Earned Income Tax Credit – California

From Sacramento to Fontana, new anti-poverty tax credit has paid out, By Jim Miller, July 28, 2016, Sacramento Bee: “California’s new earned-income tax credit had put about $189 million in the pockets of the working poor as of earlier this month, well below the $380 million in claims the Brown administration and lawmakers had expected.  Proponents, though, consider the program’s first year a success, and new data from the Franchise Tax Board show that taxpayers from around the state have claimed the credit…”

Minimum Wage Increase – Seattle, WA

Why raising the minimum wage in Seattle did little to help workers, according to a new study, By Max Ehrenfreund, July 29, 2016, Washington Post: “Things seem to be going pretty well since Seattle bumped the hourly minimum wage for large businesses up to $11 last year, from the statewide minimum of $9.47 an hour. Low-wage workers are getting more time on the job and making more money. Fewer businesses are closing, and more new ones are opening. The technology and construction sectors are booming. Even the weather cooperated for a change. The spring was unusually dry in Seattle, which was good for the city’s fishing fleet.  Yet the actual benefits to workers might have been minimal, according to a group of economists whom the city commissioned to study the minimum wage and who presented their initial findings last week…”

Medicaid Expansion – Kentucky

Feds, advocates question Bevin health changes, By Deborah Yetter, July 26, 2016, Louisville Courier-Journal: “A coalition of health advocacy groups has blasted Gov. Matt Bevin’s plan to restructure the state Medicaid plan ‘as a giant step backward for Kentucky.’  ‘This plan threatens to undermine the health and economic gains we have made in the past two years,’ said the written comments filed last week by Kentucky Voices for Health, a coalition of about 200 groups and individuals.  By Aug. 1, officials with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services plan to submit to federal officials Bevin’s proposal to scale back the Medicaid expansion that added 440,000 low-income Kentuckians to the government health plan for the poor…”

Child Care Workers

Child care expansion takes a toll on poorly paid workers, By Patricia Cohen, July 12, 2016, New York Times: “Carmella Salinas has worked steadily for 14 years as an early-childhood-education teacher, taking care of 4- and 5-year-olds at the nonprofit Family Learning Center in the hardscrabble community of Española, just north of Santa Fe, N.M. Even so, she rarely earns enough to cover all her bills, and has more than once received a disconnection letter from the water, gas or electric company. A few months ago, she arrived home with her 10-year-old son, Aaron, to find the electricity shut off.  ‘But Mom,’ she recalled Aaron saying, ‘don’t they know it’s your birthday?’  While the scramble to find affordable child care has drawn a lot of attention, prompting President Obama to label it ‘a must-have’ economic priority, the struggles of the workers — mostly women — who provide that care have not…”

Childhood Literacy

Where books are all but nonexistent, By Alia Wong, July 14, 2016, The Atlantic: “Forty-five million. That’s how many words a typical child in a white-collar familywill hear before age 4. The number is striking, not because it’s a lot of words for such a small human—the vast majority of a person’s neural connections, after all,are formed by age 3—but because of how it stacks up against a poor kid’s exposure to vocabulary. By the time she’s 4, a child on welfare might only have heard 13 million words.  This disparity is well-documented. It’s the subject of myriad news stories and government programs, as well as the Clinton Foundation’s ‘Too Small to Fail’ initiative, all of which send the message that low-income parents should talk and read to their children more. But these efforts to close the ‘word gap’ often overlook a fundamental problem. In high-poverty neighborhoods, books—the very things that could supply so many of those 30 million-plus words—are hard to come by. In many poor homes, they’re nonexistent…”

Child Well-Being in Wealthy Nations

Report: U.S. is lagging in child well-being, By Karina Shedrofsky, July 22, 2016, USA Today: “The USA ranks ninth among the world’s 19 wealthiest nations in terms of overall child well-being – despite having the world’s largest economy, according to a Save the Children report released Friday.  The Child Prosperity Index looks at indicators in eight areas affecting children around the world, including health, education, income, safety, employment, gender equality, infrastructure and the environment…”

Minimum Wage – Ohio

Nearly 100,000 Ohioans earning less than state minimum wage, By Randy Tucker, July 25, 2016, Dayton Daily News: “Ohio’s minimum wage is 85 cents higher than the federal baseline for hourly paid workers, but at least 93,000 workers in the state earned wages at or below the federal minimum last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ohio workers were among an estimated 2.6 million nationwide who earned at or below the prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. That represents 3.3 percent of all hourly paid workers, according to a BLS report…”

Children’s Health Insurance Coverage – Arizona

Arizona becomes the last state to provide health insurance to low-income children, By Lenny Bernstein, July 25, 2016, Washington Post: “Arizona is rejoining a children’s health insurance program for low and middle-income families, becoming the last state in the union to provide coverage for health care, dental care, speech therapy and other services to families who don’t qualify for Medicaid…”

Student Homelessness in Madison, WI

Shelter to school: For homeless 6-year-old, kindergarten provides stability in an otherwise chaotic life, By Doug Erickson and Dean Mosiman, July 17, 2016, Wisconsin State Journal: “Six-year-old K’won Watson cries as his mother rouses him at the Salvation Army homeless shelter in Madison. He had wanted more sleep and will spend much of the school day yawning.  It is March, and K’won is in kindergarten — one of the hundreds of students who are homeless in Madison on any given day.  He and his infant brother, Amir, and their mother, Alicia Turner, 25, are living at the shelter in a dormitory-style room that is clean but spare. To add some warmth, Turner has decorated the door with three drawings she’s done with colored markers — two of butterflies, one of a fruit basket.  Like his older brother, Amir wakes up cranky, too. Turner changes his diaper while sending K’won to brush his teeth in restrooms shared by 18 families…”

Child Support Enforcement

  • Not just a deadbeat dad, By Dwyer Gunn, July 12, 2016, Pacific Standard: “On a sunny Tuesday morning in February, Lewis Griffin walked into a meeting room in the Arapahoe County Human Services Building in Aurora, Colorado. Griffin, a barber and ex-convict who’s also the co-facilitator of a fatherhood class, is a tall black man with closely cropped silvering hair — on the day I met him, he was sharply dressed in grey jeans, a neatly pressed grey-striped button-down shirt, and sleek, modern glasses. Griffin has an open, friendly manner and a disarming sense of humor. When he introduced himself to me, he clasped both hands to his chest, inhaled sharply, and said with exaggerated anxiety, ‘I’m nervous!’  The men (and one woman) gathered in the meeting room that morning all had one thing in common: They were non-custodial parents who had fallen behind on their child support payments…”
  • Wisconsin’s grand child support experiment, By Dwyer Gunn, July 13, 2016, Pacific Standard: “In 1997, the state of Wisconsin decided to experiment with the way it handled child support payments made to welfare recipients. In previous years, under the Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) program, recipients who also received child support payments from a non-custodial parent were required to relinquish the bulk of what they received in child support to the state — states only ‘passed through’ the first $50 of child support in a given month. The federal welfare-reform bill (formally known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act) of the previous year gave states room to experiment with and set their own policies…”

June 2016 State Unemployment Rates

18 states see significant job gains, but unemployment rises, By Josh Boak (AP), July 22, 2016, Albany Times Union: “Unemployment rates ticked up noticeably in six states in June, even as employers continued to add jobs and the hiring outlook improved. The unemployment rate in 21 states is now significantly below the national figure of 4.9 percent, while it’s higher in 14 states…”

Aging Out of Foster Care – Indiana

From foster care to first-time homeowners, By Maureen C. Gilmer, July 20, 2016, Indianapolis Star: “As a child, Ronnisha Davis bounced from home to home. She lived with her mom, then in a foster home, then her dad, then another foster home, then an apartment when she was 17.  Today, the 23-year-old is settling into her own house, purchased with ‘sweat equity’ on her part, as well as help from Habitat for Humanity andIndiana Connected By 25. The latter is a nonprofit that partners with United Way, the Department of Child Services and other organizations to support young adults before and after they age out of foster care (age 20 in Indiana). Among its programs are Opportunity Passport, which offers financial literacy classes, a matching savings plan and micro loans to build credit…”

Food Security in the US

The return of American hunger, By Ned Resnikoff, July 19, 2016, The Atlantic: “By a handful of indicators—unemployment rates, overall economic growth, even average hourly earnings—the U.S. economy isn’t doing so badly right now. And yet, when it comes to the number of Americans who go hungry, it’s almost like the recovery never happened. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food security as ‘access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life,’ and in 2006, the year before the housing market stumbled, the USDA estimated that fewer than 10.9 percent of American households were food insecure. By 2009, that figure had spiked to 14.7 percent. And now? As of 2014, the most recent year on record, 14 percent of all American households are not food secure. That’s approximately 17.4 million homes across the United States, populated with more than 48 million hungry people. By the time the USDA reports its 2016 figures in September 2017, new food-stamp restrictions could make that number higher…”

Medicaid Expansion

Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion leading to health insurance boom in some states, By Dan Mangan, July 20, 2016, CNBC: “The U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld most of Obamacare also rejected the section of the Affordable Care Act that would have compelled states to expand eligibility in their Medicaid programs to nearly all poor adults.  That part of the ruling received far less public attention — but it’s that part that likely has had the biggest impact on states over the past four years…”

Economic Mobility

Poor at 20, poor for life, By Alana Semuels, July 14, 2016, The Atlantic: “It’s not an exaggeration: It really is getting harder to move up in America. Those who make very little money in their first jobs will probably still be making very little decades later, and those who start off making middle-class wages have similarly limited paths. Only those who start out at the top are likely to continue making good money throughout their working lives. That’s the conclusion of a new paper by Michael D. Carr and Emily E. Wiemers, two economists at the University of Massachusetts in Boston…”

Teenage Pregnancy in the UK

How the UK halved its teenage pregnancy rate, By Amelia Hill, July 18, 2016, The Guardian: “Rates of teenage pregnancy in the UK have halved in the past two decades and are now at their lowest levels since record-keeping began in the late 1960s. It is a dramatic turnaround: in 1998, England had one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in western Europe. Last week, the Office for National Statistics released data revealing the fall in the conception rate among females aged 15 to 19 as the standout success story in the public health field: just 14.5 per 1,000 births were to women in their teens, with drops in all age groups under 25…”

Poverty, Race, and Mortality

Study: African-American men below poverty line at highest risk for mortality, By Ryan W. Miller, July 18, 2016, USA Today: “African-American men who live below the poverty line had the lowest overall survival of any group, according to new research that looks at the effects of sex, race and socioeconomic status. The study, which sampled both white and black men and women, found that African-American men below poverty levels had almost a 2.7 times higher risk of mortality than African-American men above poverty levels…”

State Medicaid Programs – Kansas, Alabama

  • Disability group calling for federal investigation of Medicaid backlog, By Gabriella Dunn, July 12, 2016, Wichita Eagle: “A state disability organization is calling on the federal government to investigate the state’s handling of the application backlog for Medicaid. And this week, the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit will begin an investigation into the backlog issue. The backlog was caused in part by the state switching its computer system that processes Medicaid applications about a year ago. And then in January, it switched the agency that oversees the applications, furthering the problem…”
  • Alabama’s Medicaid crisis: Four ways out, By Brian Lyman, July 15, 2016, Montgomery Advertiser: “Legislators don’t lack options to address a shortfall in the state’s Medicaid program.  But what they do lack — for now — is leadership in the Alabama House and a certainty about whether the will exists among legislators to reopen the General Fund budget…”

Medicaid Coverage for Infants and Toddlers

Red tape leaves some low-income toddlers without health insurance, By Michelle Andrews, July 12, 2016, National Public Radio: “Many babies born to mothers who are covered by Medicaid are automatically eligible for that health insurance coverage during their first year of life. In a handful of states, the same is true for babies born to women covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  Yet, this approach is routinely undermined by another federal policy that requires babies’ eligibility for these programs to be re-evaluated on their first birthday. Although they’re likely still eligible for coverage, many of these toddlers don’t get it because of a tangle of red tape…”

Unemployment Benefits – Illinois

State: No unemployment benefits without posting resume, By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, July 13, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “People filing for unemployment insurance in Illinois will no longer be able to receive benefits unless they post a resume to the state’s job search site.  The Illinois Department of Employment Security announced it is stepping up enforcement of an existing legal requirement that individuals actively seek employment to be eligible for unemployment benefits…”