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14 hours ago by
Under the banner of welfare reform, the administration is eyeing changes to health care, food stamps, housing and veterans programs. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the welfare executive order as soon as January, according to multiple administration officials. The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress are hoping to make the most sweeping changes to federal safety net programs in a generation, using legislation and executive actions to target recipients of food stamps, Medicaid and housing benefits. The White House is quietly preparing a sweeping executive order that would mandate a top-to-bottom review of the federal programs on which millions of poor Americans rely. And GOP lawmakers are in the early stages of crafting legislation that could make it more difficult to qualify for those programs. In the meantime, the Trump administration has already begun making policy shifts that could have major ramifications. Federal health officials are encouraging states to impose work requirements on able-bodied adults on Medicaid — a major philosophical shift that would treat the program as welfare, rather than health insurance. The Agriculture Department said last week that it would soon give states greater control over the food stamp program, potentially opening the door to drug testing or stricter work requirements on recipients of the $70 billion program long targeted by fiscal conservatives. Another initial move has already backfired — the Veterans Affairs Department announced it would redirect hundreds of millions of dollars from a program for homeless veterans to local VA centers, but it reversed course after fierce blowback from advocates. While candidate Donald Trump pledged to protect some safety net programs, conservatives have long wanted to devolve control of social programs to the states and impose stricter work and drug testing rules. Now that they control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, Republicans believe they have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to overhaul those programs, which they have long argued are wasteful, are too easily exploited and promote dependency. “People are taking advantage of the system and then other people aren't receiving what they really need to live, and we think it is very unfair to them,” Trump said in October. The president is expected to sign the welfare executive order as soon as January, according to multiple administration officials, with an eye toward making changes to health care, food stamps, housing and veterans programs, not just traditional welfare payments. To be sure, many of the changes are still in the talking stages, and it remains to be seen when and how they are actually implemented and at what political cost. And there remains internal debate in the administration over how to balance other priorities like an infrastructure bill. The White House's leading advocate for a welfare overhaul, Domestic Policy Council Deputy Director Paul Winfree, is slated to leave the administration on Friday, according to a person familiar with the move. But two administration officials said Winfree's departure won't hobble the welfare push, as the White House has already completed much of the groundwork on the issue. Defenders of the safety net programs, meanwhile, fear the effort could rob Americans — including many Trump voters — of a vital lifeline. “It would be a recipe for massively exacerbating poverty and inequality in America in violation of all of Trump’s campaign promises,” said Rebecca Vallas, managing director of the Center for American Progress’ poverty program. “The poor are under attack,” said National Community Reinvestment Coalition President John Taylor, who accused Republicans of “rigging the system” for the top 1 or 2 percent at the expense of the middle class and poor. “Most Americans, if they really understood what was going on, would not support it,” he said. Although the effort to reshape the country's welfare system is all but guaranteed to produce powerful political backlash, it appears to have broad backing from conservative congressional Republicans, who are already coordinating with the White House on a legislative agenda to complement expected executive actions. White House Domestic Policy Council staff, who are working closely with congressional Republicans on legislation, are slated to meet this week with House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee staff. The exact provisions of the pending bill are unknown, but a conservative group closely aligned with lawmakers said Republicans intend to pass broadly focused legislation. “They’re thinking about welfare reform in a large, all-encompassing way, not a program way,” said Jason Turner, executive director of the Secretaries’ Innovation Group, a group of conservative officials who run state-level social programs and met with Ways and Means Committee Republicans on the Hill last week. Turner said he expects Republican leaders will seek to combine their ideas with House Speaker Paul Ryan’s vision in his “A Better Way” plan to create a “mega-idea” for reform with a focus on work. “In terms of scope, that is part of the discussions that we are having with the committees,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said. “We are still running options through the interagency process and consultations with Congress.” Ryan spokesman Doug Andres declined to offer more details, adding that Republicans would discuss the issue at their January retreat. In recent days, Ryan said he hopes to embark on entitlement and welfare reform next year. He has said entitlement reform — an overhaul of programs like Medicare and Medicaid that has been his priority since his days as Budget chairman — is essential for tackling the debt, which is set to surge by $1 trillion under the Republican tax reform bill, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. “We have a welfare system that’s basically trapping people in poverty and effectively paying people not to work, and we’ve got to work on that,” he said in a recent radio interview. Democrats immediately pounced on Ryan’s comments. “Paul Ryan just admitted that after providing $1 trillion in tax breaks to the top 1% and large corporations, Republicans will try to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and help for the most vulnerable Americans,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote on Twitter. It is unclear whether Republicans will take aim at Medicare given Trump’s campaign promise not to touch it. Trump also promised not to cut Medicaid or Social Security, the latter of which is trickier for lawmakers to change because of procedural rules designed to protect the program. If Republicans steer clear of Medicare, they say they will need to cut deeper into programs like food stamps and Medicaid. Despite Trump’s campaign vow on Medicaid, the GOP already placed the health insurance program for the poor on the chopping block earlier this year as part of its failed push to repeal Obamacare, proposing to siphon nearly $800 billion from the program over a decade. With strong Democratic opposition a certainty, GOP leaders will need to rely on a budget tool that allows them to jam bills past their Democratic counterparts. That tactic, known as budget reconciliation, allowed Republicans to pursue their successful push on tax reform this year, as well as an unsuccessful one on health care. But unlocking reconciliation will require Republicans to almost unanimously agree to a budget blueprint — unity that took months of wrangling by GOP leaders this year even on their longtime priority of tax reform. That unity may be even more difficult to achieve in an election year. Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) recently confirmed to a small group of D.C. conservatives that welfare reform would be the focus of the 2019 budget. But the reception wasn’t what he expected. Several people in attendance were shocked, according to one person familiar with the conversation — because they read it as Republicans abandoning their push for Obamacare repeal. “Not that we don't need welfare reform,” the person said. “But if you're looking to get something accomplished through 2018 and through the Senate, even on reconciliation, it’s hard to see how welfare is that policy.” But Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), a longtime Budget Committee member, told POLITICO last week that he’s leaning toward using the reconciliation process for welfare reform. “When we're using reconciliation instructions, we should deal with the hard stuff,” Woodall added. “The easy things, people have done already. What's left is hard, and it's hard when you're dealing with food stamp programs, for example.” On the executive side, the Trump administration is moving ahead on its own even before Republicans work out the details of their legislative push. Food stamp changes One of the biggest programs that could be in the administration’s cross hairs is food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a $70 billion program that helps one in eight Americans buy groceries each month. The Department of Agriculture has said it’s developing a policy that could make it easier for states to impose stricter work requirements or drug testing on recipients — things that states like Wisconsin and Florida have long tried to do, but have been blocked by either courts or USDA. On Tuesday, USDA issued a vague announcement highlighting the principles around encouraging self-sufficiency, pledging to give more flexibility and “local control” to states administering SNAP in the coming weeks. “SNAP was created to provide people with the help they need to feed themselves and their families, but it was not intended to be a permanent lifestyle,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Many states already limit SNAP benefits to three months for able-bodied adults who don’t care for young children or an elderly parent, and who aren’t working or enrolled in a job training or volunteer program. Nearly half of all SNAP recipients are children. Handing over more control to states is loathed by Democrats and anti-hunger advocates who fear that Republicans will eventually try to block-grant SNAP, much like they did with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program during welfare reform in the 1990s — a change that led to a big drop in the rolls but, critics argue, didn’t actually reduce poverty. SNAP serves a vastly larger population than TANF and has been shown to reduce hunger and improve health outcomes. There’s also now renewed concern that more states could try to follow Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s push to impose drug screening on all able-bodied adults who apply for SNAP, which critics argue stigmatizes the program and costs many times more than it will save taxpayers. Medicaid work requirements Work requirements are just one of several new coverage restrictions federal health officials are expected to grant to red states trying to reduce enrollment in a program that now covers one in five Americans. Other proposals include imposing higher costs on enrollees, and strict disenrollment penalties for not following certain rules. But work requirements have generated the most ire from Democrats and advocates for low-income people, who argue that they do nothing to advance Medicaid's core purpose of providing health coverage to the poor. Ten Republican-led states are seeking the Trump administration’s permission to require certain enrollees to work or participate in other job-related activities as a condition of receiving health coverage. The restrictions, which were repeatedly rejected by the Obama administration, are primarily targeted at low-income adults who gained coverage under Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid. Yet other red states that never implemented that expansion — including Kansas, Maine and Mississippi — are also interested. Top health officials have actively encouraged states to enact work rules, saying the proposals are designed to reduce government dependency as Medicaid has grown to cover able-bodied adults rather than primarily serving the disabled, pregnant women and children. "The thought that a program designed for our most vulnerable citizens should be used as a vehicle to serve working-age, able-bodied adults does not make sense," Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said in a November speech to state officials. Housing At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary Ben Carson has made clear his philosophy that welfare fosters dependency and has said government should be focused on the business of getting people out of public housing. HUD will be “significantly involved” in Trump’s welfare reform efforts, Carson told POLITICO. “Our objective is to empower people, to give people opportunity. “Housing and affordable housing is supposed to be something we provide for the elderly, the disabled and for work-able people. It should be a steppingstone toward self-sufficiency,” Carson said. “Obviously, that has not been the case for decades. We need to change that. But to change it, we need to be able to provide opportunities.” On Thursday, he launched his EnVision Center project, a multi-agency effort to create job training and educational opportunity hubs near public-assisted housing with the goal of self-sufficiency. HUD will track people using the center to see how many find long-term jobs, attain education and start a business. By ANDREW RESTUCCIA, SARAH FERRIS and HELENA BOTTEMILLER EVICH

11 hours ago by
South Carolina Army National Guard Responds to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico October 2017. Since Hurricane Maria, NPQ has been covering the crisis in Puerto Rico. We saw a situation that we felt needed to be highlighted, full of warnings, learnings, and opportunities. As the island faces a near-total collapse of infrastructure—economic, political, communications, energy, transportation, education, health, arts and culture—nonprofits there are faced with the perfect crisis opportunity. Many nonprofits in Puerto Rico and the US have jumped into the federal political vacuum to answer the call for help. But what does this moment make possible for Puerto Rico’s nonprofit sector? This is something that others, including the nonprofit sector in the US, have a stake in, for we are facing increasingly similar crisis opportunities. This line of questioning is incredibly salient because the general conditions in Puerto Rico—increasing economic inequality and an attack on democracy—are reflected the world over. Further, even though funders may not currently have catastrophe portfolios, that may be changing. Places like Puerto Rico that are experiencing full-scale collapse are simply at the edge, experiencing it first. In Dmitry Orlov’s The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors’ Toolkit, he proposes that current civilization has entered the collapse phase where, rather than long-term decline, we have sudden changes caused by systems out of control. Perhaps these moments are the new high-leverage points in systems change; when systems are collapsing, there is a vacuum and a battle for the new order. This month, I will go to Puerto Rico on a reporting tour to see first-hand how everyday people are holding it down and to connect you, the reader, to this opportunity to contribute to the building of a strong and thriving, and increasingly critical, nonprofit sector in Puerto Rico, and garner the learnings (and perhaps even partnerships) available for our own sector in the US. In discussions NPQ has had so far with Puerto Rican nonprofit leaders and their funders, we have discovered there have already been learning conversations between the island and leaders from Detroit and other US cities that have struggled with municipal bankruptcy. These crises may be precursors to a future in which we are called upon to experiment with more localized, self-reliant strategies in the midst of democratic crises. As we move into 2018, NPQ will feature what we are learning in Puerto Rico. Context Many of Puerto Rico’s social challenges are related to the island’s economic model and political positioning, the result of a long colonial history first with Spain and, since 1898, with the US. As Puerto Rico’s economy developed, it shifted from agriculture to intensive manufacturing and foreign investments. In 1976, the focus shifted to industrial pharmaceuticals and high technology, due to significant tax breaks to US corporations that ended in 1996. Since then, Puerto Rico has not had a coherent economic strategy. Neoliberal trade agreements and the rise of Asia as a major player have diminished Puerto Rico’s attractiveness as a manufacturing site. In 2005, Puerto Rico reached the point where its public debt had surpassed 100 percent of its gross domestic product. Further, because of the high level of integration between the economies of the US and Puerto Rico, the challenges faced by the mainland have further exacerbated the island’s economic problems. The US recession and the subsequent intensification of federal partisan politics have frozen funds that have been critical to Puerto Rico’s economic development, and no significant change is expected in this area. As a result of these economic and political changes, Puerto Rico’s economy has been contracting since 2000, losing about 200,000 jobs between 2006 and 2013 in an island of 3.6 million in 2013. (It’s closer to 3.4 million now due to economic and environmental migration.) This period has been characterized by an increase in social polarization and a decrease in economic mobility. While Puerto Rico may be seen as a homogeneous society, marked demographic and geographic differences exist on the island. The differences have been amplified by a mass migration of Puerto Ricans from the island to the US over the same period that was also demographically and geographically varied; many of those who have left are young professionals, resulting in an older population, and the western part of the island has been hardest hit by the exodus. The demand on direct service nonprofits has increased over this time, as they began to fill the vacuum left by the federal and local government. At the same time, funding to nonprofits has significantly decreased in response to fiscal austerities. Describing the Sector Though nonprofits can be found across Puerto Rico’s municipalities, they are concentrated in the largest cities: San Juan (30.3 percent), Caguas (16.1 percent), Bayamon (13.9 percent), Carolina (13.4 percent), Ponce (13.4 percent), and Mayaguez (10.1 percent). Estudios Tecnicos Inc., Puerto Rico’s leading consulting firm, has studied the island’s nonprofit sector and published reports in 1996, 2007, and 2015. The reports focus on nonprofits that provide a direct social service to the population, such as sports and recreation (14 percent); education and research (10.9 percent); arts and culture (7.8 percent); economic, social, and community development (7.7 percent); social services (6.7 percent); and other services (10.9 percent). They exclude the health and education sectors because they are significantly different. In 1996, the study identified fewer than 4,000 active nonprofit organizations across the island. But by 2007, one year after the 2006 recession, the report showed that the sector had increased to 6,000. Anitza María Cox-Marrero, Director of the Social Analysis and Policy Division at Estudios Tecnicos Inc. and one of the authors in the aforementioned series of reports on the sector, recently told NPQ, “You had big nonprofits that were the foundation of the sector and a sector that was evolving and professionalizing.” By 2015, the study identified 11,570 nonprofits, almost triple the size of the previous phase. However, in response to decreased funding, the big organizations had become smaller after taking measures to respond to the economic crisis. The study also found a significant increase in community-based organizations, which were at 22 percent, or 1 in 5. In response to the austerities of the long-term recession, neighborhood committees grew across the island to respond to local needs. According to the study, Puerto Rico’s 2014 nonprofit work force was estimated to be 150,410. The sector experienced a reduction in employee salary between 2006 and 2014 of 10.8 percent. Seventy percent of Puerto Rican nonprofit revenues go towards staff salary, and the authors use salary change as an indicator of organizational budget change. It found that in response to the long-term recession, nonprofits were laying off workers—an average of 23 full-time staff for each of the 400 organizations that responded to a poll in the same nonprofit study. In fact, more than half of those organizations reported 0 staff in 2014. Further, the number of management staff positions were significantly reduced, at an average of three to one. More than half reported 0 management staff and three-quarters reported only one. An average of eight out of 13 employees were part-time. Volunteers play a significant role in Puerto Rico’s nonprofit sector. When converting the number of volunteer hours into number of full-time staff positions, Puerto Rico’s volunteer force equaled 23,633 positions in 2014. So, volunteers were the equivalent of an additional 16 percent full-time nonprofit positions. Defining the Sector The aforementioned 2015 nonprofit report sought to position Puerto Rico’s nonprofit sector as a serious and critical stakeholder in the country’s service delivery. In doing so, it assessed its contribution and made a case for its cost-effectiveness and efficiency in providing social services. For example, it looked at the cost of nonprofit service delivery in comparison to government service delivery and found that the agility and local knowledge and relationships of nonprofits allowed them to deliver comparable services at significantly lower cost. In health-related services, for every $1 that a nonprofit spends, the government spends $7. For every $1 a nonprofit spends on an education-related services, the government spends $20. However, Ataveyra Medina Hernandez, Executive Director of Movimiento Una Sola Voz (One Voice Movement), the island’s nonprofit network, a Vice President at Boys and Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico, and a leader of the team that commissioned the nonprofit study from Estudios Tecnicos, recently told NPQ, “Puerto Rico does not have a philanthropic culture. Most nonprofits have a very high percentage of government funding. In the case of Boys and Girls Clubs, 16 percent comes from private individuals and 84 comes from government contracts. This replicates itself across most nonprofits on the island.” Puerto Rican nonprofits tend to not be funded by US foundations because they are not considered domestic, and they are not funded by international development funders because they are part of the US, so they are heavily dependent on the Puerto Rican government for their revenues. Further, Cox, who is also a lawyer, told NPQ, “One of the difficulties of Puerto Rico’s nonprofit sector is the fragmented legal framework for the operation of nonprofits. We don’t have a public policy for the sector, but pieces everywhere.” There have been initiatives over the years to develop a comprehensive public policy that would integrate the different laws regarding the sector. The most recent effort, on which Cox worked, was in 2012. According to Cox, it was a very participatory process sponsored by Puerto Rico’s Department of State, which certifies and registers nonprofit organizations. The final draft of the policy framework was vetted by 1,000 participants at a public forum and included a new committee for advising the government on the role and function of the nonprofit sector. It was presented to the Puerto Rican legislature and approved by the commonwealth’s House of Representatives, but not considered by its Senate because it came at the end of the last administration, and the new one focused instead on integrating two government agencies that work with the sector. “The timing was not good. So, the resulting proposal is not in effect. Right now, we have an agency that is supposed to be in charge, but we still have a fragmented legal framework which makes it difficult for the sector to comply with the laws,” Cox said. The 2015 report concludes with a set of recommendations for strengthening the nonprofit sector in its role as an effective social service provider for the island. It asserts, In an economy that does not grow, where the government has a series of fiscal restrictions that does not permit it to assume economic and social initiatives, and that confronts structural changes, one can expect a surge in new social needs. Nonprofit organizations must necessarily play a more proactive role. Framing the Moment The Puerto Rican nonprofit leaders that NPQ recently spoke with reiterated the conclusion of the 2015 nonprofit report: that Puerto Rico’s nonprofit sector is primed to best deliver on the government’s social service responsibilities and that they need a seat at the decision-making table, especially on agenda and budget setting. In fact, this has only been amplified since the hurricane, when the Puerto Rican government effectively shut down and nonprofits were the first responders, as they were already in place and knew the communities. Nonprofits faced an increase in requests for their services—and, in many cases for different, response-based services—at the same time that the government was unable to pay for those services. In response, nonprofits had to reduce their services and/or refocus on the most extremely affected. Medina Hernandez says, When you have a government that was weak fiscally and structurally before the hurricane, and then after, the collapse of information systems, databases, even government employees not being able to go to their offices…the capacity to invoice and get paid was limited almost to 0. We had pending invoices up to $2 million dollars. Our credit lines were totally maxed. What we have, essentially, is an effort to address island-wide poverty with local, civic participation, led by fiscally unstable nonprofits who are seeking central government level participation in a country that is in the midst of an economic collapse caused largely in part by its inability to self-govern. It’s like being in a hall of mirrors where everywhere you turn, you see the reflections of the reality you are trying to escape. It is very tempting, especially when one is fiscally free-falling, to reflect the dominant paradigm. This can also happen when a sector is in the development phase, where it is trying to define and assert itself as a relevant stakeholder. The US nonprofit sector went through this in the 1980s during the War on Poverty. There was a lot of government funding to address root level causes of poverty, like marginalization, but the resulting political activity made the government nervous. There were attempts to push organizations to act within the dominant framework, so collectives and alternatives were frowned upon, and instead leaders managed hierarchies and access to seats of power. All of the work that the report recommends, and which the leaders we spoke with reassert, the completion of the formalization of the sector into coherent sector-wide laws and regulations. This can keep the sector very busy. It is an important strategy; a crisis like this creates opportunities. There are resources flowing, and nonprofits could be part of that or left out. The service providers do need self-determination and agenda-setting power. In this recovery period, many decisions will be made and priorities set. Who is going to set those? Washington certainly will. But even if Puerto Rican nonprofits manage to renegotiate their relationships with the Puerto Rican government, they could still be treated as subcontractors. It seems one way they can gain greater legitimacy in agenda-setting is by being a democratic voice for the people. What do the people want? Who else besides these nonprofits thinks they know what’s going on and what should happen? Are they holding regular, public meetings and sustaining an ongoing dialogue with the communities so that when they propose solutions, the communities and other nonprofits are aligned? Puerto Rico’s nonprofit sector must think practically about what it can set up for itself that helps it be more collectively than what it is as individual organizations. In addition to renegotiating its relationship with the government, it can build a robust local democracy that can change Puerto Rico from the bottom up. Luckily, a significant part of the sector is working on alternative solutions. These are the co-ops, the community organizers, and the institutes for a resilient economy. They have been working side-by-side with service nonprofits. Perhaps an island-wide alliance should be considered, a joining of strategies that combines meeting needs through service delivery and building a sustainable, people-centered agenda for the rebuilding of Puerto Rico. These crisis opportunity moments don’t wait for cycles of organizational development. What’s the most strategic thing that Puerto Rico’s nonprofit sector can do right now? And what is it going to take to make it happen? The moment is ripe; in the absence of effective governance, people are self-governing anyway. By  Cyndi Suarez

10 hours ago by
Workers will eventually get 12 weeks off at 67% pay to care for a newborn or a sick relative Not everyone is happy about the new regulation Frank Kerbein's phone has been ringing off the hook. As director of the Center for Human Resources at the Business Council of New York State, he's been hearing from business owners concerned about a sweeping state law that starts Jan. 1. It mandates partially paid leave of up to 12 weeks for workers caring for a new child or helping out when a family member is sick or on active military duty—and protects their job and health benefits. New York is one of just five states with such a law, and its program is the most comprehensive in terms of situations covered and duration. Though it is funded entirely by employee payroll deductions, Kerbein said, it puts a "significant administrative burden" on employers, especially smaller ones. And an increase in unscheduled days off will impose additional costs, he said. Politicians "seem to think we're nothing but a cash dispensary," groused Matthew LaSorsa, who owns Heights Chateau, a wine store in Brooklyn. Paid family leave has become a hot-button issue two decades after the 1993 federal Family and Medical Leave Act mandated 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave annually. Yet family leave with pay remains elusive here, in contrast to the rest of the world. In the U.S. just 13% of workers have access to it, and the highest-earning 10% are four times more likely to have it than the bottom 25%. New York's law applies to companies with at least one employee. Workers contribute up to $1.65 weekly to an insurance plan, typically added to an employer's disability coverage. The benefits will phase up, from eight weeks at 50% of salary (subject to caps) to 12 weeks at 67% in 2021. Those working regularly 20 or more hours per week are eligible after 26 weeks, or 175 days if under 20 hours. The law is good news for New York City's roughly 4 million private-sector employees. (It does not cover the 556,000 government workers in the city, although their agencies can opt in. Unions must negotiate separately for paid leave.) Some call it good for business too. "Employers want to make sure they have a healthy and productive workforce and retain and attract employees," said Candace Sherman, CEO of the Northeast Business Group on Health, an employer-based coalition. "So an attractive benefits package is obviously a plus." That's been true for UncommonGoods, an online retailer employing 200 full-time workers at its Brooklyn headquarters that already offers primary caregivers eight weeks off at full pay. The state program will offset that cost by perhaps 15%. "It takes the burden off small employers so they can use the resources they would have paid employees [on leave] to hire someone else," says Erik Rettig, Northeast/mid-Atlantic director of Small Business Majority, an advocacy group. That is one reason UncommonGoods CEO Dave Bolotsky advocated for the state law. "It makes sense from a place of compassion as well as a financial and business perspective," he said. "It's in a business's interest to not make its workers choose between family and work." Concerns about paid family leave elsewhere have proved overblown. In California, where a 2004 law provided six weeks at up to 55% of earnings, a survey of employers after five years found it had a positive or unnoticeable effect on productivity, profitability, turnover and morale. Small businesses were least likely to report any harm. Rhode Island's program is credited with reducing absenteeism and increasing productivity and worker morale in the food-service and manufacturing sectors. Kerbein is not convinced. For one, New York's Department of Labor has proposed rules that would penalize employers for making last-minute schedule changes, which could complicate efforts to cover unscheduled paid-leave days. "Our experience in New York will be different," he said. By Amy Cortese