Conditional Cash Incentive Programs – Latin America, New York City

  • Cash incentive program for poor families is renewed, By Julie Bosman, September 20, 2009, New York Times: “An experimental antipoverty program that pays poor families up to $5,000 a year for going to regular medical checkups, attending school and keeping jobs has been extended for a third year. Linda I. Gibbs, the deputy mayor for health and human services, said she was encouraged by some early results in the education component of the program that showed students improved their attendance and passed more exams when they were rewarded with cash…”
  • Latin America makes a dent in poverty with ‘conditional cash’ programs, By Tyler Bridges, September 21, 2009, Christian Science Monitor: “Denise de Oliveira lost her job as a janitor in June when she had to stay home to care for her 13-year-old son, who had pneumonia. The 45-year-old single mother of four has kept food on the table, however, thanks to a government program that pays her family $70 per month. ‘It doesn’t give you enough to buy everything you want, but it sure helps,’ said de Oliveira, who lives on a dirt street in this impoverished town on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Unlike traditional government handouts, however, this popular anti-poverty program, which has spread throughout Latin America and even to New York City, requires that de Oliveira’s children stay in school. The children also must have twice-a-year health exams and be vaccinated against diseases. The program goes by different names – Bolsa Familia (Family Fund) in Brazil and Oportunidades (Opportunities) in Mexico, the most populous countries it’s in – and has slightly different rules depending on the country. Analysts say it’s become the most successful anti-poverty program in years because it requires the poor to do something meaningful and measurable in exchange for government charity…”

Free and Reduced-price Lunch Program – Wisconsin, Florida

  • State faces explosion of schoolkids qualified for subsidized meals, By Jacob Kushner and Kryssy Pease, September 20, 2009, Wisconsin State Journal: “Nearly four in 10 Wisconsin elementary students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch last school year, and the proportion of such students has climbed every year of this decade, according to state Department of Public Instruction data analyzed by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. The center found the proportion of Wisconsin elementary students eligible for subsidized lunches hit 37.6 percent last year, compared with 30.3 percent in 2000…”
  • Green Bay district gains most low-income elementary students in state, By Kelly McBride, September 20, 2009, Green Bay Press-Gazette: “The Green Bay School District has gained more low-income elementary school students than any other district in the state since 2000, a new analysis shows. The district’s low-income population grew by 2,398 elementary school students during that time, more than the Milwaukee, Madison or Kenosha school districts, according to a report released today by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that produces regular investigative projects…”
  • Economic downturn reflected at Southwest Florida schools, By Christopher O’Donnell, September 21, 2009, Sarasota Herald-Tribune: “Hit hard by layoffs and paycuts, more Florida families than ever are turning to federal aid to feed their children at school. Even in Southwest Florida, long seen as an area of affluence, the number of children qualifying for the federal government’s free or reduced lunch program has risen sharply this year. For the first time, more than half of Manatee County students — some 22,000 children — meet income guidelines that qualify them for government assistance…”

Schools and Homeless Students – Oregon

  • Student homelessness soars in Oregon schools, By Betsy Hammond, September 18, 2009, The Oregonian: “Amid the recession, the number of Oregon students who are homeless surged 14 percent in the past year, rising to 18,000 children and teens without a permanent home of their own, the state reported Friday. Schools are required by federal law to help homeless students find security at school during the upheaval in their lives. And many Oregon educators report they are doing a better job helping children remain in the same school, get basics such as food, and find extra academic support. But they said the emotional and practical needs of students who’ve become homeless are huge, and the ranks of students in those straits are still growing…”
  • In school, but no home, By Anne Williams, September 19, 2009, Eugene Register-Guard: “A report from the Oregon Department of Education on Friday offers yet more evidence of the recession’s toll on Oregon families. The number of homeless students attending Oregon public schools surged to more than 18,000 in the 2008-09 school year, up 14 percent over the previous year and 122 percent over 2003-04, the first year the state took a count…”
  • Database: Student homelessness rises, By MacKenzie Ryan, September 19, 2009, Statesman Journal: “Two thousand more students in Oregon were homeless last year, a “significant” increase and a troubling trend that reflects the state’s dour economy, rise in home foreclosures and high unemployment rate, state education officials said this week. More than 18,000 students, or 3.2 percent of those in grades K-12 statewide, were identified as homeless last school year. That’s a 14 percent increase from the previous school year, according to education data released Friday…”

Poverty and Housing – Fresno, CA

Poverty in Fresno carries hidden costs, By Sanford Nax, September 19, 2009, Fresno Bee: ” The apartments along Lowe Avenue in southeast Fresno sound like a good deal. For about $600 a month you can get two bedrooms, and bad credit won’t keep you out. But many costs aren’t in the lease: Some apartments are teeming with roaches and mold, creating a veritable stew pot for illness — and constant doctor bills. It’s in a dangerous neighborhood, so costly possessions — like stereos — have a way of disappearing. People live here because they are poor and can’t afford anything better. But compared to those with just a little more money, they must spend an enormous share of their household incomes on rent. The same is true across the central San Joaquin Valley and the nation: When it comes to housing, being poor is expensive…”

County Funding and Cash Assistance – Los Angeles, CA

L.A. County may spend money to try to save money on welfare, By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, September 20, 2009, Los Angeles Times: “With the cost of helping Los Angeles County’s welfare recipients expected to hit $1 billion by the end of this fiscal year, county officials are pushing a plan to shift the burden of some of the most hard-core unemployed to the federal government. If they succeed, local taxpayers could save tens of millions of dollars, and thousands of disabled welfare recipients would see their aid more than triple. But the hurdles could prove high. County officials propose spending $7.2 million to help applicants through a notoriously difficult process to qualify for federal disability assistance. The question remains: Does it make sense for the county to gamble millions now with massive state budget cuts looming?…”

Health Care Reform and the Uninsured

  • Proposing a public health option as a ‘safety net’, By Robert Pear, September 19, 2009, New York Times: “Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a pivotal Republican, described on Saturday the changes she wanted to see in a comprehensive health care bill to make insurance more affordable, and she proposed a government insurance company as a possible backup to the private market if coverage remains too costly. Ms. Snowe’s proposal was among 564 amendments filed in the last couple of days by members of the Senate Finance Committee, which plans to take up the legislation this week as the struggle over health care enters a critical new phase…”
  • How health overhaul would affect the uninsured, By Christopher Weaver, September 21, 2009, National Public Radio: “How many Americans are uninsured? According to the Census Bureau, in 2008, more than 46 million Americans – about 15 percent of the population – did not have health insurance. Because of the recession, many experts believe the number is now larger. Who are the uninsured? Income is a strong factor in identifying the uninsured. About two-thirds of uninsured Americans earn less than twice the federal poverty level, which is $22,050 for a family of four. Almost 25 percent of the uninsured are poor enough to be eligible for Medicaid but are not enrolled…”
  • Uninsured take a toll on all North Texans, By Robert T. Garrett and Jason Roberson, September 20, 2009, Dallas Morning News: “Up to one-third of Dallas-area residents don’t have health insurance, and the number is rising. Everybody in North Texas pays the cost, through taxes and higher insurance costs – as much as $1,800 per family. Illegal immigrants pump up the numbers. But even if there weren’t any here, Texas still would virtually lead the nation in percentage of residents without health insurance, according to both conservative and liberal researchers. And Dallas County is close on Harris County’s heels as the major metro county with the lowest rate of health insurance coverage…”

Extension of Unemployment Benefits

House moves to extend unemployment benefits, By Jim Abrams (AP), September 21, 2009, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Despite predictions the Great Recession is running out of steam, the House is taking up emergency legislation this week to help the millions of Americans who see no immediate end to their economic miseries. A bill offered by Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and expected to pass easily would provide 13 weeks of extended unemployment benefits for more than 300,000 jobless people who live in states with unemployment rates of at least 8.5 percent and who are scheduled to run out of benefits by the end of September…”

Racial Disparities in Health Care

Cost of racial disparities in health care put at $229 billion between 2003, 2006, By Kelly Brewington, September 18, 2009, Baltimore Sun: “Racial health disparities cost the United States $229 billion between 2003 and 2006 – money that could help cover an overhaul of the nation’s health care system, according to a new report by Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland researchers. Minorities are generally sicker and more likely than whites to die of numerous diseases, and until now, medical experts and advocates fighting to close those gaps have made their pleas on moral grounds. But the new figures aim to break down the issue into dollars and cents at a time when everyone is trying to figure out how to rein in soaring health care costs…”

Job Losses and Homelessness

Suddenly shocked by life in a shelter, By Alfred Lubrano, September 18, 2009, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Frank Marshall remembers the moment he transformed from unemployed security guard to homeless man. ‘The walk toward my room at the shelter was surreal,’ he said. ‘I pinched myself to believe it was happening.’ Shoehorning himself into a 14-by-10-foot room with three other bewildered men in the Salvation Army’s Railton House in West Chester, Marshall, 48, lay on a narrow bed that looked like a boy’s and stared at the ceiling. On it, he projected images of the life he’d lost: job, apartment, girlfriend. Marshall, who always thought the homeless were drug addicts or schizophrenics, was dumbfounded. ‘There are days when my faith is lacking,’ said Marshall, a Roman Catholic from Phoenixville who is unmarried with no children. ‘This is unbelievable.’ Though the economy is improving, hard times grind on, and many people who lost jobs near the beginning of the downturn are facing the ultimate consequence of unemployment: homelessness. Tomorrow, the maximum of 79 weeks of unemployment benefits and extensions will end for 20,000 in Pennsylvania and 45,000 in New Jersey, officials said. An additional 14,000 Pennsylvanians will exhaust all benefits by next Saturday…”

Increasing Need for Legal Aid – Nevada

Economy boosts demand for free legal aid, By Brian Wargo, September 18, 2009, Las Vegas Sun: “The slumping Las Vegas economy has increased demand for free legal services and stretched the resources of agencies trying to provide those services. Nevada Legal Services, the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and Senior Citizens Law Project have reported many more requests and say it’s hard to meet the demand. ‘It is overwhelming,’ said Lynn Etkins, development director of Legal Aid Center. ‘Our lobby is filled with clients ranging from victims of domestic violence to people losing their homes and jobs. With the economy and layoffs, we have a lot more people in the community (who need) our services.’ This year has seen a 25 percent increase in placements with pro bono attorneys. A consumer hotline has received 14 percent more calls than a year ago, she said. Demand has increased for help with divorce, consumer credit, bankruptcy and other issues, Etkins said…”

State Budget Impasse and Social Services – Pennsylvania

Pa. budget stalemate is killing social services, By Jeff Gammage, September 17, 2009, Philadelphia Inquirer: “A pile of unopened mail sits on the front counter. Incoming phone calls go directly to the voice-mail system. Beyond the front desk – unattended because the receptionist was laid off – are darkened offices and empty cubicles. The Caring People Alliance has operated in Philadelphia for nearly eight decades, battling an array of social ills and striving to help children in need. But unless something happens to end the state budget impasse, and soon, the agency may not see the new year. The 11-week-old stalemate in Harrisburg has cut off the flow of government dollars to the alliance and dozens of other social-service providers across Pennsylvania. Some survive through the generosity of their bankers. Others could soon go out of business…”

State Unemployment Rates

  • Jobless rate tops 12% in 5 states, By Julianne Pepitone, September 18, 2009, CNNMoney.com: “Five states posted jobless rates above 12% in August, according to federal data released Friday. California, Nevada and Rhode Island each hit record-high rates, the Labor Department said. Michigan led the nation in unemployment, with a rate of 15.2%, while Nevada was next at 13.2% and Rhode Island was third at 12.8%. California and Oregon were tied for the fourth spot, each with unemployment at 12.2%…”
  • California’s unemployment rate rises to 12.2%, By Alana Semuels, September 18, 2009, Los Angeles Times: “Despite signs that an economic recovery has begun in the state, California’s unemployment rate set a new postwar high of 12.2% in August, up from 11.9% in July. California has the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the nation; only Michigan, Nevada and Rhode Island, at 15.2%, 13.2% and 12.8%, respectively, have higher rates than California. Still, there was some positive news in the figures released today by the California Economic Development Department. California lost only 12,300 jobs last month, compared with 38,900 jobs in July…”
  • At 12.2 percent, unemployment in Calif. highest since 1940, By Jennifer Steinhauer, September 18, 2009, New York Times: “California’s unemployment rate in August hit its highest point in nearly 70 years, starkly underscoring how the nation’s incipient economic recovery continues to elude millions of Americans looking for work. While job losses continue to fall, the new unemployment rate – 12.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – is far above the national average of 9.7 percent and places the country’s largest state fourth behind Michigan, Nevada and Rhode Island. Statistics kept by the state show California’s unemployment rate was 14.7 percent in 1940, according to Kevin Callori, a spokesman for the California Employment Development Department…”
  • R.I. jobless rate inches higher, By Alex Kuffner, September 18, 2009, Providence Journal: “Although economists say the worst of the recession may be over, the number of jobless workers in Rhode Island continues to grow. The state’s unemployment rate ticked up to 12.8 percent in August from what was a record high of 12.7 percent in July, according to a report issued Friday. The latest number is now the highest in Rhode Island since the federal government began keeping track of unemployed workers in 1976. Rhode Island’s jobless rate, the second-highest in the country in July, has been steadily climbing for 2½ years and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down…”
  • Nevada unemployment soars to record 13.2 percent, By Sandra Chereb, September 18, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle: “Nevada’s unemployment rate broke another record in August, soaring to 13.2 percent as the recession continues to hammer the state’s tourism-dominated economy, officials said Friday. ‘Signs of stabilization in the national economy are beginning to emerge,’ said William Anderson, chief economist with the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. ‘Some analysts even argue that the recession is likely over, or will be over in the near-term. However, such positive conclusions cannot be drawn in Nevada, based upon a current assessment of labor market and economic activity in the state,’ Anderson said in a written statement…”

State Voter ID Law – Indiana

  • Voter ID decision resurrects debate, By Bill Ruthhart and Jon Murray, September 18, 2009, Indianapolis Star: “The Indiana Court of Appeals’ rejection of the state’s controversial voter ID law Thursday has reignited a political firestorm over its merits and left Gov. Mitch Daniels accusing judges of playing politics. The ruling fanned the flames on a debate that has raged since 2005, when Indiana became the first state to require voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polls. Republicans have long held that the law strengthens the electoral process and prevents fraud, while Democrats have insisted that it disenfranchises elderly, disabled and poor voters…”
  • Indiana court strikes down voter ID law, By John Schwartz, September 17, 2009, New York Times: “An Indiana law requiring voters to show identification, declared constitutional by the United States Supreme Court just last year, was struck down Thursday by a state appellate court. The state court said the law violated the Indiana Constitution by not treating all voters equally. The legislature passed the voter ID law in 2005, and it was challenged in federal court. The Supreme Court upheld it in April 2008, but that July the League of Women Voters brought a new suit in state court…”
  • Indiana court strikes down state’s voter ID law, By Charles Wilson and Mike Smith (AP), September 17, 2009, Indianapolis Star: “The state Court of Appeals on Thursday struck down an Indiana law requiring government-issued photo identification for voters, overturning on state constitutional grounds a strict law that previously had been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he would appeal the ruling. ‘The state’s long-held view is that the Voter ID law is constitutional, and we will vigorously defend the statute in arguing that position before the Indiana Supreme Court,’ he said…”

Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act

Revising student aid formula, house votes to expand federal loans, By Tamar Lewin, September 17, 2009, New York Times: “The House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday that expands federal aid to college students while ending federal subsidies to private lenders. By shifting to direct federal lending, the Obama administration said it will save more than $80 billion over 10 years, which will go into higher Pell Grants for low-income students, new investments in community colleges, early-childhood programs and other education efforts. The vote was 253 to 171. The measure, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, now goes to the Senate, where Democratic leaders expect it to pass…”

Application Process for Food Stamp Program – Texas

  • Flood of food stamp requests drains agency, By Gary Scharrer, September 6, 2009, Houston Chronicle: “State employees can’t keep up with applications for food assistance, and the inadequate staffing to handle the casework is making them frustrated and stressed out, some say. Morale is lousy at the agency that manages the program. Many work long hours, but the cases keep stacking up. The conditions are blamed for high absentee rates and employee turnover. Some welcome a recent class-action lawsuit that accuses the state of violating federal rules requiring food stamp applications to be certified within 30 days. Many applicants must wait months before they get food assistance…”
  • Employee turnover high at Texas agency that processes food-stamp applications, Associated Press, September 7, 2009, Dallas Morning News: “Employee turnover is running at 16 percent this year at the overwhelmed Texas public benefits agency responsible for processing food-stamp applications. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission has seen a huge increase in food-stamp applications this year…”

Homeless Survey – Denver, CO

Homeless in Colorado metro area up to 11,061, By Mike McPhee, September 17, 2009, Denver Post: “There are 11,061 homeless people in the seven-county metro region, and about half of them say they are homeless for the first time, according to the results of a 24-hour survey conducted Jan. 27 by the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative. While the total number is 4 percent higher than in 2007, when the last point-in-time survey was taken, homeless advocates say the much-delayed results are already out of date. The survey results were expected in June. John Parvensky, director of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said homelessness dipped slightly in 2008 but came roaring back this year. He estimates homelessness is now up about 20 percent from 2007. The methodology for the point-in- time survey was changed somewhat this year, making year-to-year comparisons difficult. Still, the survey represents the best count available, Parvensky said…”

World Bank Report on Global Poverty

  • Global poverty rolls projected to surge, By Annys Shin, September 17, 2009, Washington Post: “The global recession is expected to push 89 million more people into extreme poverty by the end of 2010, the World Bank said Wednesday as it called on the leaders of the 20 largest economies to engage in ‘responsible globalization.’ Although economic data show that the worst recession of the post-World War II era might have ended in the United States, and global trade has begun to pick up, low-income countries are still reeling from the effects of a financial crisis created by their wealthier counterparts…”
  • World Bank says don’t forget poor amid crisis, By Tom Barkley, September 17, 2009, Wall Street Journal: “Group of 20 nations emerging from recession shouldn’t forget poorer countries, which face funding needs of $11.6 billion just to maintain spending on basic services like health and education, the World Bank said Wednesday. In a report prepared for G-20 leaders meeting in Pittsburgh next week, the bank warned that the global crisis is poised to push an additional 89 million people into extreme poverty by the end of next year if additional help isn’t provided. ‘The poorest countries may not be well represented on the G-20, but we cannot ignore the long-term costs of the global downturn on their people’s health and education,’ World Bank President Robert Zoellick said in a statement…”

Unemployment Rates in OECD Countries

High jobless rates could last years, O.E.C.D. warns, By Matthew Saltmarsh, September 16, 2009, New York Times: “Unless government programs for the unemployed are refined, there is a danger that high jobless rates will persist beyond 2010 in advanced economies, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned on Wednesday. ‘A recovery may be in sight,’ the group said in its annual employment outlook, referring to economic output. ‘But the short-term employment outlook is grim.’ The international organization said that unemployment among its 30 member nations would rise to nearly 10 percent by the end of 2010, above its previous post-1970 peak of 7.5 percent during the second quarter of 1993. Disadvantaged groups, like youths and immigrants as well as low-skilled and temporary workers, will bear the brunt of the increase…”

ERS Report: Rural America at a Glance

Recession in rural America by the numbers, September 13, 2009, Daily Yonder: “Once a year the folks at the Economic Research Service publish a report on rural America. It’s called Rural America at a Glance and this year’s edition focuses on the recession. No surprise there. Friday we learned that the recession has ‘plunged 2.6 million more Americans into poverty, wiped out the household income gains of an entire decade and pushed the number of people without health insurance up to 46.3 million,’ according to the Washington Post. These latest Census Bureau figures don’t tell us whether the recession is better or worse in rural America. That’s what the ERS tries to do. Here are some excerpts from the full report…”

Housing First Program – Seattle, WA

Seattle’s 1811 Eastlake project puts housing first, saves lives and money, By Kim Horner, September 13, 2009, Dallas Morning News: “An attractive blue and gray apartment building with views of the Space Needle saved taxpayers $4 million in one year – simply by giving hardcore homeless alcoholics a place to live. This home for the homeless has attracted visitors from across the country – including Dallas – looking for ways to move the most seriously ill off the streets and cut costs. But it has detractors because it doesn’t require residents to stop drinking. The $11 million project is one of the country’s best-known examples of housing first, an approach to combating chronic homelessness by providing homes upfront and offering help for illnesses and addictions. The concept turns the traditional model, which typically requires sobriety before a person can get housing, upside down….”