States and Medicaid Expansion

  • How expanding Medicaid can lower insurance premiums for all, By Margot Sanger-Katz, August 25, 2016, New York Times: “The Obama administration for years has been pleading with states to expand their Medicaid programs and offer health coverage to low-income people. Now it has a further argument in its favor: Expansion of Medicaid could lower insurance prices for everyone else.  A new study published by in-house researchers at the Department of Health and Human Services compared places that have expanded their Medicaid programs as part of Obamacare with neighboring places that have not. They found that, in 2015, insurance in the marketplace for middle-income people cost less in the places that had expanded Medicaid…”
  • Controversial parts of Medicaid plan remain, By Tom Loftus and Deborah Yetter, August 25, 2016, Louisville Courier-Journal: “Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration unveiled its long-awaited plan to reshape the state’s Medicaid program Wednesday, and while it restores some benefits Bevin proposed be cut two months ago, it retains the most controversial components of the governor’s approach to overhauling the federal-state health plan for low-income and disabled Kentuckians.  Taking aim at the Medicaid expansion launched by his predecessor, Democrat Steve Beshear, under the federal Affordable Care Act, Bevin, a Republican, has said he wants to create a different program that includes more cost-sharing by consumers, encourages more personal responsibility, and brings the state’s soaring costs of Medicaid under control…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Food stamp use on the rise in Nebraska, unlike in Iowa and rest of U.S., By Barbara Soderlin, August 23, 2016, Omaha World-Herald: “The recession is in the rearview mirror, and the state’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the nation, but the number of Nebraskans who rely on government assistance for groceries has been on the rise — heading in the opposite direction of Iowa and the rest of the country. People who work with poor families say they don’t expect the number of Nebraskans on food stamps to fall anytime soon: Low wages are driving the need for benefits, those people say. And better outreach is helping more people access benefits than in the past…”
  • Why food stamp fraud is ‘fairly rampant’ at corner stores in some Chicago neighborhoods, By Greg Trotter, August 19, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “Food stamp trafficking often begins with an innocuous question.  ‘Can I talk to you?’  Sami Deffala, who’s managed a corner store in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood for 13 years, said he hears that every day from customers vying for a private moment in hopes of using their Link cards to exchange SNAP benefits, the modern-day version of food stamps, for cash — an illegal practice called trafficking by federal regulators. And every day, Deffala said, he hears them out but refuses to take part in the scheme…”

US Bail System and the Poor

  • Obama’s lawyers challenge the money bail system: Can people be kept in jail just because they are poor?, By David Savage, August 25, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “President Obama’s civil rights lawyers are seeking a potentially far-reaching ruling to hold that the Constitution forbids the common practice of keeping people in jail prior to a trial, even for minor offenses, just because they are too poor to pay for bail.  Every day, about 450,000 people are held under arrest in city and county jails because they cannot afford bail, according to the Southern Center for Human Rights and Equal Justice Under Law, a small Washington-based civil rights group…”
  • Justice department steps in against jailing practices that target poor people, By Jamiles Lartey, August 24, 2016, The Guardian: “Maurice Walker’s case is far from exceptional.  Arrested on 3 September 2015 for public intoxication, Walker, a 54-year-old black man with a serious mental disorder that leaves him unable to work, was faced with two options: pay a $160 cash bond and leave jail that day, or remain in jail over a holiday weekend. Walker told officials that he couldn’t afford the standard bond required by the city for the misdemeanor and wound up spending six days in jail, only being allowed out of his cell for an hour a day. Walker said he was also denied daily medication he took for his disorder…”

Medicaid and Home Health Visits

House calls might save Medicaid money for states, By Michael Ollove, August 25, 2016, Stateline: “Doctors who make house calls may seem like something from America’s Norman Rockwell past. But they never disappeared entirely, and there is new evidence that home visits can play an important role in providing health care to the aged and chronically ill — while saving taxpayers millions.  The federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) said this month that a demonstration project has shown that delivering comprehensive primary care services at home helped to keep Medicare recipients with multiple chronic illnesses or disabilities out of hospitals, emergency rooms and nursing homes…”

Child Welfare Systems – Arkansas, Arizona

  • Children in foster care in Arkansas reaches all-time high, By Brian Fanney, August 22, 2016, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: “The number of children in foster care has reached an all-time high in Arkansas, straining state officials who have long referred to the growth as a crisis.  But the state has reversed a trend of losing foster families every quarter, according to reports prepared by the Division of Children and Family Services…”
  • Critics say Arizona is cheaping out on child-welfare services, By Mary Jo Pitzl, August 21, 2016, Arizona Republic: “Social-service providers are warning that children could linger longer in foster care if the state of Arizona follows through with a new round of contracts they say will cut rates, lower standards and deter qualified applicants.  The complaints arise as the state is on the verge of awarding new contracts for services the Department of Child Safety insists will get kids out of foster care and into permanent homes more quickly, without increasing costs to the state…”

Welfare Reform

  • 20 years since welfare’s overhaul, results are mixed, By Pam Fessler, August 22, 2016, National Public Radio: “Twenty years ago, welfare as Americans knew it ended. President Bill Clinton signed a welfare overhaul bill that limited benefits and encouraged poor people to find jobs.  ‘We’re going to make it all new again, and see if we can’t create a system of incentives which reinforce work and family and independence,’ Clinton said at a White House bill signing ceremony.  The goals were admirable: help poor families get into the workforce so they’d no longer need government aid. They’d get job training and support, such as help with child care.  But the results have been mixed…”
  • How welfare reform changed American poverty, in 9 charts, By Max Ehrenfreund, August 22, 2016, Washington Post: “Twenty years ago, President Clinton kept a promise. ‘I have a plan to end welfare as we know it,’ he said in a television spot during his campaign for office. He did, on Aug. 22, 1996.  The law that the president signed that day, together with other policies enacted by Congress and the states, profoundly changed the lives of poor Americans. It was intensely controversial at the time — a controversy that is heating up again today. New data on the hardships of poverty in the aftermath of the recent recession have exposed what critics say are shortcomings of welfare reform…”

Health Insurance Coverage – California

More Californians are insured in 2016, but many still worry about medical costs, By Soumya Karlamangla, August 18, 2016, Los Angeles Times: “Nearly three-quarters of Californians who didn’t have health coverage before the Affordable Care Act are now insured, yet many are still concerned about their medical expenses, according to a report released Thursday. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey tracking the state’s uninsured population found that 72% of those without insurance in 2013 had a health plan in 2016…”

SNAP Job Training Program – Baltimore, MD

New job training program targets food stamp recipients, By Lorraine Mirabella, August 15, 2016, Baltimore Sun: “A new state program aims to help Baltimore residents reduce their dependence on food stamps by training them for jobs that can lead to careers in manufacturing, green construction and health care.  About 260 low-skilled and under-educated people in the city are expected to receive training through a network of six workforce development groups in fiscal year 2017, officials with the state Department of Human Resources announced Monday…”

Low-Income Housing in Ohio

Not enough low-income housing is being built in better neighborhoods, report finds, By Rachel Dissell, August 18, 2016, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Not enough is being done to help build low-income housing in neighborhoods with betters schools and safer streets, according to a report commissioned on behalf of state legal aid programs.  The report found that Ohio gives most of its federal tax credits to developers who pitch projects in distressed neighborhoods that are deeply racially segregated and impoverished…”

Identifying Poverty Areas using Satellite Imagery

Scientists use machine learning to fight global poverty from space, By Lonnie Shekhtman, August 18, 2016, Christian Science Monitor: “Satellites are best known for helping smartphones map driving routes or televisions deliver programs. But now, data from some of the thousands of satellites orbiting Earth are helping track things like crop conditions on rural farms, illegal deforestation, and increasingly, poverty in the hard-to-reach places around the globe…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program

States follow Maine in declining federal funds for food stamps, By Alan Bjerga, August 16, 2016, Bangor Daily News: “Food stamp enrollment in the U.S. is declining from record levels, in part because some states are ending benefits earlier than they have to. Seven states, all led by Republicans, have decided this year to end waivers for some able-bodied recipients that were made available in the 2009 federal stimulus bill — even though the benefits are federally funded.  Enrollment in what’s formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is still nearly twice the level it was before the recession. But the most recent data, for May, showed 43.5 million people were receiving food stamps, down 9 percent from a 2012 peak and the fewest since 2010…”

Homelessness and Housing – Los Angeles, CA

Is the shift to permanent housing making L.A.’s homelessness problem even worse?, By Doug Smith, August 15, 2016, Los Angeles Times: “As Los Angeles grapples with the nation’s worst homelessness problem, experts have almost universally embraced permanent housing as the best approach for lifting people out of homelessness.  The strategy is to quickly re-house those who are able to live independently, and to provide housing with intensive on-site services for chronically homeless people for as long as it takes them to become independent, or for life if needed.  But the shift toward permanent housing has had a cost: As money has been directed away from programs that combine services with shorter-term housing, the region’s homelessness problem has gotten worse…”

State Grocery Taxes

Decried as unfair, taxes on groceries persist in some states, By Elaine S. Povich, August 16, 2016, Stateline: “Thirteen states and many localities continue to tax the sale of groceries, even though the taxes disproportionately hurt the poor and may affect the quality, variety and even the amount of food they can afford to put on the table.  The reason: The taxes provide a steady source of revenue in volatile times, making it difficult for states to get rid of them without finding a way to make up the revenue. Recent efforts in several of the states to eliminate or lower the taxes have failed…”

Poverty and the Child Protection System – Ontario, CA

Report shines light on poverty’s role on kids in CAS system, By Sandro Contenta and Jim Rankin, August 15, 2016, Toronto Star: “A new report that for the first time calculates the effect of poverty in Ontario child protection has found it plays a significant role in kids being taken from their families and placed into care.  Children whose families ran out of money for housing were twice as likely to be placed with foster parents or group homes, according to an analysis of Ontario children taken into care in 2013.  Similar rates were found for families who ran out of money for food or for utilities. Children with a parent suffering from addiction or mental health problems were also placed in care at about twice the overall rate…”

Politics and Poverty

How do Americans view poverty? Many blue-collar whites, key to Trump, criticize poor people as lazy and content to stay on welfare, By David Lauter, August 14, 2016, Los Angeles Times: “Sharp differences along lines of race and politics shape American attitudes toward the poor and poverty, according to a new survey of public opinion, which finds empathy toward the poor and deep skepticism about government antipoverty efforts.  The differences illuminate some of the passions that have driven this year’s contentious presidential campaign.  But the poll, which updates a survey The Times conducted three decades ago, also illustrates how attitudes about poverty have remained largely consistent over time despite dramatic economic and social change…”

State Restrictions on Public Assistance for Drug Felons

More states lift welfare restrictions for drug felons, By Teresa Wiltz, August 9, 2016, Stateline: “Twenty years after a federal law blocked people with felony drug convictions from receiving welfare or food stamps, more states are loosening those restrictions — or waiving them entirely.  In April, Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, signed a criminal justice reform bill that lifted the ban on food stamps for drug felons in Georgia. Alaska followed suit in July, although applicants must prove they are complying with parole and are in treatment for substance abuse. And in Delaware, a bill to lift cash assistance restrictions for drug felons passed out of committee in June. The legislative session ended before the bill could be put to a vote…”

Predatory Lending

Payday loans’ potentially predatory replacement, By Gillian B. White, August 12, 2016, The Atlantic: “Dangerous, high-cost lending isn’t going away anytime soon.  While some have heralded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s long-awaited payday-lending regulations as significant progress toward the end of predatory lending practices, other, similar products have, as predicted, started to take their place…”

Politics and Poverty

  • The millions of Americans Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton barely mention: The poor, By Binyamin Appelbaum, August 11, 2016, New York Times: “The United States, the wealthiest nation on Earth, also abides the deepest poverty of any developed nation, but you would not know it by listening to Hillary Clinton or Donald J. Trump, the major parties’ presidential nominees.  Mrs. Clinton, speaking about her economic plans on Thursday near Detroit, underscored her credentials as an advocate for middle-class families whose fortunes have flagged. She said much less about helping the 47 millions Americans who yearn to reach the middle class.  Her Republican rival, Mr. Trump, spoke in Detroit on his economic proposals four days ago, and while their platforms are markedly different in details and emphasis, the candidates have this in common: Both promise to help Americans find jobs; neither has said much about helping people while they are not working…”
  • Trump, Clinton largely avoid talking about poverty on the 2016 campaign trail, By Chris Baker, August 11, 2016, Syracuse Post-Standard: “Can we talk about poverty for a minute? Because no one on the national campaign trail is.  In the lead-up to the presidential election this year, there has been a noticeable lack of discussion about one of America’s most persistent struggles. We’ve heard about jobs, walls, ISIS, Russia and emails, but both candidates have largely skirted large scale issues affecting the poor…”

High School Graduation Rate – Los Angeles, CA

Crash course in credit recovery yields best-ever graduation rate of 75% for L.A. schools, By Howard Blume and Sonali Kohli, August 10, 2106, Los Angeles Times: “The star of an annual kickoff event for the new school year in Los Angeles was a number: 75%, the highest graduation rate ever tabulated by the nation’s second-largest school system. That achievement, announced by L.A. Unified Supt. Michelle King on Tuesday at Garfield High School, brought acclaim from an audience of administrators and dignitaries, but also led some to wonder again whether such improvement is real.  The milestone represents a breathtaking turnaround between December and June…”

Connecting the Homeless to Services

This Republican mayor has an incredibly simple idea to help the homeless. And it seems to be working, By Colby Itkowitz, August 11, 2016, Washington Post: “Republican Mayor Richard Berry was driving around Albuquerque last year when he saw a man on a street corner holding a sign that read: ‘Want a Job. Anything Helps.’  Throughout his administration, as part of a push to connect the homeless population to services, Berry had taken to driving through the city to talk to panhandlers about their lives. His city’s poorest residents told him they didn’t want to be on the streets begging for money, but they didn’t know where else to go.  Seeing that sign gave Berry an idea. Instead of asking them, many of whom feel dispirited, to go out looking for work, the city could bring the work to them…”