Poverty Alleviation – UK

Britain leads in war on poverty, according to US academic, By Randeep Ramesh, March 24, 2010, The Guardian: “Britain’s “war on poverty” has been one of the government’s success stories, eclipsing the achievements of the United States and European neighbours, according to a year-long study by a US academic. Despite claims that Britain is ‘broken’, a book released today in New York highlights that by most measures things have improved for more than a decade. Jane Waldfogel, professor of social work at Columbia University, spent a year examining Labour’s record and found it had turned the tide of child poverty in a way that was ‘larger and more sustained than in the United States’. Her book, Britain’s War on ­Poverty, shows that the number of children in ‘absolute poverty’ had fallen by 1.7 million since 1999. Latest figures show 13.4% of British children remained in ‘absolute poverty’ whereas in the US the figure was approaching 20%…”

Prison Population – California

California, in financial crisis, opens prison doors, By Randal C. Archibold, March 23, 2010, New York Times: “The California budget crisis has forced the state to address a problem that expert panels and judges have wrangled over for decades: how to reduce prison overcrowding. The state has begun in recent weeks the most significant changes since the 1970s to reduce overcrowding – and chip away at an astonishing 70 percent recidivism rate, the highest in the country – as the prison population becomes a major drag on the state’s crippled finances. Many in the state still advocate a tough approach, with long sentences served in full, and some early problems with released inmates have given critics reason to complain. But fiscal reality, coupled with a court-ordered reduction in the prison population, is pouring cold water on old solutions like building more prisons…”

Health Care Reform and State Medicaid Programs

  • Health-care plan to cost state $7B a year unless lawmakers restore cuts, By Howard Fischer, March 23, 2010, Arizona Daily Star: “The new federal health-care plan could cost Arizona $7 billion a year if lawmakers here don’t restore the cuts they made to health-care programs, critics say. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, said the scheduled elimination of KidsCare on June 15 would put the state at odds with a provision in the new federal program requiring states to maintain their programs as they are when President Obama signs the bill. She said the threat isn’t simply losing the $3 of federal money for each dollar of state funds for the program that provides nearly free care for the children of the working poor…”
  • Repeal of children’s program puts Arizona’s Medicaid funding at risk under health overhaul, By Paul Davenport (AP), March 22, 2010, Los Angeles Times: “A controversial decision by Arizona lawmakers to eliminate a health insurance program for poor children puts it at risk of losing billions of dollars in federal Medicaid funding under the historic health care bill approved by Congress. Arizona last week became the first state to eliminate its Children’s Health Insurance Program, removing an estimated 38,000 kids from the rolls starting in June in a budget-cutting move by Gov. Jan Brewer and the Republican-led Legislature…”
  • Health care bill would bring higher state Medicaid costs, By Cy Ryan, March 22, 2010, Las Vegas Sun: “The health bill passed by the House of Representatives Sunday would cost Nevada taxpayers an extra $613 million from 2014-2019, to provide health care to the needy. According to early state estimates, the bill would make an additional 70,000 residents eligible for Medicaid. The state would be mandated to cover another 8,000 individuals who are now eligible but have not applied to be covered by the state health insurance program for the poor. About 209,000 Nevadans are currently covered by Medicaid…”
  • Adding to Medicaid rolls won’t be easy, Texas officials say, By Corrie MacLaggan and Tim Eaton, March 22, 2010, Austin American Statesman: “As Texas considers how to add 2 million people to Medicaid and CHIP over 10 years as part of the federal health care legislation heading to President Barack Obama, state health officials say that won’t be easy. The same enrollment system that is already struggling to enroll Texans in food stamps as quickly as the federal government requires would need to be ramped up soon to prepare for additions to Medicaid and CHIP that would start in 2014. Health reform is a ‘hurricane heading our way in terms of what it would do’ to the enrollment system, said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Commission…”

Vaccinations in Poor Countries

Deal provides vaccines to poor countries at lower prices, By Andrew Pollack, March 23, 2010, New York Times: “Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline will supply hundreds of millions of doses of their pneumonia vaccines to the world’s poorest countries at heavily discounted prices under a novel agreement announced Tuesday. The deal was announced by the GAVI Alliance, a nonprofit organization, which estimated the program could save 900,000 lives by 2015. The vaccines, Pfizer’s Prevnar 13 and GlaxoSmithKline’s Synflorix, prevent pneumococcal disease, which includes pneumonia and meningitis. Pneumococcal disease kills 1.6 million people a year throughout the world, including 800,000 children before their fifth birthday, according to GAVI…”

Medical-Legal Partnerships

When doctor visits lead to legal help, By Erik Eckholm, March 23, 2010, New York Times: “It was not the normal stuff of a pediatric exam. As a doctor checked the growth of Davon Cade’s 2-month-old son, he also probed about conditions at home, and what he heard raised red flags. Ms. Cade’s apartment had leaky windows and plumbing and was infested with roaches and mold, but the city, she said, had not responded to her complaints. On top of that, the landlord was evicting her for falling behind on the rent. Help came through an unexpected route. The doctor referred Ms. Cade to the legal aid office right inside the pediatric clinic at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati. Within days, a paralegal had secured an inspection that finally forced the landlord to make repairs, and also got the rent reduced temporarily while Ms. Cade searched for less expensive housing. ‘It got done when the lawyers got involved,’ Ms. Cade said…”

Health Care Reform in the US

  • House passes health-care reform bill without Republican votes, By Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery, March 22, 2010, Washington Post: “House Democrats scored a historic victory in the century-long battle to reform the nation’s health-care system late Sunday night, winning final approval of legislation that expands coverage to 32 million people and attempts to contain spiraling costs…”
  • Republicans vow repeal effort against health bill, By David Herszenhorn, Robert Pear and Carl Hulse, March 22, 2010, New York Times: “As jubilant Democrats prepared for President Obama to sign their landmark health care legislation with a big ceremony at the White House, Republicans on Monday opened a campaign to repeal the legislation and to use it as a weapon in this year’s hotly contested midterm elections…”
  • Legal and political fights loom, By Jeff Zeleny and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, March 22, 2010, New York Times: “The battle over health care is poised to move swiftly from Congress back to the country as Democrats, Republicans and a battery of interest groups race to define the legislation and dig in for long-term political and legal fights…”
  • Texas: Most uninsured, most votes against bill, By Dave Michaels, March 22, 2010, Dallas Morning News: “The state with the most to gain from a health insurance overhaul was also the state with the most lawmakers who voted against the bill on Sunday. Twenty-one of 32 lawmakers from Texas, including 20 Republicans, voted against the measure. The opponents said the legislation was overwhelmingly unpopular in their districts, although it would offer insurance to more than half of Texas’ 6 million uninsured…”
  • California stands to gain most from health bill, By Victoria Colliver, March 22, 2010, San Francisco Chronicle: “The stakes are high for Californians when it comes to the health care overhaul, mainly because the coverage problems in this vast state are so large. With a new UCLA study estimating that more than 8 million Californians, or nearly 25 percent of the population, lack health coverage, many health experts say California will be impacted more than other states by the reform legislation…”

Homelessness and Housing – New York City

  • Number of people living on New York streets soars, By Julie Bosman, March 19, 2010, New York Times: “The Bloomberg administration said Friday that the number of people living on New York’s streets and subways soared 34 percent in a year, signaling a setback in one of the city’s most intractable problems. Appearing both startled and dismayed by the sharp increase, a year after a significant drop, administration officials attributed it to the recession, noting that city shelters for families and single adults had been inundated. Robert V. Hess, the commissioner of homeless services, said in a subdued news conference that the city began feeling the increase in its vast shelter system more than two years ago. ‘And now we’re seeing the devastating effect of this unprecedented poor economy on our streets as well,’ Mr. Hess said. The city’s annual tally indicated an additional 783 homeless people on the streets and in the subway system, for a total of 3,111, up from 2,328 last year. That is in addition to almost 38,000 people living in shelters, which is near the city’s high…”
  • A shelter for families in need of a push, By Julie Bosman, March 21, 2010, New York Times: “Denise Benson runs a no-nonsense, no-frills homeless shelter for the city in Queens. There is no common room for lounging and watching television. Most homeless families meet with their caseworkers several times a week. Staff members escort residents to job interviews and to tour available apartments. ‘We are here to say, ‘Move it along,” she said in a recent interview at the shelter, swinging her arms forward for emphasis. Ms. Benson is on the front lines of the Bloomberg administration’s unsuccessful war against homelessness. During the eight years that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has been in office, the number of homeless people filling city shelters has sharply risen, currently approaching 38,000, including 8,600 families with children. The number of families entering shelters has increased by more than 50 percent in the past two years. In February, 1,152 families entered shelters. More than 400 had been in the shelter system before…”

Children’s Health Insurance Program – Arizona

Arizona drops children’s health program, By Kevin Sack, March 18, 2010, New York Times: “Arizona on Thursday became the first state to eliminate its Children’s Health Insurance Program when Gov. Jan Brewer signed an austere budget that will leave nearly 47,000 low-income children without coverage. The Arizona budget is a vivid reflection of how the fiscal crisis afflicting state governments is cutting deeply into health care. The state also will roll back Medicaid coverage for childless adults in a move that is expected to eventually drop 310,000 people from the rolls. State leaders said they were left with few choices because of a $2.6 billion projected shortfall next year. But hospital officials and advocates for low-income people said they were worried that emergency rooms would be overrun by patients who had few other options for care, and that children might suffer enduring developmental problems because of inadequate medical attention. The cuts also mean the state will forgo hundreds of millions of dollars in federal matching aid, and could lose far more if Congress passes a health bill that requires states to maintain eligibility levels for the two programs…”

All-day Kindergarten – Arizona

Cuts to all-day kindergarten big problem for schools, parents, By Pat Kossan, March 19, 2010, Arizona Republic: “Arizona’s experiment with free full-day kindergarten is over. State lawmakers last week permanently cut the funding that made the programs possible in many schools, and now parents, public-school districts and charter schools around the state are struggling to find ways to keep them going. It’s likely some all-day kindergarten programs will close permanently, some will stay open with a bare-bones staff, and others will be available only to parents who are willing to pay out of pocket for the full-day curriculum. All-day kindergarten had a bumpy phased-in start that began in 2005; its demise came quickly last Friday when lawmakers cut the $218 million in program funding as part of their budget-balancing efforts. When classes start this fall, it means that once again the state will pay only for half-day kindergarten sessions; the extra cost of a full day will likely have to be borne by parents or property-tax payers…”

College Financial Aid

Bill proposes increased aid to the needy for college, By Tamar Lewin, March 18, 2010, New York Times: “The federal government would provide $36 billion in new financing for Pell grants to needy students over the next 10 years under legislation announced Thursday by Congressional Democrats. The maximum annual Pell grant would rise to $5,975 by 2017, from $5,350 this year. The new Pell initiative includes $13.5 billion to cover a shortfall caused by the sharp increase in the number of Americans enrolling in college during the recession. Congress would pay for the larger grants by ending subsidies to private banks that make student loans and shifting to direct federal lending. But the amount going to education spending and aid for college students is far less than the Obama administration had hoped, largely because the savings from the switch to direct federal lending is now estimated to be $61 billion, rather than $87 billion…”

Hospitals and Tax Exemptions for Charity Care

Burden higher for nonprofit hospitals, Illinois Supreme Court says, By Bruce Japsen and Jason Grotto, March 19, 2010, Chicago Tribune: “An Illinois Supreme Court decision Thursday puts nonprofit hospitals on notice that they must provide an adequate amount of charity care to patients or risk losing significant tax exemptions. The decision, closely watched at a time when medical centers and the government are straining to cover health care costs for the poor, is a blow to the state’s hospital industry. It sets the stage for a potential debate about exactly how charitable hospitals must be, with some experts predicting that Springfield could seek to pass a law mandating the amounts. In the meantime, state officials indicated they could incorporate the court ruling into their assessments of whether to renew hospital tax exemptions. In its decision upholding a lower court ruling, the high court found that the Illinois Department of Revenue was correct in withdrawing Provena Covenant Medical Center’s property tax exemption in 2004 because the Urbana hospital failed to justify adequately the exemption through charitable giving…”

Poor States and HPV Vaccinations

Poorer girls not getting HPV vaccine for cervical cancer, By Liz Szabo, March 18, 2010, USA Today: “A cervical cancer vaccine is not getting to many of the girls who need it the most, a new study shows. Mississippi and Arkansas, two of the nation’s poorest states, also have the highest death rates from cervical cancer – a result of poor access to basic screenings and health care for a large number of women, says Peter Bach of New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Yet in Mississippi, where the vaccine could perhaps save the greatest number of lives, only 16% of teen girls in 2008 received the shot, called Gardasil, according to Bach’s paper in Saturday’s The Lancet. About 22% of Arkansas girls ages 13 to 17 got the vaccine, which costs $390 for three shots…”

New York State Poverty Report

  • In our cities, poverty may be your neighbor, By Paul Grondahl, March 18, 2010, Albany Times Union: “More than 25 percent of people in Albany live in poverty, as do more than 20 percent of people living in Schenectady and Troy, according to a report released Wednesday by the New York State Community Action Association. The 2010 New York State Poverty Report found that more than 2.6 million New Yorkers, including 852,000 children, live in poverty. The poverty level for a family of three is federally defined as a household earning less than $18,310 a year…”
  • NY poverty rate tops national average, By Jessica M. Pasko, March 18, 2010, Troy Record: “Close to 14 percent of New Yorkers live in poverty, the highest rate among Northeastern states, according to a new report released by the New York State Community Action Association. More than 2.6 million New Yorkers live in poverty, including 852,000 children. That makes for a poverty rate of 13.8 percent, slightly higher than the national rate of 13.2 percent. The city of Buffalo was ranked as the third poorest city in the U.S., with close to 30 percent of the population there living in property. The poverty rate is defined as the percentage of the population living in households below or at the federal poverty line…”

State Prison Populations

  • Report finds states holding fewer prisoners, By John Schwartz, March 16, 2010, New York Times: “State prison populations, which have grown for nearly four decades, have begun to dip, according to a new report, largely because of recent efforts to keep parolees out of prison and reduce prison time for nonviolent offenders. State prisons held 1,403,091 people as of Jan. 1, nearly four-tenths of a percent fewer than a year before, the report said. Prison populations have fallen in 27 states in that period, while they have risen in 23…”
  • State prison population drops for 1st time since 1972; report suggests budget woes responsible, By David Crary (AP), March 17, 2010, Los Angeles Times: “Spurred by budget crises, California and Michigan together reduced their prison populations by more than 7,500 last year, contributing to what a new report says is the first nationwide decline in the number of state inmates since 1972. The overall drop was slight, according to the Pew Center on the States – just 0.4 percent – but its report suggests there could be a sustained downward trend because of keen interest by state policymakers in curtailing corrections costs…”

Education Reform and Rural Schools

Lawmakers say needs of rural schools are overlooked, By Sam Dillon, March 17, 2010, New York Times: “An Oklahoma senator complained that federal rules on teacher credentials had driven thousands of experienced educators out of rural schools. A North Carolina lawmaker complained that formulas for distributing federal education money favored big-city districts at the expense of poor students in small towns. And a senator from Alaska wanted to know how school-turnaround strategies based on firing ineffective instructors would work in a remote village on the Bering Sea that she said already had tremendous teacher turnover. Lawmakers who represent rural areas told Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a hearing Wednesday that the No Child Left Behind law, as well as the Obama administration’s blueprint for overhauling it, failed to take sufficiently into account the problems of rural schools, and their nine million students…”

Unemployment Rate – United Kingdom

  • Quarter of adults out of work, official figures show, March 17, 2010, The Telegraph: “A total of 10.6 million people either did not have a job, or have stopped looking for one, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics, which indicated that more people than ever before had abandoned the workplace – choosing instead to study, go on sick leave or just give up searching for a job. A record 149,000 left the workforce and became ‘economically inactive’, between November last year and January, the ONS said. These people more than offset the fall in the headline unemployment. Unemployment fell for the third month in a row, dropping by 33,000 to hit 2.45 million. It has yet to breach the symbolic 2.5 million mark, let alone the 3 million barrier that haunted the recessions of the early 1990s and 1980s…”
  • UK unemployment records further fall, March 17, 2010, BBC News: “The number of people unemployed in the UK has fallen again, leaving the jobless rate at 7.8%, figures show. Total unemployment stood at 2.45 million for the three months to January, down 33,000 on the figure for the previous three months. But long-term unemployment, covering those out of work for more than a year, rose by 61,000 to 687,000. The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance fell by 32,300 to 1.59 million in February. Unemployment among 18 to 24-year-olds fell by 34,000 to 715,000, but among the over-50s, joblessness rose by 14,000 to 398,000…”

Unemployment and Jobless Benefits – Virginia

Joblessness up in Virginia, but fewer get benefits, By David Ress, March 17, 2010, Richmond Times-Dispatch: “The number of Virginians getting state unemployment benefits fell from a year ago even as the number out of work rose by one-fifth, a Richmond Times-Dispatch review of state data found. Fewer than one in three unemployed Virginians gets state benefits, the data show. These days, when people find work, their searches are lasting an average of 33 percent longer. Thousands more people than normal are running out of benefits before they find work, which makes the total of those covered decline even as unemployment rises, said Christine Chmura, chief economist of Chmura Economics and Analytics. Meanwhile, people who depend on part-time work, and others who move from one temporary job to another, can’t meet Virginia’s tough qualification triggers to qualify for benefits…”

Economic Development Incentive Program – Massachusetts

  • Jobs program lost its way – and tax money, By Todd Wallack, March 14, 2010, Boston Globe: “The blue sign on the building says Nortel Networks, but it might as well be ‘Your tax dollars at work.’ In exchange for more than $2 million in state and local tax breaks, the Canadian telecommunications equipment maker promised a decade ago to expand its campus in Billerica, keeping 2,200 existing jobs and adding as many as 800 more. But instead of adding jobs, the struggling company has steadily slashed its operations for years. Today, it has 145 employees. It also still has those tax breaks, set to continue through 2014. And Nortel, amazingly, is by no means an isolated case. Over the past 16 years, Massachusetts has given away hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local tax breaks for more than 1,300 development projects under its Economic Development Incentive Program, which aims to encourage companies to invest here and create jobs. Often the incentives work and new jobs result. But far too often taxpayers have not come close to getting their money’s worth, a Globe review has found…”
  • Rich towns get ‘distressed’ status, By Todd Wallack, March 15, 2010, Boston Globe: “Hingham boasts million-dollar estates along its scenic shoreline, stately antique houses on Main Street, and boutique shops around the town square. The median household income is nearly $113,000 a year, well above the state and national average, while unemployment is well below the statewide rate. Yet Massachusetts has long classified Hingham as ‘economically distressed.’ The South Shore town is on the state’s list of economic target areas, allowing several companies, including a six-screen movie theater and a clothing store, to qualify for special tax breaks in exchange for a promise to open there. And Hingham is not the only unlikely-seeming hard luck case. Over the last 16 years, the state has designated ‘economic target areas’ in 209 of the state’s 351 cities and towns, making companies eligible for tax breaks if they expand there. Among them are such other comfortable suburbs as Hopkinton, Bedford, Lexington, and Westwood. Though lawmakers originally created the Economic Development Incentive Program in 1993 to nudge businesses to invest in decaying cities and other areas scarred by poverty and unemployment, such as Fall River and Lawrence, the state has, over time, expanded the program to include almost any municipality that applies…”

Displaced Earthquake Victims – Haiti

  • Rural Haiti struggles to absorb displaced, By Deborah Sontag, March 16, 2010, New York Times: “Before the earthquake that changed everything, Chlotilde Pelteau and her husband lived a supremely urban existence. A cosmetics vendor and a mechanic, they both enjoyed a steady clientele and a hectic daily routine, serenaded by the beeping cars and general hubbub of Port-au-Prince. Now, as roosters crow and goats bleat, Ms. Pelteau, 29, toils by day on a craggy hillside in the isolated hamlet of Nan Roc (In the Rocks), which she had abandoned at 14 for a life of greater opportunity. At night, she, her husband and their two children sleep cheek-to-jowl with a dozen relatives in the small mud house where she grew up. ‘With everything destroyed, what could I do but come back?’ said Ms. Pelteau, wearing a floral skirt as she poked corn seeds deep into arid soil unlikely to yield enough food to sustain her rail-thin parents, much less those who fled the shattered capital city to rejoin them…”
  • Haitians who fled capital strain impoverished towns in countryside, By William Booth, March 15, 2010, Washington Post: “The earthquake that struck Haiti’s capital city has also jarred the impoverished countryside, sending 600,000 people into the provinces — where locals are now overwhelmed with the task of feeding and sheltering desperate newcomers. Haitian and international aid officials describe the migration as one of the largest and most wrenching in the hemisphere, as internally displaced people stream out of Port-au-Prince and head to struggling provincial towns in the aftermath of the earthquake like civilians fleeing war zones in places such as Rwanda, Kosovo and the Swat Valley in Pakistan. ‘They are everywhere. They are in the town, and they are sleeping in the fields,’ said Gerald Joseph, mayor of Lascahobas, a farming and trading town about three hours north of the capital. ‘Our schools are beyond full now. Our hospital is full. All our houses are full of people. We don’t have an empty house. Where four people were sleeping before, there are now 14…’”

Hunger and Obesity

The obesity-hunger paradox, By Sam Dolnick, March 12, 2010, New York Times: “When most people think of hunger in America, the images that leap to mind are of ragged toddlers in Appalachia or rail-thin children in dingy apartments reaching for empty bottles of milk. Once, maybe. But a recent survey found that the most severe hunger-related problems in the nation are in the South Bronx, long one of the country’s capitals of obesity. Experts say these are not parallel problems persisting in side-by-side neighborhoods, but plagues often seen in the same households, even the same person: the hungriest people in America today, statistically speaking, may well be not sickly skinny, but excessively fat. Call it the Bronx Paradox. ‘Hunger and obesity are often flip sides to the same malnutrition coin,’ said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. ‘Hunger is certainly almost an exclusive symptom of poverty. And extra obesity is one of the symptoms of poverty.’ The Bronx has the city’s highest rate of obesity, with residents facing an estimated 85 percent higher risk of being obese than people in Manhattan, according to Andrew G. Rundle, an epidemiologist at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University…”