Medicaid Expansion and the Uninsured

Report: Medicaid expansion reduces uninsured patients, By Jesse Balmert, October 23, 2014, Marion Star: “With more people insured by Medicaid, several hospitals are treating fewer uninsured patients and paying less for charity care, according to a Policy Matters Ohio report released Tuesday. That’s good news for Ohio’s poor — especially those without children — and Gov. John Kasich, who spent Monday explaining to reporters that he supported Medicaid expansion while opposing the larger law it’s attached to — the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare…”

Wage Theft – California

California cracks down on wage theft by employers, By Marc Lifsher, October 23, 2014, Los Angeles Times: “State regulators are wielding a new tool to combat the intractable problem of employer wage theft, which costs workers an estimated $390 million a year. The California controller, working with the state labor commissioner, is demanding restitution from suspected violators — and filing lawsuits, if necessary — under California’s Unclaimed Property Law…”

City Laws and the Homeless

  • More cities are making it illegal to hand out food to the homeless, By Eliza Barclay, October 22, 2014, National Public Radio: “If you don’t have a place to live, getting enough to eat clearly may be a struggle. And since homelessness in the U.S. isn’t going away and is even rising in some cities, more charitable groups and individuals have been stepping up the past few years to share food with these vulnerable folks in their communities. But just as more people reach out to help, cities are biting back at those hands feeding the homeless. According to a report released Monday by the National Coalition for the Homeless, 21 cities have passed measures aimed at restricting the people who feed the homeless since January 2013. In that same time, similar legislation was introduced in more than 10 cities. Combined, these measures represent a 47 percent increase in the number of cities that have passed or introduced legislation to restrict food sharing since the coalition last counted in 2010…”
  • Fort Lauderdale latest city to restrict feeding homeless, By Elizabeth Chuck, October 22, 2014, NBC News: “Fort Lauderdale, Florida, approved restrictions overnight on churches and other charitable organizations that feed the homeless, becoming the latest city to impose limits on meals offered by private groups in public places. The regulations require groups handing out food to homeless to be at least 500 feet away from residential properties. They limit feeding sites for homeless to one in any given city block, and prevent feeding sites from being within 500 feet of each other. It’s the fourth law Fort Lauderdale has passed this year concerning the homeless, according to the Sun Sentinel. The others ban the homeless from asking for money at busy intersections, and make it illegal to sleep and store belongings on public property…”

SNAP Work Requirements – Indiana

Indiana reinstates time limits for some food stamp recipients, By Maureen Groppe, October 20, 2014, Indianapolis Star: “Indiana will begin cutting off food stamp benefits next year to tens of thousands of people who fail to get a job or train for work. Beginning in the spring, the state will limit benefits to no more than three months during a three-year period for able-bodied adults without children who don’t work or participate in job training for at least 20 hours a week. The time limit is a requirement for the federally funded program, but states can ask for a waiver if jobs are scarce in all or part of the state. Although Indiana is among the majority of states that qualify for a waiver, the state plans to reinstate the requirement…”

Foster Care – Spokane, WA

  • Fixing foster care: ‘Where do I belong?’, By Jody Lawrence-Turner, October 19, 2014, Spokane Spokesman-Review: “Alkala Michener’s green eyes pool with tears as she recalls the night she lost her family: She was 7 years old, dressed in a Cinderella pink nightie, her lace-rimmed socks soaked and muddied as she ran away with her big brothers. A social worker found the children wet and desperate to find their dad, running along a stretch of a north Spokane highway. The siblings were split up. Alkala went to a Newman Lake foster home and wouldn’t see her brothers again until they knocked on her door eight years later. ‘For years, I had the impression (my family) didn’t want me,’ she said. Her story is all too common in Spokane County, where children are pulled from their families at three times the rate of those in King County…”
  • Fixing Foster Care: Fostering stability, By Jody Lawrence-Turner, October 20, 2014, Spokane Spokesman-Review: “As Diana Stegner lay in a hospital bed, alone, homeless and suicidal, she acknowledged her newborn son would be better off with someone else. Within hours Michelle Trotz cradled baby William as she welcomed him into her home. Trotz and her husband, David, first became foster parents four years ago. They wanted to help babies who needed them. Their home is among more than 500 across Spokane County licensed to care for children taken from their parents. Communities need foster homes because ‘we live in a broken society,’ said Linda Rogers, a former foster care recruiter who got the Trotzes involved. Foster parents are the backbone — some say heroes — of a system tasked with the toughest of jobs: caring for the children of broken homes…”
  • Spokane area agencies prioritize fixing family relationships, rather than traditional foster care routes, By Jody Lawrence-Turner, October 21, 2014, Spokane Spokesman-Review: “Sometimes children are best left in ‘bad’ homes. Evidence is pouring in that keeping families together – even those deemed dysfunctional – is less harmful than pulling them apart. It’s a U-turn in thinking and practice for child advocates, as new programs emerge with the aim of keeping children in their homes while fixing families…”

Child Poverty and Health

Child poverty in U.S. is at highest point in 20 years, report finds, By Gale Holland, October 22, 2014, Los Angeles Times: “Child poverty in America is at its highest point in 20 years, putting millions of children at increased risk of injuries, infant mortality, and premature death, according to a policy analysis published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. As the U.S. emerges from the worst recession since the Great Depression, 25% of children don’t have enough food to eat and 7 million kids still don’t have health insurance, the analysis says. Even worse: Five children die daily by firearms, and one dies every seven hours from abuse or neglect…”

Legal Aid – Massachusetts

With funding low, many legal cases going undefended, By Megan Woolhouse, October 15, 2014, Boston Globe: “Massachusetts legal aid organizations turned away nearly two-thirds of people qualifying for civil legal assistance over the last year due to a lack of funding, leaving thousands of low-income residents without representation in cases from domestic violence to foreclosure, according to the findings of a statewide task force to be released Wednesday. More than 30,000 low-income clients were denied legal services in 2013, meaning many were unable to pursue cases or were left to represent themselves in court, where they often lost their cases, according to the 37-page report…”

US Unemployment

  • Drop in unemployment raises debate on optimal rate, By Jim Zarroli, October 17, 2014, National Public Radio: “The U.S. unemployment rate has been falling steadily over the years. Down from the recession peak of 10 percent in 2009, it reached 5.9 percent in September. That’s getting close to what economists call the natural unemployment rate — the normal level of joblessness you’d expect in a healthy economy. But a lot of economists are asking whether the old rules about full employment still apply…”
  • Sept. unemployment rates fall in 31 states, By Paul Davidson, October 21, 2014, USA Today: “Unemployment rates fell in 31 states in September as the labor market rebounded after softening in August. Joblessness increased in eight states and was unchanged in 11 states and the District of Columbia, the Labor Department said Tuesday…”
  • Long-term unemployment persists, By Michelle Jamrisko, October 22, 2014, Sun Sentinel: “Leticia Vives thought her rise from teller to senior teller to manager during 23 years at Bank of America had earned her staying power, or at least the experience to find work elsewhere. Still jobless 18 months after being let go in a downsizing move, Vives is wondering whether she had either. ‘I just feel helpless,’ said Vives, 44, of Ansonia, Conn. ‘The more you are unemployed, the more helpless you feel.’ More than five years into the U.S. expansion, 2.9 million Americans are long-term unemployed, meaning they’ve been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. They make up 31.9 percent of all jobless, more than twice the average in records dating to 1948. Vives is among the 2 million who have been off the payrolls for more than a year…”

Skills Gap and Inequality

Economist: Skills, tech gap can’t explain inequality, By Pedro Nicolaci Da Costa, October 20, 2014, Wall Street Journal: “Gaps in educational achievement and shifts in technology, often cited as key reasons for widening income and wealth inequality, do very little to explain the trend, said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank in Washington. Speaking Saturday at a conference on ‘Equality of Economic Opportunity’ hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Mr. Mishel criticized the event’s narrow focus on local actions to reduce inequality when other possible approaches lie in the realm of broader economic policy…”

Minimum Wage – Arizona

Arizona’s minimum wage to rise 15¢ on Jan. 1, By Howard Fischer, October 19, 2014, Arizona Daily Star: “What would you buy with an extra $6 a week? Two gallons of milk? A Big Mac meal? A venti half-caf, sugar-free latte? That’s how much more those at the bottom of the pay scale will be making come Jan. 1 when the minimum wage in Arizona rises 15 cents to $8.05 an hour. Before taxes. Arizona voters mandated in 2006 that the state have its own minimum wage not tied to the federal figure. And that law requires annual automatic adjustments tied to inflation. The federal minimum wage, currently $7.25, goes up only when Congress approves it, something that last happened in 2009…”

Chronic Homelessness – Utah

Will Utah end chronic homelessness in 2015?, By Christopher Smart, October 18, 2014, Salt Lake Tribune: “When Joseph Hardy and his three siblings were young, his mother took them from his polygamist father and bolted. They spent the next decade on the run — camping in the summers, crashing with friends when they could, and grabbing an inexpensive rental when the money held out. ‘I feel like I grew up in the back seat of a car,’ Hardy says today. At age 15, he began using methamphetamine to dull his grief and anxiety. Drug use and depression have ravaged his health, and he’s spent about 14 years of his life behind bars. But the last time he was arrested, Hardy was offered a new choice: treatment and his own apartment, with support from a caseworker to help him shape a new life…”

Inequality and Social Mobility

Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong, By Matt O’Brien, October 18, 2014, Washington Post: “America is the land of opportunity, just for some more than others. That’s because, in large part, inequality starts in the crib. Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on ‘enrichment activities’ for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents…”

Section 8 Housing – Oregon

Locked out: Some landlords still turn away Section 8 tenants despite a new anti-discrimination law, By Bennett Hall, October 12, 2014, Corvallis Gazette-Times: “Elizabeth Prevish knew it could be tough to find a house to rent in Corvallis, but she had no idea just how hard it would be when she decided to relocate from Redmond in May. A single mom, Prevish has two sons, ages 3 and 13. The older boy struggles with a serious emotional disorder, and Prevish was thrilled when she got him placed in the Children’s Farm Home for inpatient treatment in January. After months of making the three-hour drive across the mountains to visit her son, she got approval to transfer her federal housing benefits from Deschutes County to the mid-valley — but ran into a brick wall when she tried to use them in Corvallis. So far, she says, half a dozen local landlords have refused to accept her Section 8 voucher — even though such discrimination is illegal under Oregon fair housing laws…”

SNAP and EBT Cards

Will new federal regs force bodega owners to shun food stamps?, By Alfred Lubrano, October 14, 2014, Philadelphia Inquirer: “A little-noticed change in federal law may hurt small neighborhood grocery stores and their low-income customers who use food stamps. In 2004, food stamps went digital, switching from paper coupons to electronic cards. In large supermarkets, such Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards are swiped at checkout terminals along with credit and debit cards. But in around 118,000 bodegas, corner stores, and mom-and-pop markets nationwide, EBT cards have been used in specific EBT machines provided to stores free in a federal-state partnership, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the food-stamp program, known as SNAP. Now, all that is changing. The states and the federal government will no longer foot the bill for EBT machines, a measure that could save an estimated $154 million over 10 years, according to federal officials…”

Foster Care System – Oklahoma

Report: DHS faltering in progress in foster care services, By Ginnie Graham, October 16, 2014, Tulsa World: “The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has not made a ‘good faith effort’ at attracting new foster homes, bringing down worker caseloads, reducing shelter use for children older than 6, staffing the hotline and finding permanent homes for foster children, according to a report issued Wednesday by an independent oversight panel. The report is the third commentary on the improvement plan, referred to as the Pinnacle Plan. It is the agreement made to settle a federal class-action lawsuit in 2012 filed four years earlier by the nonprofit group Children’s Rights…”

General Assistance and Immigrants – Maine

  • For couple who escaped from Angola, General Assistance ‘gives us a chance’, By Sandy Butler and Luisa Deprez, September 26, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “Robert and Elena (not their real names) live in Lewiston with four of their five children. They escaped from their homeland of Angola having lost their livelihood, enduring torture and fearing for their lives. Elena came first, one year ago, with their three daughters, ages 7 through 11, having experienced physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the government after being falsely accused of connections to an anti-government separatist group. Robert followed eight months later, when the government started pursuing him. He brought their five-year-old son, but could not afford to bring along his elder, eight-year old son, who remains with family in Angola. They hope to bring him to Maine as soon as possible. General Assistance provided Robert and his family needed emergency assistance when they arrived…”
  • Governor candidates on the issues: Welfare and immigration, By Randy Billings, October 16, 2014, Portland Press Herald: “Welfare has emerged as a high-profile issue in the 2014 gubernatorial race, with ads about illegal immigrants receiving tax dollars filling the airwaves and mailboxes. The University of New Hampshire Survey Center has conducted two polls for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. In June, 46 percent of poll respondents believed that welfare did more harm than good. By September, that sentiment was 50 percent. Maine’s welfare system is a complex web of programs, including MaineCare – the state’s Medicaid program – Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). The programs are mostly funded by federal money…”

Supplemental Poverty Measure

  • Alternative poverty rate declines to 15.5% from 16%, By Neil Shah, October 16, 2014, Wall Street Journal: “Poverty in America declined in 2013 from the year before, according to an alternative measure released by the Census Bureau on Thursday that many economists consider more comprehensive than the nation’s official rate. According to this ‘supplemental’ measure, the poverty rate dropped from 16% to 15.5%. However, roughly 48.7 million people were still below the poverty line in 2013—not statistically different from 2012, Census said. The drop echoes the recent fall in the official poverty rate, reported in September. That rate dropped from 15% to 14.5%, thanks entirely to reduced poverty among Hispanics…”
  • Census Bureau: California still has highest U.S. poverty rate, By Dan Walters, October 16, 2014, Sacramento Bee: “California continues to have – by far – the nation’s highest level of poverty under an alternative method devised by the Census Bureau that takes into account both broader measures of income and the cost of living. Nearly a quarter of the state’s 38 million residents (8.9 million) live in poverty, a new Census Bureau report says, a level virtually unchanged since the agency first began reporting on the method’s effects…”
  • Is poverty in Mass. worse than we thought?, By Evan Horowitz, October 16, 2014, Boston Globe: “The real poverty rate in Massachusetts may be higher than we thought, according to a new and improved poverty assessment released this morning by the Census Bureau. Whereas the so-called ‘official’ rate puts state poverty at 11.5 percent, the new more comprehensive measure suggests that actually 1 of every 7 people in Massachusetts lives in poverty, or 13.8 percent…”
  • Over 48 million Americans live in poverty, By Patrick Gillespie, October 16, 2014, CNN Money: “Over 48 million Americans live in poverty, according to a special report by the Census Bureau Thursday. It provides an alternative look at the worst off people in the nation than the official numbers that come out in September. Government programs such as food stamps do help some people, especially children, but even so 16% of American children are living in poverty, according to the supplemental report…”

Housing Policy and Poor Children

How small changes to federal housing policy could make a big difference for poor kids, By Emily Badger, October 15, 2014, Washington Post: “Children are shaped in profound ways by the neighborhoods where they grow up. Perhaps this sounds like common sense (why else do we fret over where to raise them?). But it’s borne out by research, too. High-poverty neighborhoods can be bad for children’s health, school performance and even cognitive development. Low-poverty ones, meanwhile, often mean they have access to better schools and do better academically as a result. It makes sense, then, that when we subsidize housing for poor families…”

Long-Term Unemployment – New Jersey

N.J.’s long-term unemployed rate worse than 48 states, By Erin O’Neill, October 15, 2014, Star-Ledger: “Nearly half of jobless residents in New Jersey have been out of work for more than six months, according to a new report, a level that ranks the state among the worst in the country. The brief released today by New Jersey Policy Perspective notes the ‘long-term unemployment crisis is a national problem’ but found every other state except Florida fared better than New Jersey. Also, while the share of long-term unemployed in New Jersey has fallen from its peak in 2010, the brief found that drop has not been as sharp as it has nationally…”

Students and Internet Access

With no Internet at home, Miami-Dade kids crowd libraries for online homework, By Douglas Hanks, October 12, 2014, Miami Herald: “Once again, Christina Morua found herself in the South Dade library longer than she would like on a school night. The 28-year-old single mom sat in the bustling children’s section on a recent Thursday, waiting for her fourth-grader to get on a computer and start some online math homework. ‘We don’t have any Internet at home,’ Morua said as her oldest, 11-year-old Abel, clicked through an assignment on a library laptop while Alina, 9, waited for her turn at a desktop. ‘We just reserved a computer. We have to wait 70 minutes. He got one of the last laptops.’ With more school materials heading online, parents like Morua find they can no longer count on home for homework. That leaves Miami-Dade libraries as a crucial venue for their youngest patrons, but funding challenges, reduced hours on school nights and aging equipment have made it harder to meet the demand…”