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…’”

March 2014 US Unemployment

  • Jobs report suggests a modest but durable recovery, By Nelson D. Schwartz, April 4, 2014, New York Times: “The economy created 192,000 jobs in March, better than during the depths of winter but still short of the labor market rebound that many experts had been hoping to see last month. Still, in one hopeful sign, the Labor Department said the proportion of Americans in the work force rose slightly, as the number of people looking for work increased, suggesting workers were being lured back into the job hunt as openings began to appear…”
  • U.S. jobs milestone: Economy finally gains back jobs lost in recession, Associated Press, April 4, 2014, The Oregonian: “U.S. employers added jobs at a solid pace in March and hired more in January and February than previously thought. Friday’s government report sent a reassuring signal that the economy withstood a harsh winter that had slowed growth. The economy gained 192,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department said Friday, slightly below February’s revised total of 197,000. Employers added a combined 37,000 more jobs in January and February than previously estimated…”

Child Welfare System – Florida

Florida Senate moves forward with massive rewrite of child welfare laws, By Mary Ellen Klas and Carol Marbin Miller, Miami Herald: “A key Senate committee approved a sweeping overhaul of Florida’s child welfare law Wednesday, the first step toward passage of a series of reforms designed to stanch the deaths of children at the hands of their parents or other caregivers. The proposal, an amendment to SB 1666 approved by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, is the most significant revamp of the state’s child welfare system in at least a decade. It aims to increase the quality and quantity of child protection investigators and strengthen the ability of the state to remove a vulnerable child from an unsafe home after the parents have demonstrated a pattern of neglect or abuse…”

College Affordability

College affordability: Low-income students bearing brunt of price hikes at some West Michigan schools, By Brian McVicar, April 2, 2014, “Students from low-income families are seeing college costs rise at a greater rate than their wealthy counterparts at several West Michigan schools, a trend that could hurt the poor as the cost of obtaining a degree continues to rise. The trend can be seen at schools such as Hope College, Calvin College, Cornerstone University and Grand Valley State University, federal data show…”

Long-Term Unemployment

  • Out of work, out of benefits, and running out of options, By Annie Lowrey, April 3, 2014, New York Times: “Abe Gorelick has decades of marketing experience, an extensive contact list, an Ivy League undergraduate degree, a master’s in business from the University of Chicago, ideas about how to reach consumers young and old, experience working with businesses from start-ups to huge financial firms and an upbeat, effervescent way about him. What he does not have — and has not had for the last year — is a full-time job. Five years since the recession ended, it is a story still shared by millions. Mr. Gorelick, 57, lost his position at a large marketing firm last March. As he searched, taking on freelance and consulting work, his family’s finances slowly frayed. He is now working three jobs, driving a cab and picking up shifts at Lord & Taylor and Whole Foods…”
  • For jobless LIers, desperation becomes way of life, By Carol Polsky, March 30, 2014, Newsday: “Growing numbers of jobless Long Islanders are struggling to survive with little to no income since extended federal unemployment benefits ended in December. Despite improving local unemployment rates and job growth, thousands of long-term unemployed are still unable to find work, and now many say they are running out of money to meet even basic expenses. A bipartisan compromise was reached recently in the U.S. Senate to provide extended benefits through May, retroactive to December, but it faces an uncertain fate in the House…”
  • Oregon food stamps, welfare numbers rose after long-term unemployment aid ended, By Yuxing Zheng, April 1, 2014, The Oregonian: “The number of Oregonians relying on welfare and food stamps rose slightly in January after long-term unemployment benefits ended in December. The increases illustrate the almost immediate impact local families felt after the federal unemployment benefits ran out, pushing families already living on the margins into welfare. Although not substantial, the January increases were some of the most sizable since Oregon began to see a slow and steady decline in the number of food stamps and welfare recipients…”

State Minimum Wages

  • In Arkansas, voters may get chance to raise minimum wage, By Scott Horsley, April 2, 2014, National Public Radio: “President Obama travels to Michigan Wednesday to tout his proposal to boost the minimum wage. Raising the wage to $10.10 an hour is one of the top agenda items for Obama and his fellow Democrats during this mid-term election year. The White House says the move would put more money in the pockets of some 28 million workers. One test of that strategy will be in Arkansas, where proponents are trying to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot in November. Arkansas has some of the lowest wages in the country and it’s also home to one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats…”
  • With Obama’s push, momentum on minimum wage moves to states, By Michael D. Shear, April 2, 2014, New York Times: “The more President Obama talks about the need to raise the federal minimum wage, the less likely it appears that Republicans in Congress are inclined to do it. But the stalemate matters less and less. In the last 14 months, since Mr. Obama first called for the wage increase in his 2013 State of the Union address, five states have raised their own minimum wages and 34 states have begun legislative debates on the matter. Activists in an additional eight states are pursuing ballot referendums this year to demand an increase in wages for their lowest-paid workers…”

Foster Care System – Oklahoma

Oklahoma struggles to handle rise in emergency foster care needs, By Ginnie Graham, March 31, 2014, Tulsa World: “There is plenty of blame to go around as Oklahoma struggles to understand why a significant number of children have entered foster care in the past two years. To improve the rate, social workers need to spend more individually tailored time with families. Judges and district attorneys need to trust the safety plans available to build family relationships, according to a 44-page analysis by the Casey Family Programs. Also, substance abuse is playing a significant role, and the causes of the foster-care growth ‘are complex and stretch beyond the boundaries of DHS.’ The Oklahoma Department of Human Services requested an independent look at the state’s 33 percent jump in children taken into custody due to abuse and neglect since the summer of 2012. The agency has requested $33 million in supplemental funding to handle foster care needs through the end of the fiscal year…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Another round of food stamp cuts in states, By Jake Grovum, March 26, 2014, Stateline: “A fresh round of food stamp cuts at the state level are underway, on top of federal food stamp reductions that hit millions of Americans twice since November. In some states, policymakers have imposed additional cuts that jeopardize benefits for hundreds of thousands. The impact of the reductions is just beginning to take hold, or soon will…”

Miami Herald Series on Florida Child Welfare System

Innocents Lost: a Miami Herald I-Team investigation, series homepage, March 2014, Miami Herald: “After Florida cut protections for children from troubled homes, more children died, often in cruel and preventable ways. To understand the magnitude of the problem — and possible solutions — the Herald studied every death over a six-year period involving families with child welfare histories. This series is the result of a year’s worth of reporting by the Herald’s Investigation Team, and multiple lawsuits to obtain state death records…”