State Restrictions on Public Assistance for Drug Felons

States rethink restrictions on food stamps, welfare for drug felons, By Rebecca Beitsch, July 30, 2015, Stateline: “Johnny Waller Jr.’s 1998 felony drug conviction has haunted him since the day he left a Nebraska prison in 2001. Waller, now 38, applied for 175 jobs without getting one. He had trouble getting a federal loan for college because of his drug conviction, so he started his own janitorial business, in Kansas City, Missouri. And when his toddler son, Jordyn, was diagnosed with stomach cancer and needed full-time care, Waller’s record disqualified him from receiving food stamps. ‘I really needed assistance there,’ Waller said of the time in 2007 he had to give up his job to care for Jordyn. But he couldn’t get it, he said, because of a conviction ‘when I was 18 years old that didn’t have anything to do with my son…'”

Medicaid Coverage for Former Prisoners – Ohio

State pushes Medicaid sign-ups for inmates, By Alan Johnson, July 28, 2015, Columbus Dispatch: “In the old days, inmates got $75 and a one-way bus ticket when they got out of an Ohio prison. Now, they can get something more valuable — a Medicaid card. Three state agencies are aggressively pushing to get the majority of the roughly 21,000 people who are released from prison every year enrolled in Medicaid up to 90 days before they walk out the door. Services don’t begin until they are released, unless they are hospitalized. Having a Medicaid card means former prisoners immediately qualify for health care, mental-health services and prescription drugs. In the past, ex-offenders were typically released with a small supply of their medications and had to go to county agencies to apply for health-care services, a process that often took 45 days or longer.  Delays in getting medication and treatment are crucial because many people in Ohio prisons have mental-health and addiction issues…”

Affordable Housing – New Orleans, LA

Where will working poor live in future New Orleans, if gentrification continues?, By Robert McClendon, July 30, 2015, New Orleans Times-Picayune: “Twenty-year-old Jonquille Floyd is on the hunt for an apartment. Like many New Orleanians without much of a formal education, he works in the hospitality industry, washing dishes at a touristy French Quarter restaurant. It’s minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, plus some lagniappe from the wait staff who share tips with him for fetching water and the like. It’s not his long-term plan. He’s going to school in the fall to study welding. In the meantime, he has to find a place to live. At his pay, he thinks he can afford something in the realm of $650, with some help from Covenant House, the shelter where he lives now…”

Gender Wage Gap

Latinas’ gender wage gap is worst, study finds, By Katie Johnson, July 29, 2015, Boston Globe: “In Massachusetts, Hispanic women who clean offices and houses for a living make just 54 cents on the dollar compared with what male janitors make. Compared with their Hispanic male counterparts, Latina cleaners make just 59 percent. New research from the University of Massachusetts Boston shows that the already yawning gender wage gap becomes a chasm in lower-income jobs, particularly for Hispanic women…”

Minimum Wage

  • With buck bump to $9 per hour, Minnesota ushers in top state minimum wage in middle America, By Brian Bakst (AP), July 28, 2015, Star Tribune: “Minnesota will vault past Illinois, Michigan and South Dakota this week to gain the highest minimum wage in the Midwestern region at $9 an hour, which also will rank among the most-generous state wage floors in the country. The dollar-per-hour bump taking effect Saturday for some 288,000 of Minnesota’s lowest-paid workers is the second of a three-stage increase adopted in 2014, when the state had one of the lowest minimum wages in the region. Next August, the wage will rise again to $9.50 and it will go up automatically with inflation in following years…”
  • Proposed raise for fast-food employees divides low-wage workers, By Rachel L. Swarns, July 26, 2015, New York Times: “Rebecca Cornick cheerfully chopped 120 heads of lettuce, wiped tables and rang up some Baconators, fries and chicken club sandwiches. For most of her customers, it was just another afternoon at a Wendy’s restaurant in the East New York section of Brooklyn. Not for Ms. Cornick. She was celebrating. It was Thursday, one day after a state panel recommended that theminimum wage for fast-food workers be raised to $15 an hour, and Ms. Cornick was savoring congratulations from some regulars and the knowledge that soon, very soon, she would have more money to pay her bills…”

Child Poverty by Race

  • For first time, black kids in poverty outnumber white, By Lauren Pankin, July 16, 2015, Detroit Free Press: “The number of black children living in poverty in the U.S. has surpassed the number of poor white children for the first time since U.S. Census has tracked such numbers in 1974, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center. Overall, 20% of children in the U.S., or 14.7 million, lived in poverty in 2013 — down from 22%. Of that, black children make up 4.2 million while white children account for 4.1 million…”
  • Black children in U.S. are much more likely to live in poverty, study finds, By Sabrina Tavernise, July 14, 2015, New York Times: “Black children were almost four times as likely as white children to be living in poverty in 2013, a new report has found, the latest evidence that the economic recovery is leaving behind some of the United States’ most vulnerable citizens. The share of American children living in poverty fell to about 20 percent in 2013 from 22 percent in 2010, according to the report by the Pew Research Center, which analyzed data from the United States Census Bureau.

2015 Kids Count Data Book

  • More children living in poverty now than during recession, By Jennifer Calfas, July 21, 2015, USA Today: “A higher percentage of children live in poverty now than did during the Great Recession, according to anew report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation released Tuesday. About 22% of children in the U.S. lived below the poverty line in 2013, compared with 18% in 2008, the foundation’s 2015 Kids Count Data Book reported. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Human and Health Service’s official poverty line was $23,624 for a family with two adults and two children…”
  • Kids Count: How does your state rank in child well-being?, By Cristina Maza, July 21, 2015, Christian Science Monitor: “For children in New England and the Midwest, life is pretty good. For those in the South and Southwest though, not so much. And overall, kids are not as well off as they were before the 2008 recession. That’s according to the latest Kids Count Data Book released Tuesday by child advocacy group the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The study found that 22 percent of American children were living in poverty in 2013 compared with 18 percent in 2008. Furthermore, poverty rates are nearly double among African-Americans and American Indians…”
  • ‘Troubling’ report finds growing number of US children living in ​poverty, By Alan Yuhas, July 21, 2015, The Guardian: “A growing number of US children are living amid poverty and stark racial inequities in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, a new report has found, suggesting the economic recovery has not helped families return to their pre-recession security. Twenty-two percent of American children lived in poverty in 2013, according to the latest Kids Count Data Book, compared to 18% in 2008. The organization that compiled the report, child advocacy group the Annie E Casey Foundation, found it ‘especially troubling’ that children are increasingly likely to grow up in a high-poverty neighborhood…”

Summer Meal Programs

Efforts to feed thousands of low-income children barely make a dent in child hunger, By Elisa Crouch, July 24, 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “More than 1.1 million children in Missouri and Illinois qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch during the school year. But when school’s out, the vast majority of them go hungry. It’s a problem that has prompted a number of school districts, public libraries and social service agencies to set up summer feeding sites so that children can be guaranteed at least one or two meals a day. Thousands of children have benefited…”

ACA and Safety Net Hospitals

Some public hospitals win, others lose with Obamacare, Reuters, July 23, 2015, NBC News: “A year and a half after the Affordable Care Act brought widespread reforms to the U.S. healthcare system, Chicago’s Cook County Health & Hospitals System has made its first profit in 180 years.  Seven hundred miles south, the fortunes of Atlanta’s primary public hospital, Grady Health System, haven’t improved, and it remains as dependent as ever on philanthropy and county funding to stay afloat.  The disparity between the two ‘safety net’ hospitals, both of which serve a disproportionate share of their communities’ poorest patients, illustrates a growing divide nationwide…”

Minimum Wage Proposals

  • Higher minimum-wage proposals gain ground on both coasts, By Lisa Leff and David Klepper (AP), July 23, 2015, ABC News: “The push for a higher minimum wage gained momentum on both sides of the country, with New York embracing an eventual $15 an hour for the state’s 200,000 fast-food workers and the huge University of California system announcing the same raise for its employees…”
  • California, New York and Washington, D.C., make moves on minimum wage, By Sam Sanders, July 22, 2015, National Public Radio: “A wave of wage increases in cities across the country, as well as at several major businesses, continued on Wednesday.  University of California President Janet Napolitano announced that the minimum wage for direct and contract employees in the U.C. system working 20 hours or more per week will be raised to $15 an hour over the next three years. The first hike will be to $13 an hour on Oct. 1, 2015. The minimum wage will then jump to $14 a year later, and hit $15 an hour on Oct. 1, 2017…”

SNAP Recipients and Benefit Renewal – New York City

Navigating a bureaucratic maze to renew food stamp benefits, By Winnie Hu, July 23, 2015, New York Times: “Three months after Delbert Shorter’s food stamps were cut off, he still does not know why. At first, he thought that his $180 a month allotment from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called SNAP or food stamps, was just late. But as one week turned into another, Mr. Shorter, 78, who lives in a fifth-floor walk-up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, grew more anxious, and hungrier. He stockpiled canned foods from a church food pantry, borrowed $60 from his home health aide and turned to a senior center to help get his food stamps back. ‘It’s very hard,’ he said. ‘If I knew it was really going to come, I would not have to worry about the next meal.’  Even as New York City has embarked on a campaign to increase access to food stamps in recent months, Mr. Shorter’s plight illustrates the barriers that remain for those who are already enrolled…”

Disability and Poverty

Why disability and poverty still go hand in hand 25 years after landmark law, By Pam Fessler, July 23, 2015, National Public Radio: “If you have a disability in the U.S., you’re twice as likely to be poor as someone without a disability. You’re also far more likely to be unemployed. And that gap has widened in the 25 years since the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted.  ‘Every man, woman and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom,’ President George H.W. Bush said when he signed the bill into law on July 26, 1990.  The ADA banned discrimination based on disability and was intended to ensure equal opportunity in employment — as well as government services and public accommodations, commercial facilities and public transportation.  But it hasn’t always worked that way, especially when it comes to expanding economic opportunity for the 58 million Americans with physical and mental disabilities…”

State Voting Restrictions for Felons

States rethink laws denying the vote to felons, By Rebecca Beitsch, July 16, 2015, Stateline: “When Republican Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed a Maryland bill that expanded voting rights, he angered a group of people who were never able to vote for him in the first place: felons still serving prison time, probation or parole. Maryland — like every state but Maine and Vermont — restricts the voting rights of felons. Some states bar felony inmates from voting, others extend the prohibition to offenders who are on parole or probation. Several states withhold voting rights from people who have been out of the criminal justice system for years.  More states are considering restoring the right to vote to felons, with supporters saying that once their debt to society is paid they should be allowed to exercise a fundamental right. This year, 18 states considered legislation to ease voting restrictions on felons; Wyoming was the only state to pass such a bill. That’s up from 13 states that considered bills last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures…”

Public Defender System – Missouri

Missouri could face legal challenge for shortfalls in public defender system, By Dave Helling, July 19, 2015, Kansas City Star: “Anthony Cardarella represents dozens of clients accused of crimes who are considered too poor to pay for the legal help the U.S. Constitution guarantees them. The public defender is busy, so busy he’s reminded of the classic ‘I Love Lucy’ episode in which a conveyor belt of candy passes far too quickly for the comic to keep pace. ‘It’s a lot like that,’ he said. Cardarella’s heavy workload isn’t unique. Each of Missouri’s public defenders will average more than 200 cases this year, everything from murders and serious felonies to juvenile cases and probation violations. That’s about four cases a week…”

Low-Income Students and College Readiness

ACT report: College readiness remains flat among low-income students, By Andrew Phillips, July 22, 2015, The Gazette: “The percentage of low-income students who met college-readiness benchmarks on the ACT exam last year remained flat from the year before, according to a report released this week by ACT Inc. and a national education group. The report includes data from students nationwide in the high school graduating class of 2014 who took the ACT exam. It was released Monday by ACT Inc., the Iowa City-based testing company, and the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships…”

Heirs’ Property

Heirs’ property challenges families, states, By Sarah Breitenbach, July 15, 2015, Stateline: “In Mount Pleasant, a suburb of Charleston on the South Carolina coast, 72-year-old Richard Mazyck only recently acquired the title to the land on which he’s lived his entire life. The land once belonged to Mazyck’s father, and when he died it was passed down to Richard and his four sisters and brothers. But the elder Mazyck did not have a will, leaving his African- American descendants with what is known as heirs’ property. Without a deed, the heirs are unable to develop the land and are at risk of losing it entirely. This type of succession — property passed without a will — stems from the Reconstruction era, when African-Americans gained property rights. At that time, African-Americans often did not create wills to establish formal ownership for future generations because they were denied access to the legal system, did not trust it or could not afford it…”

Medicaid Expansion – Illinois

In Illinois, Medicaid expansion sign-ups double predictions, By Carla K. Johnson (AP), July 20, 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Illinois is among a dozen states where the number of new enrollees surpassed projections for the expansion of Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health law. While the surge in sign-ups lifts the number of insured people, it has also stoked worries about the future cost to taxpayers.  Illinois and Cook County eventually will have to bear 10 percent of the cost of expanding the safety-net insurance program for the poor. The federal government agreed to pay all costs for the expansion through 2016, but it will begin lowering its share in 2017.  More than twice as many Illinois residents have enrolled under the expansion than was projected by former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration. It expected 298,000 people to sign up in 2015, but 623,000 newly eligible Illinoisans enrolled by the end of June. Sign-ups have outstripped forecasts in at least a dozen states, according to a new analysis by The Associated Press…”

Poverty and Brain Development

Brain scans reveal how poverty hurts children’s brains, By John Tozzi, July 20, 2015, Bloomberg: “Growing up poor has long been linked to lower academic test scores. And there’s now mounting evidence that it’s partly because kids can suffer real physical consequences from low family incomes, including brains that are less equipped to learn. An analysis of hundreds of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans found that children from poor households had smaller amounts of gray matter in areas of the brain responsible for functions needed for learning, according to a new study published on Monday in JAMA Pediatrics. The anatomical difference could explain as much as 20 percent of the gap in test scores between kids growing up in poverty and their more affluent peers, according to the research…”

Foster Care System – Minnesota

Feds punish state for failing foster care standards, By Brandon Stahl, July 10, 2015, Star Tribune: “More than 200 children have gone through Kate and Tyree Walton’s foster home in Brooklyn Park in the past four years, but for them one child stands out. The girl was 5 in 2012, when the Waltons took her in. Over the next three years, the Waltons watched the girl treated like a yo-yo. Child protection workers sent the girl back to her drug-addicted father, only to pull her from the home and bring her back to the Waltons.  Each time they’ve had her, the girl ‘is more withdrawn,’ Kate Walton said. ‘She’s older, understands what’s going on, and she’s angry.’  What happened to the girl, considered foster care ‘re-entry,’ has happened to more than 8,000 Minnesota children since 2007. That’s too many for the federal Children’s Bureau. Last month, the agency told the state that it was withholding more than $755,000 in child protection funding because Minnesota’s re-entry rates are too high…”

Court Fines and the Poor

‘Sweeping’ court reform comes as Nixon signs bill to cap cities’ revenue, end predatory habits, By Robert Patrick and Stephen Deere, July 10, 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday signed a broad municipal court reform bill that will cap court revenue and impose new requirements in an attempt to end what the bill’s sponsor called predatory practices aimed at the poor. Nixon called the reform bill the ‘most sweeping’ municipal court reform bill in state history, and the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, called it the ‘most significant…'”