TANF Applicants – Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania denies 75 percent of welfare applicants, By Kate Giammarise, April 20, 2014, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “The vast majority of applicants for welfare benefits in Pennsylvania are rejected every month, data from the state show, and some blame a 2012 change in state law for sharply increasing the rate at which people are rejected from the program. About 75 percent or more applicants for cash assistance are turned down every month — leaving needy families without aid, advocates say. The change? Beginning in July 2012, state law required applicants to apply to at least three jobs a week — including while their application for assistance is still pending, which can be several weeks. Previously, an applicant would be required to fulfill the program’s work requirement after being approved for assistance, rather than prior to approval…”

Long-Term Unemployment

Long-term unemployed struggle to find — and keep — jobs, By Ylan Q. Mui, April 18, 2014, Washington Post: “For the long-term unemployed, finding a job is hard — but keeping one may be even harder. New research tracking people who have been out of work for six months or longer found that 23 percent of them landed a job within a few months of the study. But a year later, more than a third of that group was unemployed again or out of the labor force altogether. The findings are the latest in a bleak but growing body of literature suggesting long-term unemployment has become a trap that is difficult to escape…”

Kids Count Reports – Rhode Island, West Virginia

  • Positive trends in Factbook on RI’s kids, By Jen Rodrigues, April 18, 2014, Warwick Beacon: “Rhode Island KIDS COUNT released its 2014 Factbook this week, celebrating 20 years of providing data in nearly 70 different areas related to children. The annual report is often used to craft legislation and policy changes affecting youth. The report – an inch-thick volume packed with charts and graphs – was released during a breakfast at the Crowne Plaza attended by about 500 policy makers and community leaders from government and the areas of education, health and human services…”
  • Report: 90% of W.Va. kids lack early educational opportunities, By Lydia Nuzum, April 16, 2014, Charleston Gazette: “More than nine out of 10 West Virginia children aren’t receiving the early childhood education that would help them excel later in life, according to a report released by one of the state’s largest child-advocacy organizations. According to the 2013 data released by West Virginia KIDS COUNT, 93 percent of children under 6 are receiving unknown or minimum-quality child care, and only one in five of those children is enrolled in preschool. West Virginia ranks 45th in the nation for the number of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool, despite ample evidence to suggest early education has high returns for kids down the road, according to Margie Hale, executive director of KIDS COUNT…”

ACA and Medicaid Coverage

  • Progress, challenges as Medicaid rolls swell in state, By Lisa Stiffler, April 17, 2014, Seattle Times: “Washington state has blown past its targets for signing up new Medicaid participants under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The program’s ranks have grown roughly 25 percent in the past six months, helping fulfill one of the act’s key goals to provide health care to nearly all Americans. By the end of March, more than 285,000 adults who are newly eligible to participate in Medicaid had signed up for coverage. That’s twice the number officials had hoped to reach by then, and a target they hadn’t expected to hit for three more years. But with enrollment success comes the challenge of serving more people in a $10 billion program that’s already stretched thin in places…”
  • Health law push brings thousands into Colo. Medicaid who were already eligible, By Eric Whitney, April 16, 2014, Washington Post: “The big marketing push to get people enrolled in health coverage between October and March resulted in 3 million people signing up for Medicaid. Hundreds of thousands of those people were already eligible and could have signed up even before the Affordable Care Act made it much more generous. They came ‘out of the woodwork’ to get enrolled, analysts say, thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and publicity around its new marketplaces. In Colorado, nearly 23,000 such people are now getting Medicaid. Their numbers grew Colorado’s Medicaid rolls by 3 percent over last year…”

Food Insecurity in the US

Hunger is a ‘silent crisis’ in the USA, By Marisol Bello, April 16, 2014, USA Today: “Tianna Gaines Turner can’t remember the last time she went to bed without worrying about how she was going to feed her three children. She can’t remember the last time she woke up and wasn’t worried about how she and her husband would make enough in their part-time jobs to buy groceries and pay utilities on their apartment in a working-class section of Philadelphia. And she can’t remember the last time she felt confident she and her husband wouldn’t have to skip meals so their children could eat…”

Paid Family Leave

Paid family leave hits a snag in states, By Jake Grovum, April 17, 2014, Stateline: “California became the first state to embrace government-backed paid family and medical leave more than a decade ago. Since then, few other states have followed California’s path, and supporters are now considering a different approach. After lobbying state by state for years, some supporters of paid family leave say it’s time for a federal solution. A proposal in Congress from Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York would export the models used in California, New Jersey and Rhode Island nationwide. Those are the only three states with their own paid leave laws…”

Minimum Wage

Minimum wage at the forefront, with eye on elections, By Pamela M. Prah, April 15, 2014, Stateline: “A wave of efforts to raise the minimum wage at the state and local level will run through November, when voters in eight states could consider ballot measures to raise hourly rates higher than the current $7.25 federal rate. This is the second year in a row that states have picked up the pace of increasing the minimum wage, after President Barack Obama’s proposal to increase the federal rate to $10.10 an hour stalled in Congress. Since the year began, these states have approved minimum wages that are higher than the current federal level: Connecticut ($10.10), Delaware ($8.25), Maryland ($10.10), Minnesota ($9.25) and West Virginia ($8.75).The District of Columbia raised its rate to $11.50. When these measures go into effect next year, half the states will have minimum wage rates higher than the federal level…”

TANF Work Participation – Oregon, Maine

  • Oregon welfare audit says state should increase job training, accountability to move recipients into work, By Yuxing Zheng, April 16, 2014, The Oregonian: “An audit of the welfare program in Oregon says that state officials need to boost job training, hold recipients accountable, provide more subsidized child care and make other changes in order to move more recipients into jobs. The audit, released Wednesday from the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office, found the state had made ‘little to no progress’ in moving recipients off of welfare. Program managers failed to hold recipients accountable for missed jobs appointments and sometimes went years without significant contact with recipients…”
  • Maine fined $7 million over welfare work participation rates, By Steve Mistler, April 17, 2104, Portland Press Herald: “Gov. Paul LePage said the federal government will penalize the state $7 million because its welfare cash assistance program doesn’t meet federal work participation standards. The governor’s announcement comes as lawmakers are set to finish their work for the legislative session and after the Democratic-controlled Legislature rejected one of his proposals to align work participation requirements within the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program with the federal law. The administration has previously said that the state was on the hook for $13 million in fines from the federal government because its work participation rate among TANF recipients was far below federal standards…”

ACA and Medicaid Coverage – Minnesota, Virginia

  • Minnesota’s uninsured get public aid at historic levels, By Chris Serres, April 13, 2014, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “On a recent weekday evening, Ibrahim Hassan was pacing the narrow corridor outside a Somali mosque in south Minneapolis, buoyantly shaking hands and waving like a politician at a campaign stop. His mission: To sign up every eligible uninsured person he met for public health coverage through the state’s MNsure website. His mobile ‘office’ consisted of a foldout table, a laptop and a small sign that read, ‘We can help you’ in Somali and ‘Obama Care.’ Though much attention has focused on the March 31 deadline to buy private health insurance — and the consumer frenzy that resulted — federal health reform and the debut of MNsure have also led to a historic surge in the number of Minnesotans enrolling in public programs…”
  • Va. Republicans aren’t blinking in showdown over Medicaid expansion, By Laura Vozzela, April 13, 2014, Washington Post: “Virginia Republicans were supposed to be squirming by now. For months, their opposition to expanding Medi­caid under the Affordable Care Act has put them at odds with some traditional allies in the business world. Hospitals, the state chamber of commerce and corporate leaders have been calling, writing, visiting and buttonholing, pushing what they call ‘the business case’ for expanding coverage to thousands of uninsured under the health-care law, with the federal government promising to pay most of the cost. Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other Democrats who favor expansion have been betting on that pressure to sway Republicans, particularly in rural areas where hospitals are often the largest employer and are ­eager for the financial girding that the coverage expansion would provide…”

College Students and Food Insecurity

More college students battle hunger as education and living costs rise, By Tara Bahrampour, April 9, 2014, Washington Post: “When Paul Vaughn, an economics major, was in his third year at George Mason University, he decided to save money by moving off campus. He figured that skipping the basic campus meal plan, which costs $1,575 for 10 meals a week each semester, and buying his own food would make life easier. But he had trouble affording the $50 a week he had budgeted for food and ended up having to get two jobs to pay for it…”

ACA and Health Insurance Coverage

  • Number of Americans without health insurance reaches new low, By Noam N. Levey, April 7, 2014, Los Angeles Times: “The share of Americans without health insurance has dropped to the lowest level since before President Obama took office, according to a new national survey that provides more evidence the healthcare law is extending coverage to millions of the previously uninsured. Just 14.7% of adults lacked coverage in the second half of March, down from 18% in the last quarter of 2013, the survey from Gallup found. The survey results, which track with other recent polling data and enrollment reports, indicate that about 8 million people have gained health insurance since September. That figure takes into account any losses in coverage the law may have brought about by the cancellation of health plans that did not meet the new standards…”
  • Nearly 4 million seriously mentally ill still without insurance, By Michael Ollove, April 8, 2014, Stateline: “Some might consider Kelly Troyer of South Carolina lucky. She isn’t one of them. Thanks to the generosity of her church and family members, she receives some treatment for the depression and post-traumatic stress disorder she suffers as a result of the sexual assault she endured in 2012. But Troyer, 45, said her lack of health insurance and other uncovered medical costs, including a hospitalization and all her medications, has forced her into personal bankruptcy. She lives in one of the 24 states that chose not to expand their Medicaid programs, offered under the Affordable Care Act. Those decisions have left about 3.7 million Americans with serious mental illness, psychological distress or a substance abuse disorder without health insurance, according to a recent report from the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), a group that represents mental health professionals…”
  • More in Denver signed up for Medicaid than for private insurance, By Arthur Kane, April 10, 2014, Denver Post: “In Denver, 2½ times as many people enrolled in the taxpayer-funded Medicaid program from October through the first quarter of 2014 as those who signed up for private insurance through the state exchange, state figures show. And in Colorado and nationwide, Medicaid enrollments outpace private insurance registrants. Colorado ranked 11th in the nation of states with the highest percentage of Medicaid enrollments compared with private insurance subscribers through marketplaces as of the end of February, a Denver Post analysis of federal numbers shows…”
  • Medicaid enrollment rises 8 percent in Florida, By Kelli Kennedy (AP), April 11, 2014, Florida Today: “Florida’s Republican lawmakers remain staunchly opposed to expanding Medicaid — a system they’ve repeatedly said is too expensive and doesn’t improve health outcomes. Yet Florida’s Medicaid rolls are expanding under the Affordable Care Act. That’s because people trying to sign up for health insurance under President Barack Obama’s new health law are finding out — to their surprise — that they qualify for Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for the poor…”

Farmers Markets and SNAP – North Carolina

Some NC farmers markets struggle to accept food stamps, By Andrea Weigl, April 10, 2014, News and Observer: “Consumers can use food stamps to buy produce at grocery stores, but the freshest local fruits and vegetables for sale at farmers markets are often not available to them. Many local markets would love to sell to those shoppers but find they don’t have the manpower or money to be able to accept food stamps. In Wake County, five small markets with grant funding and government or other financial support already accept or will soon be accepting food stamps; a few farmers at the state-run market off Lake Wheeler Road near downtown Raleigh accept them, too. Without such support, other markets have found the process daunting…”

Long-Term Unemployment

States feel loss of jobless aid, By Jake Grovum, April 4, 2014, Stateline: “Despite bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate for reinstating emergency aid for the long-term unemployed, prospects remain dim in the Republican-controlled House. Meanwhile, the toll of the expired extended benefits on states is mounting. Five billion dollars of aid has been lost as of April 5, including at least $100 million for 13 states, according to an analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data from the National Employment Law Project, a group that advocates for safety-net programs. More than 1 million workers have exhausted their regular benefits and have not had access to long-term aid since the expiration took effect…”

Welfare Reform – Maine, Alabama

  • Heavily debated welfare reforms go nowhere in Maine House, By Steve Mistler, April 4, 2014, Portland Press Herald: “Democrats in the House of Representatives rejected three welfare reform proposals by Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday while giving preliminary approval to a significantly altered version of a fourth. Mostly along party lines, the Democrat-controlled House voted 83-61 to approve a proposal to add smoke shops to a current law that prohibits electronic benefit transfer card transactions at certain locations, including liquor stores and casinos. The bill replaces the governor’s proposal to ban EBT card use for bail, alcohol, lottery tickets or tobacco products. Three other proposals, all related to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which distributes cash benefits to about 8,000 Maine families, were rejected in partly-line votes…”
  • Four welfare bills signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley, By Mike Cason, April 10, 2014, Huntsville Times: “Gov. Robert Bentley has signed into law a bill requiring people applying for cash welfare benefits to first apply for three jobs before becoming eligible. The governor signed SB 115 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, on Wednesday. ‘People are willing to help those in need, but they also expect those that are seeking taxpayer assistance to attempt to help themselves first,’ Orr said. SB 115 applies to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which provides monthly cash benefits to low-income families with children. As of December 2013, about 19,000 households in Alabama were receiving TANF. The average monthly benefit was $191…”

Homelessness and Housing First

  • Housing is most cost-effective treatment for mental illness: study, By André Picard, April 8, 2014, The Globe and Mail: “For every $1 spent providing housing and support for a homeless person with severe mental illness, $2.17 in savings are reaped because they spend less time in hospital, in prison and in shelters. That is the most striking conclusion of a study, obtained by The Globe and Mail, that tested the so-called Housing First approach to providing social services. Beyond the cost savings, the new research shows that placing an emphasis on housing gets people off the streets and improves their physical and mental health…”
  • Study finds new approach to homelessness saves money, keeps people off street, Canadian Press, April 7, 2014, Times Colonist: “New conclusions by the Mental Health Commission of Canada suggest the ‘housing first’ approach to battling homelessness is showing real results. The report, details of which were obtained by The Canadian Press, shows more than 2,000 homeless Canadians diagnosed with mental illness have found stable housing in all regions of the country over a two-year period. The massive At Home-Chez Soi pilot project, created in 2008 following a $110-million investment from the federal government, has proven effective for people from diverse cultural backgrounds and circumstances. The study suggests it has also been cost-effective, with every $10 invested resulting in cost savings of almost $22…”

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

How a Milo man is raising grandson after the death of wife, loss of income, By Sandy Butler and Luisa Deprez, March 28, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “Wendall Hall is one of thousands of grandparents in Maine who find themselves as primary caregivers for their grandchildren, long after they thought their parenting years were over. But Wendall, 55, has faced more difficult times than most, after the death of his wife and the loss of nearly all his income…”

State Minimum Wages – Maryland, Minnesota

  • Maryland lawmakers approve higher minimum wage, By Erin Cox and Michael Dresser, April 7, 2014, Baltimore Sun: “Maryland’s minimum wage will rise to $10.10 by July 2018 under a bill granted final passage by state lawmakers Monday. The measure goes to Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley for his promised signature. Raising the wage above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour was O’Malley’s top legislative goal during the final session of his eight years as governor, and in a statement he commended lawmakers ‘for giving so many Maryland families the raise they deserve.’ Maryland became the second state this year pass a hike to $10.10, the mark set by Democrats across the country seeking to address income inequality. Connecticut approved that increase in March…”
  • Minnesota’s minimum wage is going to $9.50 an hour by 2016, By Patrick Condon, April 7, 2014, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “Minnesota’s minimum wage is set to jump from one of the lowest in the nation to one of the highest, promising a better standard of living for more than 350,000 workers but raising bottom-line concerns for some business owners. Democrats who run the Legislature said Monday that by the end of the week the House and Senate will pass a proposal that’s been one of their party’s top legislative priorities this year. Once it becomes law, the minimum wage for businesses with more than half a million dollars in annual gross sales will rise in three successive steps, starting this August, from the current $6.15 an hour to $9.50 by 2016…”

Tax Preparation Fees

Tax preparers targeting poor with high fees, By Campbell Robertson, April 7, 2014, New York Times: “In December, they begin showing up in empty storefronts in neighborhoods where empty storefronts are easy to come by. Cars with phone numbers brightly displayed on the doors roll down the streets, and signs pop up along the sidewalks promising fast money. For millions of low-income Americans, tax season means the biggest one-time influx of money all year. It also means the annual sprouting of commercial tax preparers: some of them big-name franchises, some mom-and-pops and some, as 20-year-old Brittany Dixon discovered this year, shockingly expensive…”

ACA and Medicaid Enrollment

  • Law lifts enrollment in Medicaid by millions, By Robert Pear, April 4, 2014, New York Times: “Enrollment in Medicaid has increased by three million people, to a total of 62 million, largely because of the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration said Friday. As expected, the increases have been much greater in states that expanded Medicaid eligibility…”
  • Medicaid sign-ups are up 3M, By David Morgan, April 6, 2014, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Three million lower-income Americans have enrolled in the Medicaid program for the poor so far during the rollout of President Obama’s health-care law, the administration announced on Friday. That brings to more than 10 million the number of people who have signed up for both public and private health coverage since Oct. 1 under the Affordable Care Act. This week, the White House said there were 7.1 million sign-ups as of March 31 for private plans through new web-based marketplaces operating in all 50 states, a total that exceeded most expectations. More were partially enrolled at the deadline and not yet counted…”
  • Medicaid enrollment rises in Florida, nation, By Daniel Chang, April 4, 2014, Miami Herald: “Enrollment in Medicaid rose by about 245,000 people in Florida from October through February , reflecting a national trend as people who were previously eligible but not enrolled signed up for the state-federal health program for low-income Americans, federal officials reported Friday. The increase, which officials linked to the health insurance enrollment process for the Affordable Care Act, comes despite the Florida Legislature’s refusal to expand Medicaid…”

Child Well-Being and Race

  • N.J. study warns of continuing struggle for black, Latino children, By Monsy Alvarado, April 1, 2014, The Record: “White, Asian, African-American and Latino children in New Jersey scored higher than the national average across racial and ethnic backgrounds in several key indicators that measure a child’s chance at success in school and in life. But the data in a report, for release today by a national advocacy organization, reveal deep disparities within the state’s racial and ethnic groups in areas including fourth-grade reading proficiency, eighth-grade math skills, high school and college graduation rates, and poverty levels. White and Asian children in the Garden State continue to score better than their Latino and black counterparts in several of these areas…”
  • Minority kids don’t fare as well as whites in Utah, By Kristen Moulton, March 31, 2014, Salt Lake Tribune: “Minority children fare worse in Utah than their white counterparts, but there are plenty of challenges — poverty, and poor access to health care and education — to go around, according to a new national study. The study, ‘Race for Results: Building a Path of Opportunity for All Children’ is being released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count project. For nearly two decades, the foundation has joined with Voices for Utah Children to research the well-being of Utah children. The new study, however, is the first time there’s been a close look at how children fare by ethnic group, said Terry Haven, deputy director for Voices for Utah Children…”
  • Report: Well-being of African-Americans in Michigan among worst in nation, By Charles E. Ramirez, April 1, 2014, Detroit News: “The well-being of African-American children in Michigan is among the worst in the nation, according to a report to be released today. The Kids Count report found only Mississippi and Wisconsin fared worse than the Wolverine state, based on 12 criteria, including normal birth weights, education of parents and the number of children living at or above poverty…”
  • No state worse than Wisconsin for black children, says new national study, By Mike Ivey, April 1, 2014, Capital Times: “For African-American children seeking a better future, no state looks worse than Wisconsin. A new national report shows that children of color face enormous barriers to educational and financial achievement — with Wisconsin ranking last in the disparity between white children and their non-white peers. White children growing up in Wisconsin ranked 10th among the states in an index measuring 12 key indicators at various stages of life, including home situation, educational skills and income. But Wisconsin ranks 50th for black children, 37th for Asian children and 17th for Latino children, according to the study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation titled ‘Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children…’”