The federal earned income tax credit was enacted in 1875 and is credited for helping more than 27 million low-income Americans save over $66 billion and hoisting 9.8 million citizens out of poverty. The credit offers tiered tax relief based on income and has a reputation for being the government’s best tool for combating poverty.

Today in St. Louis, 27.1% of the city’s population dips beneath the poverty line. If the city came together to create a city earned income tax credit to complement the federal credit, the working class would see more money in their pockets. Subsequently, the city would see an increase in local spending which contributes to the city’s overall economic health. Furthermore, the tax credit offers tiered relief to incentivize workers to earn more. Currently, 37,486 residents of the city are receiving some kind of welfare. A city earned income tax credit could help lift citizens out of poverty and enable them to get off of welfare.

2) City-Wide Paid Sick Days

There are several states and over 30 US cities that mandate paid sick leave. As a result, these cities and states see less worker turnover and higher employee satisfaction rates. The state of Missouri currently has a ban on paid sick leave laws. Without access to paid sick leave, St. Louis workers are 1.5 times more likely to spread an infection or illness throughout their workplace, decreasing productivity throughout the entire company.

Workers that do not have access to the benefits of paid sick leave in St. Louis and the entire state of Missouri are less satisfied in their careers overall. Many workers fear losing their jobs if they are forced to take time off due to an illness or a family emergency. In order to enhance job security, reduce worker turnover and further financial empowerment to the working class, the city must rally around the working class to lift the ban and push a local paid sick leave policy into effect.

3) Required College Scorecard Information

In order for the working class to gain access to higher education, St. Louis should consider requiring local colleges to provide The College Scorecard information on the school’s website or in their admission process. The College Scorecard was created by the Obama administration in order to help prospective students compare the average annual cost, post graduation salary and graduation rates for various colleges and universities.

The average St. Louis student will graduate college with $29,183 in debt. Providing students with the information on The College Scorecard will help them calculate one of the largest investments of their lives. Using the College Scorecard is key to helping prospective students weigh the benefits and the costs of different colleges and programs. Helping working class families invest in a college education will allow families to rise from a working-class status into the middle class. Therefore, scorecard information should be more widely integrated into the college application process. Information could be included on financial aid paperwork, enrollment forms, and more.

All in all, these policies extend beyond supporting the working class. When the working class wins, we all win. Strengthening the city is not an impossible feat, but one that must be met with strategy and persistence.

About The Author

Michael Benson is the founder and lead attorney at A Bankruptcy Law Firm, LLC. Regardless of whether he’s in or out of the office, Michael spends most of his time focusing on helping St. Louis individuals improve their financial positions.

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