Jessica Fraser, Director of the Indiana Institute for Working Families
What do you do at the Institute?
As the Director of the Institute, I have the opportunity to work a little bit on all of the issues the Institute is working on, which is rewarding because I feel invested in the full scope of policy reforms that we know will make low-income Hoosiers' lives better. I supervise and advise the staff as they make progress within their own policy portfolios and I also focus my own research on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
This job also involves building relationships, so I meet with all kinds of folks about our policy concerns: policymakers, service providers, fellow advocates, foundation staff people and the media.
Why do you care about these issues?
I have witnessed poverty and I have seen families struggle - working hard and still not able to pull together enough to get by. That is why I am passionate about helping low-income families reach their fullest potential.
There are a lot of challenges to make this an equitable economy. I believe that we can get there, but not without thoughtful policy decisions. I see so many policy areas where we can make systemic changes that will improve the circumstances of all Hoosier families. I believe in caring for our most vulnerable citizens, that government can and should provide a safety net for families when times are hard, and that when folks are working, they should earn a living wage in jobs that have quality standards.
There is a lot to do. I'm honored to work with a lot of dedicated advocates fighting for many of these same policy improvements and I'm proud be making Indiana a better place to live and work for all Hoosiers.
What do you do when you are not a champion for change?
When I'm not working, I am spending time with two great kids, two scruffy dogs, and one amazing husband. I also really enjoy genealogy and knitting. I have always loved history and so I love the way family history research can help you feel connected to historical events. I recently became a certified member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Proving my connection to a Revolutionary War patriot and learning about this ancestor's service was extremely rewarding. Knitting is very relaxing for me, it's like meditation. It's my time to turn my brain off, which is why you'll never find me working a pattern that is in any way complicated!
Jessica in the media:
"There were some opportunities to improve job quality, to do something with paid family leave insurance," [Fraser] says. "That didn't happen. It's certainly something that Indiana - and indeed, the whole nation - needs to be talking about."
From Reasons to Raise Indiana's Minimum Wage in 2016, NUVO, 3/28/2016
"Investing in high-quality child care and early childhood education will have substantive, long-lasting benefits for children and for Indiana," said Jessica Fraser, Program Manager of the Indiana Institute for Working Families. "Kids that have had these opportunities early in life go on to do better in school and eventually do better in the labor market. That's why any effort to expand preschool in Indiana must also include an expansion of high-quality childcare, making sure children in low-income families have access to these opportunities, as well."
From Investing in Child Care Would Save Hoosier Families $3201 a Year, Kokomo Herald, 4/7/2016
“We know companies need to be profitable; we know folks need access to credit. But there’s got to be a way to do it without having such high rates, a way for them to make a profit and for folks to not be taken advantage of,” Fraser said.
From Borrower Beware: Payday Loans a Costly, Controversial Option, Indianapolis Recorder, 4/14/2016