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…”

Intergenerational Poverty

Can poverty be passed down? A nonprofit tries to break the cycle, By Katie Johnson, July 12, 2016, Boston Globe: “In some households, poverty is passed down from generation to generation, almost like an inherited trait.  Teri Williams, president of OneUnited Bank, sees it happen among the lower-income Boston residents the bank serves. Often it boils down to bad decisions: people with bad credit who can’t get a utilities account use their children’s Social Security numbers to get the gas turned on and then can’t pay the bills, saddling their children with bad credit before they hit adulthood.  ‘We’ve seen that unfortunately too many times,’ Williams said.  New research suggests that these kinds of actions may be tied to the chronic stress of poverty, which can short-circuit brain development in children. This can limit their ability to plan ahead, control impulses, and juggle multiple tasks — skills that are vital to success in school and work…”

Low-Income Households and Internet Access

Comcast expands Internet access to more low-income families, By Pam Adams, July 15, 2016, Peoria Journal Star: “More low-income households, including veterans, senior citizens and adults without children, will have access to low-cost internet service from Comcast.  The country’s largest cable provider is expanding Internet Essentials to all housing programs in its service areas that receive funds for from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program originally was developed in 2011 to provide low-cost internet service for families of grade school and high school students who met eligibility guidelines for the federal free lunch program…”

College Students and Food Insecurity

Four in 10 UC students do not have a consistent source of high-quality, nutritious food, survey says, By Teresa Watanabe and Shane Newell, July 13, 2016, Los Angeles Times: “UC Irvine student Chris Tafoya admits that he’s often hungry and doesn’t eat the nutritious foods he should. On his worst days, the 20-year-old Los Angeles native said he would simply go to sleep early to quiet the hunger pangs.  Other times, he would eat instant ramen for breakfast, lunch and dinner. No matter that each serving is packed with sodium and fat; at less than 50 cents each, it was affordable for Tafoya, who has balked at asking his low-income relatives for help…”

 

Poverty and Brain Development

Evidence grows of poverty’s toll on young brains, By Abigail Becker, July 6, 2916, USA Today: “Five-year-old Naja Tunney’s home is filled with books. Sometimes she will pull them from a bookshelf to read during meals. At bedtime, Naja reads to her 2-year-old sister, Hannah. ‘We have books anywhere you sit in the living room,’ said their mother, Cheryl Tunney, who curls up with her girls on an oversized green chair to read stories.  Naja and Hannah are beneficiaries of Reach Out and Read, an early intervention literacy program that collaborates with medical care providers to provide free books when families come in for check-ups…”

Retirement Security

Women more likely than men to face poverty during retirement, Associated Press, July 10, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “During their working years, women tend to earn less than men, and when they retire, they’re more likely to live in poverty. These are women who raised children and cared for sick and elderly family members, often taking what savings and income they do have and spending it on things besides their own retirement security. The National Institute on Retirement Security, a nonprofit research center, reports that women are 80 percent more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and older. Women age 75 to 79 are three times more likely…”

Incarceration and Medicaid Coverage – Pennsylvania

Bill aims to make Medicaid enrollment smoother for those leaving jail in Pennsylvania, By Kate Giammarise, July 6, 2016, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Medicaid stops at prison and jail walls in Pennsylvania, and getting it started up again can take time.  However, a change in the state’s Human Services code would mean Medicaid is suspended, rather than terminated, for those who are incarcerated. That would allow people who leave prison to be immediately re-enrolled and have health care, rather than having up to 45 days after they leave prison in which they can’t get needed medication…”

Minimum Wage Increases

Low-paid workers are leading in wage gains, By Paul Davidson, July 5, 2016, USA Today: “Low-paid workers didn’t exactly declare their independence this past weekend but they did snag another round of minimum wage hikes as part of their years-long rebellion against languishing earnings.  An unusual flurry of minimum wage increases took effect Friday in Maryland and Oregon, as well as in 13 cities and counties, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC and Louisville, Ky., according to the conservative Employment Policies Institute and liberal National Employment Law Project. The initiatives will boost minimum pay to as much as $13 to $14.82 an hour in parts of California…”

Housing and Health

Zika could hit people in poverty hardest, By Liz Szabo, June 30, 2016, USA Today: “There’s no mystery about how the mosquitoes got into Shawanda Holmes’ former home. They flew through a gaping hole in the wall. One of the wooden boards on the side of the house is partly missing, covered only by a loose, blue plastic tarp that flows down the outside wall and crumples in a heap on the grass. Rainwater pools in its folds, providing an ideal site for mosquitoes to breed. Trash fills the backyard. Holmes’ home had no air conditioning, and she was afraid to plug in a fan, for fear that water had leaked into the electrical outlet. Mosquitoes repeatedly bit her children, ages 4, 6 and 14. ‘The mosquitoes were tearing us up, no matter what I did,’ said Holmes, 32, who lives in New Orleans’ Center City neighborhood.  If Zika spreads in the United States, Americans who live in substandard housing and neglected neighborhoods could face the greatest danger, particularly along the Gulf Coast – where steamy summers, high poverty rates and a dizzying array of mosquitoes could allow the virus to take hold, said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine…”