Realizing our human potential depends on having the resources to meet our material needs. Yet, just before the pandemic, after years of economic growth, more than two out of every five Oregonians made too little to afford basic necessities. Due to our nation’s history of racial oppression and exclusion, Oregonians of color experience especially high levels of economic insecurity. Women, Oregonians living with disabilities, and rural residents are also more likely to experience economic insecurity.
Raising the incomes of the lowest-paid workers not only increases economic opportunity but also makes for a more prosperous state. The following policies would boost the incomes of Oregonians, thereby advancing economic justice and prosperity.
Establish a Guaranteed Income program
Giving struggling Oregonians cash is one of the most powerful ways to boost income and enable families to meet their basic needs. Recent experience shows that giving people cash is an effective means to reduce child poverty and help families cover basic needs such as rent and food. A mounting body of research finds that unrestricted cash improves physical and mental health, children’s educational attainment, and more.
Guaranteed Income — unrestricted, regular cash payments — is a foundational element to achieving economic justice. Oregon should move quickly to invest in it. The Oregon Center for Public Policy will catalyze a community conversation to develop a program that fits the needs and aspirations of Oregonians.
Make the minimum wage a livable wage
Setting the minimum wage at a level of a living wage — the level where a person working full time can afford the essentials — would go a long way in ensuring broad economic security.
Expand Unemployment Insurance to all workers
Oregon should modernize its Unemployment Insurance program to ensure it protects all Oregonians, be they self-employed workers, independent contractors, gig workers, school employees, or undocumented workers.
Fund the Oregon Worker Relief Fund
Oregon should ensure that all workers, including undocumented workers, have access to support in times of emergency. That means permanently and adequately funding the Oregon Worker Relief Fund.
Invest in child care
Robust state investments in child care are needed to ensure that all families have access to quality, affordable child care, have care that is appropriate to their work and family situation, and that child care workers earn a living wage.