Health Insurance Coverage

Gov’t report: Illinois among 8 states with significant drop in uninsured, Associated Press, February 9, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “Eight states saw a significant drop last year in the number of residents going without health insurance, according to a government report out Tuesday that has implications for the presidential campaign.  All but Florida had accepted a Medicaid expansion that is one of two major pathways to coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care law. The law’s other coverage route is subsidized private insurance, available in all 50 states…”

Black Unemployment

Unemployment may be dropping, but it’s still twice as high for blacks, By Sonari Glinton, February 5, 2016, National Public Radio: “The jobs numbers are in: 150,000 jobs were added to the economy in January. That’s fewer than expected, though the unemployment rate fell to an eight-year low.  President Obama took the opportunity this morning to take a shot at some of his more vocal opponents…”

January 2016 Unemployment Rate

Wages rise as U.S. unemployment rate falls below 5%, By Nelson D. Schwartz, February 5, 2016, New York Times: “Is the American worker finally getting a raise?  After years of scant real gains despite steadily falling unemployment and healthy hiring, wages picked up significantly last month, a sign the job market could be tightening enough to force companies to pay more to attract and retain employees.  The half a percentage point increase in average hourly earnings in January was the brightest spot in a generally positive Labor Department report on Friday, which showed job creation slowing from the white-hot pace of late 2015 even as the unemployment rate fell to an eight-year low of 4.9 percent…”

Homeless Youth – New York City

Homeless young people of New York, overlooked and underserved, By Nikita Stewart, February 5, 2016, New York Times: “Hundreds of homeless young people are in plain sight every day in New York City.  They are sitting on the floor at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and charging their phones as if they were college students awaiting a bus home. They are huddled on the sidewalk, hanging out. They sleep on friends’ couches and in strangers’ beds. They stay with ‘Uncle A.C.E.,’ code for the long route of the A train, where they can spend hours unbothered and unnoticed. Mostly, they just blend in, people in their late teens or early 20s, navigating a treacherous path into adulthood…”

Jobless Benefits – Pennsylvania

Changed rules for jobless pay exclude some workers, By Daniel Moore, February 2, 2016, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Amid the sharp downturn in the steel industry and the closure of several power plants in southwestern Pennsylvania, work has been steadily disappearing for Keith Evans. The 53-year-old boilermaker from Brookline is called on intermittently for jobs related to maintenance at industrial facilities.  But the state won’t let him collect unemployment compensation as he scours for jobs. Thousands of seasonal workers were ruled ineligible to receive jobless pay under cost-cutting measures put into effect in January 2013 under former Gov. Tom Corbett.  Although the intention wasn’t to exclude such workers, efforts in Harrisburg to bring some of them back into the fold haven’t worked yet…”

SNAP Work Requirements

Over 1 million face loss of food stamps over work requirements, Associated Press, January 30, 2016, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “More than 1 million low-income residents in 21 states could soon lose their government food stamps if they fail to meet work requirements that began kicking in this month.  The rule change in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was triggered by the improving economy — specifically, falling unemployment. But it is raising concerns among the poor, social service providers and food pantry workers, who fear an influx of hungry people…”

Medicaid Expansion – Indiana, Ohio

  • Hospitals boosted by Medicaid expansion, By Maureen Groppe, February 1, 2016, Indianapolis Star: “The biggest obstacle a Richmond, Ind., hospital has had in signing up low-income Hoosiers for Indiana’s expanded Medicaid program is convincing them it’s real.  ‘These are people who have never had this type of coverage before,’ said Chris Knight, the chief financial officer and vice president of Reid Health. ‘We have had very touching stories where people just break down and cry when they’re given this coverage.’  As Indiana enters its second year of expanded Medicaid coverage created by the Affordable Care Act, hospitals around the state report it has helped patients gain needed coverage.  But it’s helping hospitals, too.  The amount of unpaid bills Reid Health can’t collect from patients has dropped about 40 percent…”
  • Do Indiana’s poor Medicaid recipients really have skin in the game?, By Maureen Groppe and Shari Rudavsky, February 1, 2016, Indianapolis Star: “When Gov. Mike Pence sought federal permission to run an alternative Medicaid program in Indiana, one aspect was non-negotiable: Participants in the joint federal and state health care program for the poor would have to have ‘skin in the game.’  Even those with no monthly income would have to pay a minimum $1 a month toward their care, if they wanted to stay in the part of the Healthy Indiana Program (HIP 2.0) that offered better benefits and no co-payments…”
  • Medicaid cuts number of uninsured Ohio workers, By Randy Tucker, February 3, 2016, Dayton Daily News: “The number of Ohio workers who were employed but uninsured fell sharply in the first full year of expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to a report released Wednesday by Families USA. On average, the rate of uninsured, mostly low-wage workers, fell by 25 percent in the 26 states that expanded Medicaid in 2014, the non-profit health care advocacy group found. That was about twice the rate of decline in non-expansion states, where the share of uninsured workers was cut by an average of 13 percent, according to the report…”

Gender Pay Gap

Obama moves to close gender wage gap, By Jim Puzzanghera and Evan Halper, January 29, 2016, Los Angeles Times: “The first bill President Obama signed after taking office in 2009 was designed to help close the pay gap between men and women.  But saying progress has been slow, Obama announced a new plan Friday to try to ensure that women earn the same as men for doing the same job.  The proposal, which doesn’t need legislative approval, would require businesses with at least 100 employees to submit annual pay data by gender, race and ethnicity in an effort to find firms that the White House said are ‘unlawfully shortchanging workers…’”

Health Care and Social Services Screenings

Feds to study health benefits of screening and linking to social services, By Jayne O’Donnell, February 3, 2016, USA Today: “The Obama administration is working to build evidence supporting increased federal and state spending on anti-violence, social service and other programs to improve life in poor neighborhoods and limit the growth in health care costs.  The move comes despite more limited reports done by outside groups and is designed to create a paper trail that makes the need for and efficacy of the programs for Medicare and Medicaid recipients indisputable by showing the cost savings…”

Bail System – Connecticut

Gov. Malloy proposes elimination of bail for some offenders, By Daniela Altimari, January 28, 2016, Hartford Courant: “Standing in a church in the North End Thursday afternoon, Gov.Dannel P. Malloy outlined his plan to take on a bail system that dates from medieval England. The Democratic governor is proposing an end to bail for low-risk defendants charged with low-level crimes. In cases where bond is set as a condition of release, Malloy is calling for a new system that would permit defendants to sidestep bail bondsmen and put up a cash deposit directly with the court in order to secure their freedom…”

Employment Gender Gap in Poor Neighborhoods

The striking power of poverty to turn young boys into jobless men, By Emily Badger and Christopher Ingraham, January 29, 2016, Washington Post: “Men are more likely to work than women. This has been true in the United States for generations and for entrenched reasons that have to do with ‘family values’ and workplace policies. It’s true because the culture says women should care for their children and because paying for child care is expensive. And it’s true because of discrimination.  The durability of that pattern makes a recent finding by economists at Harvard and Stanford universities all the more puzzling: Among the poor, the opposite is now true. Girls who grow up in poor families are more likely than the boys who grow up with them to work as adults…”

Stateline’s State of the States Report

State of the States 2016, January 25, 2016, Stateline: “Stateline’s annual State of the States series looks at some of the pressing issues state lawmakers are facing as they begin their work this month. The five-part series includes analytical articles, infographics and interactives…”

National School Lunch Program

Obama’s plan to give free lunches to millions more kids, By Roberto A. Ferdman, January 27, 2016, Washington Post: “The Obama administration will announce new plans Wednesday to launch a pilot program aimed at increasing poor children’s access to food through the National School Lunch Program. The pilot program will allow participating states to use Medicaid data to automatically certify students for free and reduced-price school lunches. Currently, families have to submit an application — a laborious process for parents and a costly one for schools — even when they have already proven that they are income-eligible through their participation in other government assistance programs…”

Homeless Youth – Los Angeles, CA

L.A. is working to count a hidden population — homeless young people, By Gale Holland, January 26, 2016, Los Angeles Times: “When Marlon Sibrian turned 18 and aged out of the Los Angeles County foster care system, he had nowhere to go. His social worker dropped him off at the door of a Boyle Heights youth shelter. Sibrian’s time there made it easy for him to recognize the homeless young men amid similarly hoodie-clad and beanie-topped individuals at Union Station…”

Environmental Hazards and Poor Minority Communities

Beyond Flint: Poor blacks, Latinos endure oversized burden of America’s industrial waste and hazards, By Aaron Morrison, January 25, 2016, International Business Times: “Elizer Lee Cruz will occasionally look out at English Station — the shuttered and corroding coal power plant sitting on an eight-acre island in the middle of Mill River — and marvel at its architecture. From Fair Haven, a neighborhood just east of the river comprising largely minority and working-poor people, Cruz and his neighbors can see the tops of four of the facility’s smokestacks that stopped billowing in 1992. ‘The way the bricks are laid — little blocks of cement with a circle and a lightning bolt — it was a power plant that was built to the glory of God,’ he says, describing what he can see from the riverbanks. But that awe is fleeting for Cruz, an environmental activist who last year fought a plan that would have reopened the plant…”

Medicaid Expansion

  • Has Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion reached a tipping point?, By Dan Mangan, January 26, 2016, CNBC: “They like their plans, and they’re likely to keep their plans.  Despite continued Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare, a key component of the law that has given millions of people health coverage — Medicaid expansion — could prove very difficult to undo, experts say. A growing number of states have signed up for that expansion of the government-run program for poor people, or are discussing doing so. Hospitals are becoming accustomed to the money that comes with expansion, and a majority of new enrollees are saying they are happy with their coverage…”
  • Utah lawmakers get creative with Medicaid expansion, By Wendy Leonard, January 24, 2016, Deseret News: “Despite years of discussing the issue without resolution, Utah lawmakers will again take on Medicaid expansion and various plans to implement it for the thousands of Utahns who remain uncovered by health insurance. And, while some lawmakers are taking approaches that have been tried before, others are trying new things — an indication of a potential desire to bring health care benefits closer to Utahns who can’t afford them…”

Food Insecurity in Maine

  • Persistent hunger fuels sprawling food supply system for needy Mainers, By Tux Turkel, January 24, 2016, Portland Press Herald: “A multimillion-dollar food distribution network is expanding in Maine to meet the needs of more than 200,000 residents who otherwise would be hungry, a condition that’s worsening despite an overall improving economy. Federal figures show the level of food insecurity, a measure of a household’s inability to afford enough food throughout the year, has been escalating in Maine to a level that’s the highest in New England and above the national average. The latest government survey shows roughly 16 percent of Maine households are food-insecure, compared to a national average of 14 percent. Hunger relief advocates blame a combination of reasons, including stagnant wages, Maine’s higher cost of living and an aging population…”
  • Hunger drives more Mainers to soup kitchens, By Tux Turkel, January 24, 2016, Portland Press Herald: “A handful of people were lined up at dusk in the 29-degree chill behind the Calvary United Methodist Church on a recent Wednesday, waiting for the door to open so they could eat. Each Wednesday evening and Sunday morning, 50 or more people come to the Calvary City Mission for a free, hot meal in a warm place…”
  • Food that has lost its looks doesn’t have to go to waste, By Tux Turkel, January 24, 2016, Portland Press Herald: “Brian Cunningham comes to work at 4 a.m. to squeeze peppers and tomatoes. It takes Cunningham, the produce shift leader at Hannaford supermarket in Westbrook, two hours to perform a ‘deep cull,’ in which he scrutinizes or handles the cornucopia that greets shoppers in the modern American food store…”
  • Food pantries filling critical need, By Tux Turkel, January 24, 2016, Portland Press Herald: “Portland has gained a national reputation as a ‘foodie’ town, where the latest restaurant openings are followed with interest. Less publicized, in a city which also had 14 food pantries or free meal programs last year, was the launch of a new place that’s attracting a loyal following. It happened last August, when members of the Stroudwater Christian Church in Portland sensed a need in their suburban corner of the city, which borders Westbrook. So they started a modest food pantry. By the end of December, they were regularly serving 173 families every Wednesday afternoon…”

Medicaid and Children’s Dental Care – Indiana

Many children with Medicaid not getting required dental care, By Carla K. Johnson (AP), January 25, 2016, Northwest Indiana Times: “Three out of four children covered by Medicaid in four states, including Indiana, didn’t receive all required dental care over a recent two-year period, according to a federal report that recommends a government push to improve access to care.  One in four such kids didn’t see a dentist at all, the Health and Human Services inspector general’s office said Monday. Among the reasons were that there were too few dentists accepting Medicaid patients and a lack of education about the importance of proper dental care…”

Young Black Men and Unemployment – Chicago, IL

Nearly half of young black men in Chicago out of work, out of school: report, By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, January 25, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “Nearly half of young black men in Chicago are neither in school nor working, a staggering statistic in a bleak new youth unemployment report that shows Chicago to be far worse off than its big-city peers. To 24-year-old Johnathan Allen, that’s no surprise. ‘It’s right there in your face, you don’t need statistics,’ Allen said as he testified before a room full of lawmakers and public officials Monday at an annual hearing about youth unemployment, where the report was presented. He encouraged everyone to walk down the street and witness how joblessness devastates communities…”

Kids Count Report – New Mexico

New study finds New Mexico has the highest rate of child poverty in the U.S., By Robert Nott, January 19, 2016, Santa Fe New Mexican: “New Mexico has the highest rate of child poverty in the United States, according to a new study by New Mexico Voices for Children, an Albuquerque-based advocacy group. In addition, more than 75 percent of the state’s fourth-graders are not proficient in reading, and nearly 80 percent of New Mexico’s eighth-graders are not proficient in math, the group said, based on its annual New Mexico Kids Count study. More than 25 percent of the state’s students do not graduate from high school on time…”