It might not come as a surprise to you that 2.2m Americans are in low-income jobs according to the US Department of Labor. Attempts are being made to pinch worker’s rights and their ability to litigate against employers. This is despite a growth in the economy, employment rates and the overall average wealth of the USA’s workers. This means that more American workers are having to make less dollars stretch further.
Fortunately, it’s not entirely doom and gloom. On a national level, workers are organizing for their rights. On a personal level, there are a wide variety of schemes, rights and techniques you can employ to make sure you are getting everything you are entitled to.
Federal and State Assistance
Despite the aforementioned legal squeeze on rights and entitlements, there is still plenty that the government is doing to help low-income workers – both on a federal and state level. This is especially important in benefit-capped states, where state assistance programs are crucial for employees. Cash isn’t the be all and end all, either. For instance, if your employer withdraws mandatory health insurance if the ACA is superseded, many states have health care assistance programs that also cover dental and other healthcare areas. They also assist with areas such as childcare, if your employer is restricting access to childcare facilities or doesn’t offer them full stop.
Employees across the USA experience legal issues for a number of reasons, from in-work disputes to non-payment of unemployment benefits. It’s estimated that 71% of low income workers experience at least one legal issue yearly. Many of these require the provision of legal assistance.
Unfortunately, as the Legal Services Corporation found, 86% of Americans received inadequate legal help, resulting in a poor success rate for claims that should have been allowed and restitution received.
This is partly down to a lack of awareness around the opportunities available to employees when it comes to legal aid. Many states offer legal aid, as covered above. However, it’s the case that increasing numbers of labor law firms are offering pro bono advice and representation, providing what is sometimes a greater level of legal help due to the increased resources available.
Across the entire workforce of the USA, it’s noted that most Americans under-save. The Bureau of Economic Analysis found that most employees only save 5.7% of their incomes, which is understandable given the rising cost of living and other influences on pay packets.
Credit unions have existed for decades, largely in the sphere of labor unions and local communities. They operate on the basis that everyone pays in and this enables the union to help members in times of need, whilst also behaving as – variously – a savings pot or pension fund. They often have a sliding scale of contributions and so if you’re on low income, or out of work, it can be beneficial for long-term saving and planning to put a few of your cents away in a suitable scheme.
Being removed from employment can put a bump in the road if you’re developing professional skills. Some careers are cherry picked by the employee for their professional development opportunities. When you find yourself unemployed or moved sideways, you will find that your education is sacrificed, too.
Whilst this can seem minor, studies have suggested that under skilling workers is detrimental to society. This is in addition to your own personal development and, if your cash flow is restricted, the development of your family. Again, make sure to thoroughly check your contract and legal rights to ensure that your education is linked to the job role and not an outside commitment. If you are in a bad position, you might be able to find an avenue of help in the USA’s varied community colleges, some of which offer programs in line with the state and federal assistance programs to help those less fortunate to continue their education.
Unemployment and changes in working pattern can be stressful and can come across as harsh. Whilst personal responsibility is important during these times, don’t forget that there are entitlements and services out there to support you.
About the Author: Jackie Edwards is an editor, researcher, and writer.