The Districts Dime

Thanks to DC’s Paid Sick Leave Law, Fewer People Are Getting the Flu

August 30th, 2016 | by Ilana Boivie

The District’s efforts to ensure that everyone gets paid sick leave from their job—adopted in 2008 and strengthened in 2014—have led to reduced flu infections citywide. That’s great news as the flu season approaches.

States and cities that require employers to offer sick leave to employees have seen a drop in flu infections, according to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, based on Google Flu data. The study finds that incidents of flu infections fell:

  • 5.5 percent in states that require employers to provide unpaid sick leave to workers;
  • 6.5 percent in states that require employers to provide paid sick leave to workers; and
  • 2.5 percent in the District after its paid sick leave law was initially passed, with the likelihood of even larger declines in the future, due to the law’s expansion (see below).

Paid sick leave benefits are important both to workers and to public health. All of us get sick sometimes and need to take time off from work, but that should not lead to a loss of income that makes it harder to pay bills. Without paid sick leave, many workers go to work when they shouldn’t, where they are more likely to infect their coworkers. When workers have access to paid sick leave, by contrast, they are more likely to stay home when they are sick, reducing the spread of contagious illnesses like the flu.

DC’s Accrued Safe and Sick Leave Act (ASSLA) requires employers to give workers at least 3-7 paid sick days per year, depending on the size of the business and whether the worker is tipped or not. Sick leave can be used for personal illness, medical appointments, care of an ill family member, or absences associated with domestic violence or sexual abuse. Employees are protected from employer retaliation for using their sick leave benefits.

Researchers believe that flu infections will fall further in DC as more recent data is collected. This is because DC’s paid sick leave law was strengthened in 2014 to cover more workers. The initial law passed in 2008 required workers to be on the job a year before accruing benefits, and it excluded tipped workers and bar employees. The 2014 changes cover all workers, and allows them to accrue starting on their first day of work.

As summer starts to wind down and the new school year begins, it’s good to know that a law aimed at improving working conditions for city workers has made us healthier as a city.

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DCFPI Welcomes Linnea Lassiter to Our Team!

August 25th, 2016 | by DCFPI Staff

We’re excited to introduce you to Linnea Lassiter, DCFPI’s new policy analyst!  Linnea will focus on a variety of issues affecting low-income DC residents, including TANF and early childhood education, and other policies that have a disparate impact on DC residents of color.

Linnea joins our team through a fellowship Linneaprogram of the State Priorities Partnership, a national network of policy organizations in 42 states and DC that work to advance equity and prosperity through state budget and tax policies. She recently earned an M.A. in Public Policy from the University of Washington, and holds a B.A. in Political Science/Public Policy from George Washington University.

Linnea’s professional experience is rooted in criminal justice policy and the racial, economic, and fiscal implications of mass incarceration. Prior to joining DCFPI, she worked with juvenile delinquency prevention programs within DC, conducted research at the Urban Institute on the school-to-prison pipeline, and co-authored reports on modern-day debtors’ prisons and felony disenfranchisement resulting from unpaid criminal justice debt.

Join us in welcoming Linnea!

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Five Things You Should Know About Student Mobility in DC

August 24th, 2016 | by Soumya Bhat

When a lot of students change schools mid-year, it can be disruptive for them – and for their schools. We often hear anecdotes about the large numbers of students who move in and out of DC public schools during the year, creating funding challenges for school leaders and a lack of educational continuity for students. The available information on DC school “churn” – from OSSE’s Mid-Year Student Movement in DC report – shows that student mobility is not as substantial as you might think, but large enough that we should do something to improve student stability.

Here’s what the data shows:

1. The majority of DC students are stable. About 92 percent of DC students stay in their school all year. That said, the 8 percent of DC students who change schools represented 6,118 students in the 2013-14 school year.

2. Three-fourths of students who change schools mid-year are moving in or out of the city’s public school system altogether. Most mid-year school movement represent students newly coming to a publicly funded school – DCPS or a public charter school – or students leaving for a private school or a school outside of DC.

3. The number of students who switch schools within the same sector (DCPS or charter) is about the same as the number who change sectors.

4. More students transferred from public charter schools to DCPS schools mid-year than vice versa. Of the students who switch sectors, the vast majority leave a public charter school to go to a DCPS school. DCPS schools gained 2 percent, or 890 students, in 2013-14, while public charter schools saw a net loss of 4 percent, or 1,330 students.

5. The majority of movement within the same school sector occurs in DCPS. Out of the 743 students who switched schools but stayed in the same sector, 673 were moving from one DCPS school to another. Notably, comprehensive DCPS high schools are disproportionately affected by high rates of churn when compared to all other types of schools.

The negative effects of churn are also seen in our low-income communities and are linked to student achievement. Schools with “high churn” are mostly located in Wards 7 and 8, serve larger shares of at-risk students, and show lower levels of student performance compared to low churn schools.

These findings suggest that it is important to take steps to reduce student mobility between and among the city’s public schools. We hope that this issue will be tackled in the coming months – both in the recommendations coming out of the Deputy Mayor’s Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force meetings and the State Superintendent Office’s working group created to examine the school funding formula.

For more information, you can find the full OSSE report here and Cross-Sector Collaboration Task Force documents here.

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Student Mobility by Sector

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TANF at 20: TANF Parents Speak Out

August 22nd, 2016 | by Kate Coventry

Today is the 20th anniversary of the passage of the 1996 federal welfare law that created the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. On this anniversary, DC TANF parents are calling on city leaders to reform a program that has failed to meet their needs. They talk about the barriers they face in getting employment that can sustain their families and how they are working to overcome these barriers through education and training. They also talk about how hard it is to support a family on just $154 per month for a family of three, the reduced TANF benefit provided to families who have received benefits for more than 60 months. And they talk about how cutting families off of TANF before they are ready, as DC is planning to do in October 2017, will only make their problems worse.

As DC leaders prepare to make critical choices about how to modify the city’s rigid TANF time limit, they should look to the lived experiences of TANF parents. The DC time limit cuts all families off when they reach the time limit, even if they are doing all they can to find a job or are facing big barriers to employment like domestic violence or health problems. DC should modify the time limit to recognize that some families need more time and assistance to obtain employment. And the District should create a policy that avoids pushing more families into deeper poverty. This will create a brighter future for TANF families and for the city as a whole.

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TANF at 20: DC Should Look to Research As it Develops TANF Time Limit Policy

August 19th, 2016 | by Kate Coventry

Next week marks the 20th anniversary of the passage of the 1996 federal welfare law that created the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. As the District’s leaders prepare to TANF is a lifelinemake critical choices about how to modify the city’s rigid TANF time limit, they should look to the lessons learned over the past 20 years, particularly research that finds that the share of children living in “deep poverty” has increased as a result of a weaker TANF safety net for families, including time limits that cut families off before they are ready. DC has a choice to avoid pushing more children into “deep poverty” by passing a time limit that focuses on protecting children and recognizes that some families need more time.

Federal law governing TANF grants DC and the states a great deal of flexibility over time limits and other policies, and most states have used this flexibility to create time limit extensions for families who need more time. This is important because a large body of research confirms that families reaching time limits often have substantial problems, including high rates of mental illness and limited cognitive functioning. States that have not created flexible time limits have seen dramatic increases, not only in “deep poverty” – children living below half of the poverty line – but also in hunger, homelessness, and foster care.

The District should look to the experiences in other states as it creates a TANF time limit policy. The DC time limit adopted in 2011 cuts all families off when they reach the time limit, regardless of their circumstances or whether they are actively looking for work. And once DC families reach the time limit, they can never get back on. This is far more restrictive than in most states. Under current law, the time limit will cut more than 10,000 children off from assistance in October 2017, regardless of whether parents are able to meet their children’s basic needs without assistance.

It does not have to be this way. The District can adopt a flexible time limit with a goal that it should help families succeed without pushing any more children into “deep poverty.” That will create a brighter future for our children and for the District as a whole.

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