Although reports indicate the U.S. economy is growing steadily, Hoosiers continue to suffer from a lack of economic security and job growth. A comprehensive report recently released by Prosperity Now, based in Washington, D.C., shows that only 1.3% of Indiana residents own their own small business, receiving on average $1,492 for a small business start-up.[i] Many families struggle to meet their basic needs of food, child care, housing, health care, and transportation. Head of households are working multiple part-time jobs in an effort to make ends meet. It is time to focus not only on building assets to get by but to support families in building wealth for their long-term stability. The 2015 Prosperity Now scorecard provides rankings for all 50 states and District of Columbia on both the ability of residents to achieve financial security and policies designed to help them get there. Indiana has only adopted 1 of 10 policies that would help Hoosiers move up the economic ladder in the category of businesses and jobs.
Micro and small businesses hold a significant place in the economic development of Indiana. These businesses typically have 5-10 employees and are often located on main streets in small towns and in bustling cultural districts in thriving metropolitan areas. Micro businesses form a dynamic, integral part of the market economy, providing goods and services and a gateway by which millions enter the economic and social mainstream of American society. [ii]
The Indiana Assets & Opportunity Network is an expanding coalition aimed toward supporting policies and innovative programs geared toward increasing job growth and small business development with the help of local partners. One program, for instance, is the Self-Employment Assistance Program which provides individuals receiving unemployment benefits with the opportunity to enroll in self-employment training while continuing to receive their benefits. This would encourage an unemployed worker to pursue the dream of entrepreneurship. There are currently only seven states that offer this program.
On the policy front, a protection that the Network is supporting in Indiana for part-time workers is the employee’s right to scheduled employment which would curb and potentially cease last minute scheduling for employees. By scheduling at the last minute, an unnecessary amount of stress occurs for an employee, halting them into panic mode to juggle child care and transportation. A predictable work environment is vital to the mental stability of the individual.
The Prosperity Now Scorecard also indicated Indiana has not adopted policy to receive federal funding for the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to support entrepreneurs and microbusiness development. WIA often provides unemployed individuals with assistance through activities and programs that support employment, job retention, job skills advancement and increased earnings. If Indiana adopted this policy, a strengthened foundation would create stability for families and communities, grow productivity, and limit workplace turnover. Indiana needs to provide all its residents with the opportunity to take charge of their financial lives and plan for a more prosperous future.
It is essential for legislators to become aware that the path for financial security is three pronged, with a focus on maximizing income, managing and saving money, and investing in long-term assets such as education, a home and small business. Innovation is essential to Indiana’s progress in becoming a competitive state.
If policymakers choose not to act, thousands of Indiana residents will have little hope of moving up the economic ladder and contributing to the state’s long-term growth. That would be the wrong choice for our families and the wrong choice for our state.
To read an analysis of key findings click here, 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard. To access the complete Scorecard, visit http://scorecard.prosperitynow.org/2016/state/in. Visit Prosperity Now’s media resources page for interactive data tools.
[i] Prosperity Now, “CFED 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard”
[ii] “Small Businesses and the Community: Their Role and Importance Within a State’s Economy”, Journal of Extension