The foundation of our economy is rooted in the strength of the middle class. The last decade has been especially tough for the middle class with stagnant wages that have not kept pace with rising costs. We need to grow our economy, create new jobs, and make sure young people aren’t forced to leave Iowa to pay off student debt or find a good job.

One of the keys to a growing middle class is affordable, quality child care. Eleven percent of a family’s annual income is spent on childcare costs, just over $9,000 a year. Currently, 42,300 children from low-income families qualify for child care assistance. With many two-parent working families in Iowa, we need to expand childcare assistance to more families and make sure child care isn’t a barrier for parents who need to gain new skills to land a job that pays better wages.

Over the last 30 years, the minimum wage has failed to keep up with the struggles many middle class families face. Raising the minimum wage in Iowa will not only give those families a boost but will inject new money into Iowa’s economy. Since 58% of minimum wage workers are women, it’s also a step forward in guaranteeing that women earn equal pay for equal work.

Other initiatives to ensure Iowa’s middle class can thrive include targeting state incentives to encourage more investment in small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs; making sure Iowa companies get first crack at state contracts to create jobs here, not overseas; providing tax incentives so more young Iowans can save money for a down payment on their first home; and cracking down on corporations that fail to pay workers while protecting small businesses from unfair competition.