Bolsa Familia Program – Brazil

Social workers channel Indiana Jones to deliver welfare checks to Brazil’s Amazon, By Stephen Kurczy, August 27, 2014, Christian Science Monitor: “The orange boat racing up the Amazon River tributary is loaded with the essentials for fighting poverty in the jungle: a chainsaw and a dozen social workers. The river has swollen some 60 feet with the rainy season, and the captain looks out for logs and branches that might rip into the hull. He’s also looking for signs of human life in this dense jungle, one of the poorest regions in Brazil’s vast territory. The boat turns down an inlet nearly invisible through the dense green overgrowth, and the team spots an elderly man casting a fishing net. It’s apparent he’s blind as he feels his way to shore, his right thumb missing from a past piranha attack. ‘How good is God?’ the man calls out, his skin rough and wrinkled like worn leather. ‘I’ve been praying for you to come, and suddenly you’re here,’ he tells the social workers. This expedition is part of Busca Ativa, or ‘active search,’ a federal program to extend social welfare entitlements to the hardest-to-reach areas of Brazil…”

Poor Students, Elite Colleges

Generation later, poor are still rare at elite colleges, By Richard Pérez-Peña, August 25, 2014, New York Times: “As the shaded quadrangles of the nation’s elite campuses stir to life for the start of the academic year, they remain bastions of privilege. Amid promises to admit more poor students, top colleges educate roughly the same percentage of them as they did a generation ago. This is despite the fact that there are many high school seniors from low-income homes with top grades and scores: twice the percentage in the general population as at elite colleges…”

Child Welfare System – Colorado

Colorado needs 574 more child-welfare caseworkers, study finds, By Christopher N. Osher, August 25, 2014, Denver Post: “Colorado’s child-protection system is overburdened and may need 574 more caseworkers — a 49 percent increase — to handle the work, according to a state study released Monday. The study also recommended the hiring of 122 new supervisors. In total, there are an estimated 1,800 county child-protection workers, supervisors and support staff in Colorado…”

SNAP Grants

USDA announces $200M in grants for food stamps, By Christopher Doering, August 25, 2014, Des Moines Register: “The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday that it would provide up to $200 million in grants to states to implement programs that help people receiving food stamps find jobs or increase their earnings. The USDA said the grants would provide funding for up to 10 pilot projects to test a variety of methods to enhance employability, increase the earnings of food stamp work recipients and help people transition from the program…”

Free School Lunch Eligibility – Kansas

Association says childhood poverty increase has led to more students eligible for free meals, By Celia Llopis-Jepsen, August 25, 2014, Topeka Capital-Journal: “The rising percentage of Kansas children who receive free or reduced-price lunches at school is a genuine trend linked to poverty, not a ploy to boost school funding, the Kansas Association of School Boards said Monday. In an eight-page report, the association’s researchers analyzed the increase in Kansas schools of children who qualify for free or reduced lunch based on family incomes…”

Low-income Borrowers – California

In California, a new law helps low-income borrowers build credit, By Teddy Nykiel, August 22, 2014, Christian Science Monitor: “California broadened the reach of nonprofits that target low-income borrowers who lack the credit standing needed to obtain a traditional loan, enacting a law that lets the organizations lend as much as $2,500 interest free without a license. Clients of groups like the San Francisco-based Mission Asset Fund are often unbanked, underbanked or have low credit scores. Under the new law, payments must be reported to companies that create the rankings, such as Experian and Equifax. By repaying in full and on time, borrowers can create the track record they need to qualify for regular loans…”

Foster Children and Psychotropic Drug Prescriptions – Wyoming

Too much, too young? One in three Wyoming foster care children prescribed psychotropic drugs, By Leah Todd, August 10, 2014, Casper Star-Tribune: “For Cameron O’Malley, weekends at his sister’s house meant tucking a pair of jeans, a few shirts and his toothbrush into his backpack. The 15-year-old’s foster mom would zip a weekend’s worth of pills the size of jelly beans into plastic baggies. Cameron and his sister Carissa, 22, knew the routine: Take daily with food. Carissa didn’t like the medications, prescribed for a list of conditions she was not convinced Cameron even had: Prozac for his hyperactive attention disorder. Fluoxetine for depression. Straterra for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Wellbutrin for depression. They made Cameron’s brain feel weird, like he was thinking in fog. But if the adoption was to go through, he and his sister had to follow the rules. Nearly one in three foster children in Wyoming is prescribed psychotropic medications like the ones Cameron took. That’s more than four times the rate found in other low-income children not living in foster care, where the frequency is one in 12…”

Detroit Water Crisis

In Detroit, water crisis symbolizes decline, and hope, By Bill Mitchell, August 22, 2014, National Geographic: Rochelle McCaskill was in her bathroom about to rinse the soap off her hands when the water stopped. Slowed by lupus and other ailments, she made her way to a bedroom window, peered out, and spotted a guy fiddling with her water valve. ‘There must be a mistake,’ she yelled down. McCaskill explained that she had just paid $80 on her $540.41 overdue bill, enough, she thought, to avoid a shutoff. The man wasn’t interested in the details…”

SNAP and Underemployment

Food stamp use shows continued ‘underemployment’ pain, By Tim Henderson, August 15, 2014, USA Today: “Luxuries were affordable for Linda Fish before she lost her job in retail management in 2009. ‘I won’t lie. The dinners out, the perfect martinis, the salon visits with a master stylist, and the rooms at nice hotels when I was too lazy or tired to do the long commute home—these things I could afford and they made me very, very happy,’ the Chicago resident wrote on her blog soon after she became unemployed. But in the years after she lost her job, Fish “learned to stop worrying and love minimum wage.” She gained a new appreciation for beans, pasta, and oatmeal when she took a $9 per hour job as a bookstore clerk. It was a shock…”

Child Care Subsidies – Missouri

Missouri’s child care subsidies are going to illegal day cares, By Nancy Cambria, August 16, 2014, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “When state regulators acted on a tip last year that an unlicensed home day care in the West End neighborhood of St. Louis was illegal, they found the provider watching 15 children. Of the 15 in her care, nine were related to the caregiver and six were not, state records show. Missouri law allows unlicensed providers to serve an unlimited number of related children, including nieces, nephews and grandchildren. But it limits unrelated children to four. So the regulators found the provider was over the limit by two kids — and running an illegal day care. Yet, records show, that didn’t stop the state of Missouri from paying her $1,103 in child care subsidies that month for six children. Or to continue paying her an average $807 in subsidies every month since…”

Racial Disparity Statistics

America’s racial divide, charted, By Neil Irwin, Claire Cain Miller, and Margot Sanger-Katz, August 19, 2014, New York Times: “America’s racial divide is older than the republic itself, a central fault line that has shaped the nation’s history. This month it has manifested itself in sometimes violent protests in Ferguson, Mo., after a police killing of an unarmed young black man. The resonance of that event is related to deeper racial fissures between blacks and whites; that divide is the reason that the events in Ferguson amount to something bigger than a local crime story. What is the state of that larger divide? In what areas has there been meaningful progress toward shared prosperity over the last generation, and in what areas is America as polarized by race as ever…”


US Teen Birth Rate

  • Teen birth rate has dropped dramatically in last two decades: CDC, By Dennis Thompson, August 20, 2014, Philadelphia Inquirer: “U.S. teen birth rates fell dramatically during the past two decades, plummeting 57 percent and saving taxpayers billions of dollars, a new government report shows. An estimated 4 million fewer births occurred among teenagers as a result of the decline, according to researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…”
  • Teen births: Most are in the South and Southwest, By Sharon Jayson, August 20, 2014, USA Today: “More teens are having babies in the South and Southwest while the fewest are in the Northeast, according to new state-by-state breakdowns of federal data out Wednesday. Births per 1,000 teenagers (ages 15–19) range from a low of 13.8 in New Hampshire to a high of 47.5 in New Mexico, according to the report from the National Center for Health Statistics based on 2012 data, the most recent available for the states…”

Inequality as felt by Women

Among the poor, women feel inequality more deeply, By Patricia Cohen, August 18, 2014, New York Times: “The attention paid to income and wealth inequality spurred by the French economist Thomas Piketty’s best-selling opus, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” comes with a caveat from some of its fans: What about women? The question may seem odd given that when it comes to wages, women have made far more progress than men over the past three decades. Since the 1980s, men without a college education have seen their real wages — after taking inflation into account — decline 5 to 25 percent. The lower the education level, the steeper the drop…”

Workforce Investment Act

Seeking new start, finding steep cost: Workforce investment act leaves many jobless and in debt, By Timothy Williams, August 17, 2014, New York Times: “When the financial crisis crippled the construction industry seven years ago, Joe DeGrella’s contracting company failed, leaving him looking for what he hoped would be the last job he would ever need. He took each step in line with the advice of the federal government: He met with an unemployment counselor who provided him with a list of job titles the Labor Department determined to be in high demand, he picked from among colleges that offered government-certified job-training courses…”

Hunger in America Report

  • Hunger in America: 1 in 7 rely on food banks, By Natalie DiBlasio, August 17, 2014, USA Today: “When Mary Smallenburg, 35, of Fort Belvoir, Va., opened a package from her mother to find cereal and ramen noodles, she burst into tears. Without it, she wouldn’t be able to feed her four children. ‘It got to the point where I opened my pantry and there was nothing. Nothing. What was I going to feed my kids?’ Smallenburg says, adjusting a bag of fresh groceries on her arm. Smallenburg’s family is one of 50 military families that regularly visit the Lorton Community Action Center food bank. Volunteers wave a familiar hello as she walks in the door…”
  • Hunger in America study shows south central Michigan has high need for food banks, By Linda S. Mah, August 18, 2014, MLive: “A national study on hunger and food insecurity that included research on an eight-county area in south central Michigan, points to high need and continued struggles to balance food issues with other basic needs. The Hunger in America study is released every four years. The Food Bank of South Central Michigan in Battle Creek coordinated an analysis of local hunger issues in Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Hillsdale, Kalamazoo, Lenawee and St. Joseph counties. Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes food bank works with the Food Bank of SCM to provide food to residents through a network of 24 food pantries…”
  • Study sheds light on broadening U.S. hunger problem, By Andrea Stone, August 18, 2014, National Geographic: “Dusti Ridge leans on her cane and waits patiently for her number to be called at Bread for the City, a food bank in southeast Washington, D.C. When she hears ’56,’ she steps into the nonprofit group’s pantry to find out what she’ll be eating for the next week. Kale, green peppers, yellow tomatoes, and dried cherries—perfect for a favorite brown rice recipe—go into her shopping bag. So does a whole chicken. But she passes on canned green beans; too much salt, she says…”

Suburban Poverty – New England

Poverty persists in N.E. suburbs, By Megan Woolhouse, August 13, 2014, Boston Globe: “New England’s suburbs, often viewed as bastions of sprinkler-fed lawns and roomy SUVs, are also communities of hidden poverty, where one in four families relies on food stamps to stock cupboards with groceries and put food on the table, according to a report to be released by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Wednesday. Nearly 2 million people who live in communities surrounding the region’s major cities have low or barely moderate incomes, struggling with the same problems as the urban poor, but without the same services, support, and safety nets, Boston Fed researchers found…”

Payday Lending

New York Prosecutors Charge Payday Loan Firms With Usury, By Jessica Silver-Greenberg, August 11, 2014, New York Times: “A trail of money that began with triple-digit loans to troubled New Yorkers and wound through companies owned by a former used-car salesman in Tennessee led New York prosecutors on a yearlong hunt through the shadowy world of payday lending. On Monday, that investigation culminated with state prosecutors in Manhattan bringing criminal charges against a dozen companies and their owner, Carey Vaughn Brown, accusing them of enabling payday loans that flouted the state’s limits on interest rates in loans to New Yorkers…”

Housing Blight – Buffalo

As an alternative to demolition, Buffalo offers homes for a dollar, By Alana Semuels, August 14, 2014, Los Angeles Times: ”The breeze carries the tinny jingle of the approaching ice cream truck, so Mike Puma leaves the railing he’s painting on his two-family, electric-blue home to buy a milkshake. He pays more for the shake than he did his entire home. Of course, when he bought this home for $1 this year, it had a demolition notice on the door, walls the consistency of a Three Musketeers bar and mold coating the ceilings…”

Credit Score Changes

FICO changes may ease credit access, By Katherine Peralta, August 8, 2014, US News and World Report: “A new calculation of credit scores soon could make it easier for millions of Americans to qualify for car loans and credit cards. The new methodology also could provide easier access to home mortgages after tight post-recession lending standards shut millions of potential new homebuyers, particularly young Americans, out of the market. The Fair Isaac Corp., which issues credit scores used in 90 percent of U.S. consumer lending decisions, said this week that it will give less weight to unpaid medical bills…”

Low-Wage Work

Working anything but 9 to 5, By Jodi Kantor, August 13, 2014, New York Times: “In a typical last-minute scramble, Jannette Navarro, a 22-year-old Starbucks barista and single mother, scraped together a plan for surviving the month of July without setting off family or financial disaster. In contrast to the joyless work she had done at a Dollar Tree store and a KFC franchise, the $9-an-hour Starbucks job gave Ms. Navarro, the daughter of a drug addict and an absentee father, the hope of forward motion. She had been hired because she showed up so many times, cheerful and persistent, asking for work, and she had a way of flicking away setbacks — such as a missed bus on her three-hour commute…”