Supplemental Poverty Measure

  • Report: Kansas child poverty would double without government aid, By Jonathan Shorman, February 25, 2015, Topeka Capital-Journal: “Twice as many Kansas children would be in poverty without government aid, a new report shows.  According to just-released data from Kids Count, a data project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, government programs have kept about 103,000 children out of poverty in the past few years. Kansas’ child poverty rate, which stands at 15 percent under the Kids Count measure, would rise to 30 percent without assistance…”
  • Government programs cut state’s child poverty in half, report says, By Katie Johnson, February 25, 2015, Boston Globe: “More than 220,000 children in Massachusetts were kept out of poverty with the help of government assistance — reducing the child poverty rate by half, according to a report to be released Wednesday.  Nationwide, state and federal programs such as tax credits, nutrition and energy assistance, and housing subsidies cut the child poverty rate from 33 to 18 percent, keeping more than 11 million children out of poverty, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a Baltimore philanthropy that helps children at risk of poor educational, economic, social, and health outcomes…”
  • Decades-old poverty measurements inaccurate, says report by Annie E. Casey Foundation, By Mike Averill, February 25, 2015, Tulsa World: “Decades-old poverty measurements fail to show the effect of programs designed to combat childhood poverty, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  ‘Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States,’ released Wednesday by the foundation, points to the Supplement Poverty Measure as a better index for measuring poverty because, unlike the official federal measurement created in the 1960s, this method captures the effect of safety-net programs and tax policies on families.  When using the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, the rate of children in poverty in Oklahoma drops from 30 percent to 14 percent, according to the report…”

Teenage Pregnancy – Baltimore, MD

Teen pregnancies in Baltimore drop by a third, By Meredith Cohn and Andrea K. McDaniels, February 24, 2015, Baltimore Sun: “Baltimore’s teen pregnancy rate dropped by nearly a third from 2009 to 2013, far surpassing the city’s goal for reducing the rate, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake plans to announce today.  While public health officials cheered the reduction, the city’s rate remains twice as high as the state’s and significantly higher than the national average, which experienced a similar drop, according to government statistics. It’s a particular problem in black and Hispanic communities…”

Health Insurance Coverage

  • Health law drives down U.S. rate of uninsured adults, survey finds, By Noam N. Levey, February 24, 2015, Los Angeles Times: “America’s uninsured rate plummeted last year, with the improvement driven by states that have fully implemented the Affordable Care Act, a new nationwide Gallup survey indicates.  Led by Arkansas and Kentucky, which both had double-digit declines, seven states saw the percentage of adults without insurance fall by more than 5 percentage points between 2013 and 2014…”
  • Survey: Uninsured rate hit new low in 2014, By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar (AP), February 24, 2015, ABC News: “Even as it faces another Supreme Court challenge, President Barack Obama’s health care law has steadily reduced the number of uninsured Americans, according to an extensive survey released Tuesday.  The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that the share of adults without health insurance dropped to its lowest level in seven years in 2014 as Obama’s overhaul took full effect.  The trend appears likely to continue, since 55 percent of those who remained uninsured told the pollster they plan to get coverage rather than face rising tax penalties…”
  • The stark North-South divide in health insurance, By Aimee Picchi, February 24, 2015, CBS News: “When it comes to health care coverage, America is becoming a land of geographically based haves and have-nots.  States with the lowest uninsured rates are clustered in the Northeast and upper Midwest, while those with the highest rates of uninsured Americans are mostly inSouthern states such as Georgia and Louisiana, according to a new study from Gallup. One reason is that many Southern states opted out of expanding Medicaid coverage under Obamacare…”
  • Medicaid enrollment surges across the U.S., By Kimberly Leonard, February 24, 2015, US News and World Report: “Much of the focus of the health care law in recent months has centered on whether the government could get millions of people to sign up for private health insurance through federal or state exchanges. But the Affordable Care Act also expands health insurance for Americans with the lowest incomes – by giving them greater access to public coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program…”
  • Congress is told ruling against health law would impact poor, By Robert Pear, February 24, 2015, New York Times: “The Obama administration told Congress on Tuesday that it had no plans to help low- and moderate-income people if theSupreme Court ruled against the administration and cut off health insurance subsidies for millions of Americans.  Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, said a court decision against the administration would do “massive damage” that could not be undone by executive action.

State Minimum Wages

  • Minimum wage to rise in Alaska to $8.75 an hour, Associated Press, February 23, 2015, The Oregonian: “Alaska’s minimum wage will rise to $8.75 an hour Tuesday, giving a pay increase to thousands of workers. Voters in November overwhelmingly approved raising the minimum wage from $7.75 per hour to $8.75 per hour, effective Jan. 1. Because the state constitution calls for ballot measures to take effect 90 days after election results are certified, the raise doesn’t take effect until Tuesday…”
  • Tipped workers in New York will get a raise, By Katie Lobosco, February 24, 2015, CNN Money: “Waiters, bartenders and other tipped workers in New York will get a raise at the end of the year.  The state said Tuesday that it will hike the minimum wage for tipped restaurant workers to $7.50 from $5 an hour on Dec. 31…”

Kids Count Reports – Michigan, Indiana, Iowa

  • Saginaw County above state averages for child poverty, low birth weight, child abuse investigations, Kids Count 2015 reports, By Heather Jordan, February 19, 2015, MLive: “When it comes to the overall well-being of Michigan children, Saginaw County ranked 59th of 82, with No. 1 being the best.  Saginaw County has a greater percentage of young children who are eligible for food assistance than the state average, a greater percentage of low birth weight babies than the state average, a higher rate of children living in families investigated for abuse or neglect than the state average and a greater percentage of students who did not graduate high school on time than the state average.  All of this is according to the 2015 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book released Thursday, Feb. 19, by the Michigan League for Public Policy…”
  • Data: Indiana has highest rate in U.S. of teens who considered suicide, By Marisa Kwiatkowski, February 17, 2015, Indianapolis Star: “Indiana has the highest rate in the country of teens who have considered suicide and the second-highest rate of those who attempted it, according to a report from the Indiana Youth Institute.  The Institute’s ‘2015 Kids Count in Indiana data book,’ which was released Monday, pulled data from hundreds of national and state sources to analyze the state of Hoosier children and families. It tackled concerns such as a high rate of teen drug use, a low student-to-school counselor ratio and the fact that 22 percent of Indiana children live in poverty…”
  • Mixed results for Iowa’s children in Iowa Kids Count Report, By Chelsea Keenan and Andrew Phillips, February 11, 2015, The Gazette: “The health and education of Iowa’s children has generally improved since 2000, according to the 2013 Iowa Kids Count report. But the economic well-being that their families face has not.  The report, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has data looking at 20 different indicators of child and family well-being, including child poverty, food assistance, high school graduation rates and teen births.  It also provides data on a county, state and national level as well as compares rural with urban areas…”

Racial Wealth Gap

  • Whites have 12 times the wealth of blacks, By Tami Luhby, February 18, 2015, CNN Money: “The numbers say it all.  The typical white family had accumulated more than $134,200 in wealth in 2013, while black families scraped together a little more than $11,000 and Hispanic families $13,700, according to a new Urban Institute report.  It’s yet another example of how financial inequality is pervading this country and it’s is only getting worse. Whites now have 12 times the wealth of blacks and nearly 10 times more than Hispanics. But in 1995, the spread was only 7 times for blacks and 6 times for Hispanics…”
  • The corrosive impact of America’s growing wealth gap, By Aimee Picchi, February 18, 2015, CBS News: “The idea that everyone has a chance to get ahead in life is a defining belief of American life. But the more complicated reality is that a family’s wealth has a huge impact on how far people get.  Unfortunately for many Americans, the wealth gap — or the difference between the assets of the poor and the rich — has been growing over the past several decades, making it harder than ever for certain groups to climb the economic ladder. Families near the bottom of the wealth distribution actually ended up in debt in 2013, a backward step from having no wealth in 1963, according to a new analysis from the Urban Institute. Blacks and Hispanics are also falling behind, the think tank said in a report on Wednesday…”
  • The racial wealth gap we hardly talk about: What happens in retirement, By Jonnelle Marte, February 18, 2015, Washington Post: “Much has been said about the racial wealth gap and how the financial crisis widened that disparity, especially as minorities have had a harder time keeping their homes and rebuilding their portfolios.  But there’s another side to those challenges that doesn’t get as much attention — the retirement savings gap.  If minorities are less likely to get an inheritance from a family member than a white person is, or to have wealth to fall back on when they want to buy a house or start a business, they are likely to have less money to save for retirement, too. And if they are saving, the weaker safety net makes it more likely that they’ll have to raid that reserve or take on debt when things go wrong…”

Homeless Shelters – Minneapolis, MN

Minneapolis may free homeless shelters from worship spaces, By Jessica Lee, February 15, 2015, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “Minneapolis officials are looking to scrap a decades-old law that requires emergency homeless shelters to be housed in places of worship.  The change would free shelter operators to relocate, expand and provide more suitable accommodations for families and individuals. ‘I’d like to be able to [have beds] in buildings that are meant for human habitation, which are, by definition, not church basements,’ said Stephen Horsfield, executive director at Simpson Housing Services in Minneapolis…”

Foster Care Youth and Post-Secondary Education

Colorado senator’s bill aims to get youth from foster care, into college, By Jenny Brundin, February 10, 2015, Colorado Public Radio: “State Sen. Linda Newell meets a lot of youth in foster care. One day one of them posted a message on her Facebook page. ‘And [it] said, you’ve got to take a look into this,’ recalls the Littleton Democrat.  ‘This’ refers to the dismal figures, confirmed by a University Northern Colorado study last fall, on the number of foster youth graduating from high school…”

SNAP System – Massachusetts

SNAP system overhaul leads to fewer receiving food stamps, Western Mass. pantries see surge in need, By Laura Newberry, February 19, 2015, MassLive: “When the state rolled out its new Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program case management system in Oct. 2014, it was touted as a way to match caseworkers with clients more quickly, a crucial step in getting food stamps into the hands of those who need them most. But since then, the state has reported a sharp decline in the number of those receiving stamps through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP.)  Advocates say the drop in recipients isn’t a result of a rebounding economy, but rather a faulty system that’s causing bureaucratic backlog…”

Safety Net Programs and the Poor

Aid to needy often excludes the poorest in America, By Patricia Cohen, February 16, 2015, New York Times: “The safety net helped keep Camille Saunders from falling, but not Charles Constance. The difference? Ms. Saunders has a job, and Mr. Constance does not. And therein lies a tale of a profound shift in government support for low-income Americans at a time when stagnating wages and unstable schedules have kept many workers living near or below the poverty line. Assistance to needy Americans has grown at a gallop since the mid-1980s, giving a hand up to the disabled, the working poor and married couples with children. At the same time, though, government aid directed at the nation’s poorest individuals has shrunk…”

Medicaid Patients and Access to Care

  • Subsidized health centers welcome surge of Medicaid patients, By Kathleen O’Brien, February 16, 2015, Star-Ledger: “What comes to mind when you hear the term ‘clinic’? A storefront in the low-rent side of town, with plastic chairs in a crowded waiting room? A cramped examination room with just a curtain for privacy, where worried relatives hover in the hallway? That’s exactly what the old ‘Dover Community Clinic’ looked like a quarter-century ago when it was founded by a newly retired urologist who wanted to treat the poor. Now the Zufall Health Center occupies a renovated bank smack in the center of town, its three-story stone façade conveying solidity and permanence. It has a fancy new name – a Federally Qualified Health Center – and ‘clinic’ is a word consigned to its past…”
  • Medicaid patients struggle to get dental care, By Phil Galewitz, February 15, 2015, USA Today: “When Pavel Poliakov’s clothing shop in this picturesque college town closed last year, he felt lucky to be able to sign up for Medicaid just as Colorado expanded the program under President Obama’s health law. But when Poliakov developed such a severe toothache that he couldn’t eat on one side of his mouth, he was unable to find a dentist -— even though Colorado had just extended dental benefits to adults on Medicaid. Eventually, he turned to a county taxpayer-supported clinic that holds a monthly lottery for new patients…”

Medicaid Expansion – Kentucky

Study: Ky Medicaid expansion showing benefits, By Chris Kenning, February 13, 2015, Louisville Courier-Journal: “One year after it was enacted, Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion is benefiting patients and health care providers — and is expected to generate jobs and economic growth that will more than offset $1.1 billion in state costs through 2021, according to a state study released Thursday. The expansion, which enrolled 375,000 people in the health care program for the poor and disabled last year, is now projected to create 40,000 jobs and add $30 billion to the economy in the next six years — more than initially predicted…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Republicans eye changes to food-stamp program, By Tennille Tracy, February 11, 2015, Wall Street Journal: “House Republicans are laying the groundwork for a revision of the food-stamps program after its sharp expansion during the recession. The effort kicks off Feb. 25 when the House Agriculture Committee holds the first of several hearings scheduled this year on food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program…”

Jailing for Inability to Pay Bail

How bail punishes the poor for their poverty, By Max Ehrenfreund, February 13, 2015, Washington Post: “Most of the controversy over crime and punishment in the United States has focused on how many people are in prison. You don’t hear as much about jails, and yet for most Americans the local jail is where they’re likely to experience the justice system. Far more Americans go to jail in a given year than to prison, although most of them have not been convicted of any crime. Then there are those with mental illnesses who simply don’t have other options. And increasingly, jail has become a de facto punishment for poverty, as the poor are forced to remain there in lieu of bail while awaiting trial…”

Low-Income Workers and Public Transportation

Lacking transport, low-wage workers take a hit, By Katie Johnson, February 12, 2015, Boston Globe: “The $30 cab ride that Chazmaine Carroll had to take to get home from her job as a security guard this week amounted to nearly half her take-home pay for the day. For Medina Ahmed, a fast-food worker who does not have the option of working from home, the MBTA shutdown cost her two days’ wages. Taking a taxi to work would have cost her more than she makes in a day. Isidro Melo, who’s part of the cleaning crew at Boston Medical Center, also was stranded, unable to get to work without the commuter rail or the Red Line. He and his wife live in Lowell because of the lower cost of housing there. These workers illustrate the disproportionate hardship the snow has imposed on the area’s lowest-paid workers. For them, it’s more than a temporary inconvenience. It’s a financial blow that can make all the difference in paying bills, making the rent, and putting food on the table…”

Bangor Daily News ‘People Next Door’ Series

Living in a house of cards: A look back at people in Maine who are just scraping by, By Sandy Butler and Luisa Deprez, January 30, 2015, Bangor Daily News: “Ramon Perez works full-time at a job to which he walks the 2 miles since he doesn’t have a car. Still, his family of four in Augusta struggles to make ends meet. Helen, 45, works seven days a week caring for people with chronic health conditions but lacks health insurance herself. Wendall Hall of Milo, who recently lost his wife of several decades to heart and lung disease and then became guardian for his nine-year-old grandson, struggles to keep them fed and properly housed. Robert fled his native Angola and came to Maine to escape torture and death. He speaks nine languages and is fluent in English. With his wife and children, he expects to contribute to his community, but first he needs a job. Emergency funding through General Assistance enables them to stay afloat to give them that chance to succeed. For the past 18 months, we have profiled individuals and families struggling to make ends meet in Maine. These are people we know, who live in our communities, sometimes next door to us. We often mistakenly think they’re doing OK when in fact they are not…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

Complicated politics of Medicaid expansion are playing out state by state, By Abby Goodnough, February 10, 2015, New York Times: “In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf, a newly elected Democrat, is scrapping his Republican predecessor’s conservative approach to expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Wolf said this week that he would instead pursue a straightforward expansion of the government health insurance program for the poor, no longer charging premiums or limiting benefits for some enrollees. In Tennessee and Wyoming, however, bills to extend Medicaid to far more low-income residents under the law were quashed by Republican legislators last week, despite having the support of the states’ Republican governors. Opponents in both states said that, among other things, they did not believe the federal government would keep its promise of paying at least 90 percent of the cost of expanding the program. It currently pays the full cost, but the law reduces the federal share to 90 percent — a permanent obligation, it says — by 2020…”

Household Financial Security

Gap persists in homeownership, By Lisa Prevost, February 6, 2015, New York Times: “The rising tide of economic recovery is not lifting those most in need, according to an annual scorecard of financial security and opportunity put out by the nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development. Low- to moderate-income households and households of color remain far behind on a number of measures of financial well-being, especially when it comes to homeownership…”

Court Fines and the Poor

  • Civil rights attorneys sue Ferguson over ‘debtors prisons’, By Joseph Shapiro, February 8, 2015, National Public Radio: “In a new challenge to police practices in Ferguson, Mo., a group of civil rights lawyers is suing the city over the way people are jailed when they fail to pay fines for traffic tickets and other minor offenses. The lawsuit, filed Sunday night on the eve of the six-month anniversary of the police shooting of Michael Brown, alleges that the city violates the Constitution by jailing people without adequately considering whether they were indigent and, as a result, unable to pay. The suit is filed on behalf of 11 plaintiffs who say they were too poor to pay but were then jailed — sometimes for two weeks or more…”
  • Does Ferguson run ‘debtor’s prison’? Lawsuit targets a source of unrest, By Harry Bruinius, February 9, 2015, Christian Science Monitor: “A lawsuit filed Sunday aims to correct one of the driving factors behind the racial unrest in Ferguson, Mo., last summer: a local court system that, critics say, systematically jailed people too poor to pay fines accumulated from traffic tickets or other minor infractions. A kind of 19th-century ‘debtor’s prison’ has been in place for years in Ferguson and nearby Jennings, Mo., say those who filed the lawsuit. The result, they add, is ‘a Dickensian system that flagrantly violates the basic constitutional and human rights of our community’s most vulnerable people.’ The lawsuit comes at a time when several states and cities – including Ferguson – are beginning to address the grievances laid bare last summer. Ferguson has just not gone far enough or fast enough, the lawsuit claims…”

Access to Dental Care

Access to dental care still a problem for low-income people in Wisconsin, By Guy Boulton, February 9, 2015, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “One day after Monica Hebl of Burleigh Dental in Milwaukee returned from a nine-day dental mission to Haiti last month, she saw a child with several serious infections who needed to have four teeth pulled. Some of child’s teeth were black. ‘I was just blown away,’ said Hebl, a former president of the Wisconsin Dental Association. The child’s dental condition was symptomatic of a problem that doesn’t seem to be getting much better: Scant progress has been made in improving access to dental care among low-income people in Wisconsin…”