Economic Justice

Economic Justice

Poverty is a policy choice. I'll work to reduce poverty, make childcare more accessible and affordable, and secure fair wages, benefits, and training opportunities for workers.

Poverty Alleviation

In Somerville, roughly 10 percent of residents are struggling in poverty; that rate is double for seniors. We know that poverty is traumatic, with lifelong impacts on physical and mental health as well as on educational attainment and economic opportunity. I’m proud to have worked with the Lift Our Kids Coalition, the Healthy Families Tax Credits Coalition, and other anti-poverty organizations and advocates to push for budget and policy choices that move us closer to ending Deep Poverty in Massachusetts. 

I helped draft and file amendments to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, FY23, and FY24 state budget that led to increases to cash assistance programs of about 10% per year. However, in January 2024, Governor Healey cut the grant increase that we achieved in the FY24 budget. Grants are still far below Deep Poverty levels -- the maximum grant in 2024 for a family of 3 with no income is still only $783 per month, almost $200 per month below the Deep Poverty level of $1076 per month for 3 people. The maximum grant for an individual is only $401 per month.

This is why we also filed legislation to raise cash assistance grants by 25% per year until they reach 50% of the federal poverty and then increase grants each year to keep up with inflation. In order to ensure that Massachusetts families, seniors, and disabled residents can meet their basic needs, we must increase grants more rapidly and then require them to be adjusted annually for inflation so that they do not lose their value over time. 

I also helped draft and file bills to increase family stabilization through the Earned Income Tax Credit and to establish a Child and Family Tax Credit. 

The first bill would:

  • Increase the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) match rate from 30% to 50% of the federal credit; 
  • Expand eligibility to previously excluded groups of people, including immigrants who pay taxes with an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), low-income college students not supported by a parent or caregiver, and younger (<25) and older (65+) adults without children;
  • Remove the large family penalty to support all families with children regardless of size; 
  • Extend the credit to middle-income families by expanding the phase-out to those earning up to $75,000; and 
  • Improve access to the EITC and new CFTC through a robust communications and outreach campaign. 

The second bill would establish a single, streamlined Child and Family Tax Credit worth $600 per dependent, inclusive of families of all sizes and older children. By removing the large family penalty and raising the dependent age limit, this credit will support all families with dependents, including children under the age of 18, disabled adults, and individuals age 65 and older. 

The tax reform package enacted in 2023 increased the Earned Income Tax Credit from 30% to 40% of the federal credit and created a Child and Dependent Tax Credit of $440 per dependent, while eliminating the family size cap. I strongly support further increasing and expanding both the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Tax Credit. 

Affordable Childcare

In Middlesex County, the median yearly price for center-based infant care in 2023 was roughly $28,000. For center-based toddler care it was roughly $25,600 and for center-based preschool care it was roughly $20,200. Those rates are crushingly expensive for the 20% of Somerville households whose median annual income is under $50,000, and basically untenable for the 21% of Somerville households whose median annual income is between $50,000 and $100,000. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as no more than 7% of household income, making center-based infant care in Middlesex County affordable only for households earning at least $400,000 per year. By any measure, childcare costs are a significant factor in the area’s high cost of living.   

In addition to addressing childcare costs, we also need to improve pay for educators and ensure high-quality early education and childcare. I strongly support the Common Start Coalition’s legislative framework to deliver affordable care options for families, significantly better pay and benefits for early educators, a new, stable source of funding for providers, high-quality programs and services for children, and substantial relief for businesses and our economy. While the cost of this legislation would be outweighed by the benefits to the state’s economy, the immediate funding sources need to be identified, whether from federal funds, new revenue streams, or public-private partnerships. 

For many families, another barrier to childcare is the operating hours of childcare programs. Parents who work overnight or who have to arrive at their jobs in the early hours of the morning often have to rely on family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) childcare. According to the Care That Works coalition, a multiracial, feminist, working-class coalition of unions and community groups organizing paid and unpaid child caregivers, “FFN providers are license-exempt relatives, neighbors, and trusted friends providing child care either in the provider’s home or the child’s home. FFN child care is the most common form of nonparental child care in the United States, with an estimated 5 million providers and 11.5 million children in care.” In Massachusetts, while vouchers are available for FFN providers, the voucher payments are below the minimum wage. In addition, if a parent uses 6 or more voucher hours with one provider, they can’t use their remaining hours with another provider. In partnership with the Care That Works coalition, I helped draft and file legislation to increase payments to FFN providers to at least the state minimum wage and to update the state childcare voucher so parents can use the full ten daily hours for the combination of formal and FFN childcare that their schedules require.

Workers’ Rights

According to the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, workers in our state lose up to $1 billion per year in stolen wages. Wage theft includes not being paid for overtime, being paid below the minimum wage, having tips stolen, working without breaks, and many other examples of unfair pay. I strongly support legislation to hold employers who steal from workers accountable, protect employee whistleblowers, and grant the Attorney General greater authority to prevent wage theft and get justice for the workers who are victims of it.

I also support legislation to protect workers’ wages and benefits by promoting project labor agreements and strengthening the prevailing wage laws. I helped draft and file a bill to authorize project labor agreements (PLAs), which are pre-hire collective bargaining agreements between building trade unions and contractors. The legislation doesn’t require cities and towns to use PLAs; rather, it offers clear guidelines for them to consider when entering such agreements. This empowers municipalities to ensure superior project outcomes while providing valuable opportunities for local apprenticeships and careers. Other legislation to close the prevailing wage loophole would require contractors to pay a fair rate to workers who complete off-site manufacturing. 

Finally, we need to make sure that all workers in Massachusetts are earning fair, livable wages by requiring salary transparency, providing municipal employees with access to Paid Family and Medical Leave, and indexing the minimum wage to inflation.