Internet Access and Income – Canada

High-income homes 97% online, By Michael Oliveira, May 27, 2011, Winnipeg Free Press: “An overwhelming 97 per cent of the highest-income households in Canada had access to the Internet last year while just over half of the homes in the lowest income group were online, Statistics Canada reported Wednesday. Overall, about 80 per cent of all Canadian households had Internet access in 2010, with the highest penetration levels in British Columbia (84 per cent), Alberta (83) and Ontario (81). Almost all the homes with total incomes above $87,000 were connected, while just 54 per cent of households with incomes under $30,000 had access…”

Poverty Measurement – India

India’s stingy definition of poverty _ $12.75 a month for city dwellers _ called little help, Associated Press, May 27, 2011, Washington Post: “Every day, through scorching summers and chilly winters, Himmat pedals his bicycle rickshaw through New Delhi’s crowded streets, earning barely enough to feed his family. But to India’s government he is not poor – not even close. The 5,000 rupees ($110) he earns a month pays for a tiny room with a single light bulb and no running water for his family of four. After buying just enough food to keep his family from starving, there is nothing left for medicine, new clothes for his children or savings. Still, Himmat is way above India’s poverty line. Earlier this month, India’s Planning Commission, which helps sets economic policy, told the Supreme Court that the poverty line for the nation’s cities was 578 rupees ($12.75) per person a month – or 2,312 rupees ($51.38) for Himmat’s family of four. For rural India, it’s even lower at about 450 rupees ($9.93)…”

State Medicaid Programs

  • AHCCCS cutbacks get legal challenge, By Howard Fischer, May 24, 2011, Arizona Daily Star: “An attorney wants the Arizona Supreme Court to block Gov. Jan Brewer from eliminating health care for more than 100,000 Arizonans. A lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of some who would be affected by the change contends the state is violating the requirements of a 2000 voter-approved measure mandating free care for anyone below the federal poverty level. Attorney Tim Hogan of the Center for Law in the Public Interest said the initiative makes Brewer’s plan to stop enrolling childless adults and some others in the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System illegal…”
  • Kentucky moves step closer to new Medicaid plan, By Deborah Yetter, May 25, 2011, Louisville Courier-Journal: “With the bid deadline past, Kentucky has moved closer to turning most of its Medicaid program over to outside managed care organizations – a move the state hopes will improve efficiency and cut costs in the $6.5 billion-a-year health plan for the poor and disabled. Officials refused to identify any of the bidders who met the 3:30 p.m. Wednesday deadline, citing confidentiality of the bidding process. Don Speer, who is overseeing the bids for the state Finance and Administration Cabinet, declined even to say how many companies entered bids…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Enrollment

  • Food stamp use explodes in the suburbs, By Janice Podsada, May 18, 2011, Hartford Courant: “Nhan Do, a supervisor at Five Star Farmers Market in Hartford, says she always schedules extra people to work the first three days of the month. Those are ‘big shopping days’ for people who use food stamps. Despite modest job gains, Do and other area merchants say they haven’t seen a reduction in the number of customers using food stamps. On the contrary, the number of Connecticut people enrolled in the federal food stamp program has been climbing for 28 consecutive months in a steady progression during and after the officially declared national recession…”
  • 1 in 6 getting food stamps in Volusia, By Anne Geggis, May 25, 2011, Daytona Beach News-Journal: “More than one of out every six Volusia residents got government help buying food in March, according to statistics released this week that show a dramatic increase in assistance in the past four years. In Flagler County, three of every 20 residents got help. That translates into nearly 100,000 people in the two counties. Comparing data from before the recession began, in March 2007 to March of this year, the latest statistics available, the number of area residents getting food stamps increased by nearly 189 percent…”

School Funding – New Jersey

  • N.J. high court’s Abbott ruling means other school districts will still be short funding, By Jeanette Rundquist and Jessica Calefati, May 25, 2011, Star-Ledger: “Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling means the state’s 31 poorest districts get to share $500 million in additional state aid.  But it also means some 550 districts will go without. ’Once again, districts like Woodbridge and Piscataway have been left out in the cold,’ said John Crowe, the superintendent in Woodbridge. He said it is ‘disheartening to think a student who is born into poverty in Woodbridge somehow requires less assistance than a student born into poverty in another district.’ Crowe, along with other suburban superintendents, said Tuesday’s ruling short-changed their district despite the fact they, too, may educate at-risk children…”
  • Tracing the history of rulings on school funding in poor N.J. cities, By Jeanette Rundquist, May 25, 2011, Star-Ledger: “In 1875, in an effort to get control of a patchwork public school system, the New Jersey state Legislature amended New Jersey’s constitution and made it the state’s responsibility to provide a ‘thorough and efficient system of free public schools.’ For more than 100 years since, the state’s courts and elected officials have wrestled with those eight words.  The participants and dollar amounts have changed over the years, but the issue has largely been the same: how to give children in New Jersey’s poorest cities the same level of education as those in its wealthiest communities.  The state Supreme Court took another stab at the issue Tuesday, ordering the state to increase school funding to poor districts by $500 million. Here is a look back at decisions leading up to Tuesday…”
  • N.J. high court orders more school funding, By Rita Giordano, May 25, 2011, Philadelphia Inquirer: “New Jersey’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the state to come up with $500 million more to aid certain poor and largely urban school districts next year, finding that the state did not enforce its own law or live up to promises made to the court. However, the justices, in their highly anticipated decision, declined to restore the full amount of the state’s aid shortfall – about $1.6 billion – that could have benefited many districts, including others with low-income children. The strongly worded, 3-2 ruling requires the additional funds for only the 31 former Abbott districts, which through more than two decades of corrective court orders had come to receive a large share of state aid. They still do, but the state funding formula, enacted under Gov. Jon S. Corzine, sought to spread money more evenly to other districts with poor children…”

State Medicaid Programs

  • GOP: Feds should let states tighten Medicaid eligibility, By Mary Agnes Carey and Phil Galewitz, May 24, 2011, Miami Herald: “With their proposal to turn Medicaid into block grants all but dead, Republicans are pushing legislation to let states tighten eligibility rules for the health program for poor people and those with disabilities. The move, which would affect Medicaid as well as the Children’s Health Insurance Program, would help cash-strapped states save money, but it also could cause hundreds of thousands of people to lose health coverage. While Democrats strenuously oppose the proposed Medicaid change, some advocates and physicians groups worry that the issue could wind up as a bargaining chip in the partisan wrangling over raising the federal debt limit and reducing the budget deficit…”
  • Christie eyes curb on Medicaid rolls, By Matt Katz and Maya Rao, May 23, 2011, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Gov. Christie plans to seek approval for a proposal that would deny Medicaid coverage to adults in a family of four with an annual household income of little more than $6,000, down from the current $30,000. A single mother raising three children who earned as little as $118 a week would not qualify for the government-funded medical coverage. The eligibility-requirement change, which must be cleared by the Obama administration and would apply only to new adult Medicaid applicants, would follow Christie’s eliminating – for the second year – a long-standing line item that would provide nearly $7.5 million in funding to family-planning clinics…”
  • State drops managed-care Medicaid plan for 5 counties, By Charles S. Johnson, May 23, 2011, Billings Gazette: “The Schweitzer administration has abandoned its controversial plan to set up a Medicaid managed-care demonstration project in Lewis and Clark, Cascade, Choteau, Teton and Judith Basin counties. The Gazette State Bureau reported last fall that the Schweitzer administration since August 2009 had discussed using managed-card Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care for the poor and disabled. One major proposal came from Centene Corp., a large managed-care firm based in St. Louis. It was based on the idea that the private company would be paid a certain amount of money for each patient and ‘manage’ that patient’s care by directing him or her to lower-cost health care. That, in turn, was supposed to save money for both the state and the company.
    By last week, the state pulled the plug on the idea…”
  • U.S. objects to new law on clinics in Indiana, By Robert Pear, May 22, 2011, New York Times: “The Obama administration is raising serious objections to a new Indiana law that cuts off state and federal money for Planned Parenthood clinics providing health care to low-income women on Medicaid. The objections set the stage for a clash between the White House and Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, over an issue that ignites passions in both parties. The changes in Indiana are subject to federal review and approval, and administration officials have made it clear they will not approve the changes in the form adopted by the state. Federal officials have 90 days to act but may feel pressure to act sooner because Indiana is already enforcing its law, which took effect on May 10, and because legislators in other states are working on similar measures…”

State Minimum Wage – Maine

House rejects minimum wage hike, By Rebekah Metzler, May 25, 2011, Morning Sentinel: “The Maine House voted 77-69 along party lines Tuesday to reject a proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $8 an hour over the next two years. The vote marked a change from recent years, when Democratic majorities in the Legislature routinely approved increases. Republican lawmakers, now in the majority, argued Tuesday that an increase would serve as a mandate that harms businesses. Democrats said struggling low-wage workers could use the extra $10 a week to buy necessities…”

Kids Count Report – New Jersey

  • Cumberland County ranks last in children’s health issues, By Caitlin Dineen, May 23, 2011, Press of Atlantic City: “Cumberland County ranks 21st of New Jersey’s 21 counties in terms of overall child well-being, and Atlantic and Cape May counties also rank poorly, according to the New Jersey Kids Count annual rankings released Monday. The survey, which is published by Advocates for Children of New Jersey, compares counties on 15 measures including child poverty, health, safety and education. Cumberland – which ranked 20th last year – slipped to last place due to a combination of increasing childhood poverty, students having the lowest passing rates for state tests and an increased infant mortality rate…”
  • Child data reveals county in last place, By Matt Zager, May 24, 2011, Vineland Daily Journal: “Cumberland County has slipped to last in the state in an annual ranking of child well-being, according to the latest Kids Count report released Monday. ‘That we’re still last is disturbing,’ said George Sartorio, Cumberland County health officer. ‘We all need to do a better job to get better outcomes.’ The data were collected as part of an ongoing effort known as Kids Count conducted by Advocates for Children of New Jersey. It compares the state’s 21 counties on 15 categories, including child poverty, health safety and education…”

Abortion Rates and Poverty

Abortion rates decline overall, increasing in poor, By Sharon Jayson, May 23, 2011, USA Today: “Abortion rates fell among most groups of women between 2000 and 2008, except for those classified as poor, finds an analysis conducted by the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute and published online today in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. Guttmacher, which has been tracking abortion since 1974, found that the abortion rate for low-income women increased 18% during the same period that the national rate dropped 8%. Low-income women (as an example, those earning $17,170 or less in a three-person household) accounted for 514,040 abortions, or 42% of all abortions, in 2008. The abortion rate for the poor rose from 44.4 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44 in 2000 to 52.2 in 2008. At the same time, the 2008 national abortion rate was 19.6 per 1,000, which dropped 8% from a rate of 21.3 in 2000. Sociologist Carole Joffe of the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco, says the report re-affirms demographic trends…”

Rhode Island Medicaid Waiver

Rhode Island’s Medicaid experiment draws raves, suspicion, By Tony Pugh, May 24, 2011, Miami Herald: “After six months in hospitals and nursing homes rehabbing from a stroke, Elvira Tesarek of Warren, R.I., had a decision to make: Either Medicaid would move her to a long-term nursing facility, or she could simply go home. For Tesarek, the choice was obvious. Instead of costly institutional care, Medicaid pays for a nurse’s aide to visit Tesarek at home five days a week to help with meals and household chores. A registered nurse comes three times a week to prepare her medications. A physical therapist visits twice weekly, and a speech therapist makes occasional home visits as well. Nearly 1,300 elderly and disabled adults, such as Tesarek, have been able to leave Rhode Island nursing facilities or avoid them altogether under a pilot program designed to cut spending on Medicaid, the federal-state health plan for the poor. Many states steer certain Medicaid patients into assisted-living and home-care settings, where they have greater independence. Rhode Island’s effort, however, has garnered national attention in conservative circles not because of what it does but because of how it’s funded…”

FoodShare Program Privatization – Wisconsin

Feds threaten state with loss of FoodShare funds over privatization, By Jason Stein, May 20, 2011, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Federal officials are threatening to withhold new money and take back previous funds for Wisconsin’s food assistance if state officials don’t scale back efforts to privatize the program. The letter from federal officials follows an April visit to Wisconsin by USDA staff and goes a step further than similar past warnings by saying the state FoodShare program is already in violation of federal rules because of the privatization efforts by two governors. Federal officials are also separately questioning a new privatization proposal put forward by Republican Gov. Scott Walker for FoodShare, the successor program to food stamps…”

Poverty Measurement – India

  • BPL poverty cap placed at 46%, By K. Balchand, May 19, 2011, The Hindu: “The Below the Poverty Line (BPL) census, approved by the Union Cabinet on Thursday, will be an exercise in identifying households that will fit the bill within the poverty cap of 46 per cent of the rural population of India. The identification of the 46 per cent poverty cap, estimated by the Planning Commission, will be done through a set of automatic exclusion and automatic inclusion criteria, and the remaining households will be classified through seven assigned deprivation indicators. At the same time, State-wise caps based on the S.D. Tendulkar methodology have been allowed for better targeting of those living below the poverty line. The 46 per cent cap is lower than the 50 per cent suggested by the N.C. Saxena Committee. Officials have remained silent on the displeasure of the Supreme Court on placing a cap on the BPL list…”
  • India ‘redefines’ poverty for new survey, May 19, 2011, BBC News: “India’s cabinet has approved a proposal for a survey to identify people living below the poverty line, which also redefines what constitutes poverty. It will classify the rural poor into ‘destitutes, manual scavengers and primitive tribal groups’. Urban poor will be defined as those in vulnerable shelters, low-paid jobs and homes headed by women or children. The survey, to be conducted alongside a caste census later this year, will help identify those who need state aid. There are various estimates on the exact number of poor in India…”

Homeless Count – San Francisco, CA

S.F.: New homeless on street as others find housing, By Kevin Fagan, May 19, 2011, San Francisco Chronicle: “Forced into the streets by the economic downturn, hundreds of newly homeless people have been showing up in San Francisco – in cars and camper vans. Crushed by the same pressures, the number of families without homes has also gone up, according to San Francisco’s latest biennial homeless count, to be released today. The increases come even as the city has managed to reduce the number of hard-core people living for years on the streets, a reduction that has kept the overall homeless population in check. ‘It could have been a lot worse if we hadn’t created so much supportive housing’ and secured federal funding for homeless families, said San Francisco’s homeless policy director, Dariush Kayhan…”

Car Title Lending – Virginia

First-ever data shows 25,000 car title loans worth $21M issued in last 3 months of 2010 in Va, By Dena Potter (AP), Washington Post: “Virginia car title lenders doled out nearly 25,000 loans worth more than $21 million in the last three months of 2010, according to data collected for the first time since the state started regulating the lenders. Car title lenders were unregulated in Virginia until October, when a new law took effect that limited how much the companies can charge, how much they can lend and for how long. Despite the protections, more than 3,500 borrowers missed payments for at least 60 days during those three months, and nearly 200 had their vehicles repossessed. Meanwhile, the new State Corporation Commission data shows that laws enacted in 2008 to curb the repeated use of their close cousin, payday loans, have dramatically reduced their use. Both are short-term loans that charge borrowers triple-digit interest rates. Payday loans hold a paycheck as collateral for a loan, whereas a car title loan uses a vehicle…”

Rural Households and Tax Credits

Tax credits and rural incomes, By Ron Durst and Tracey Farrigan, May 19, 2011, Daily Yonder: “Since 1980, the total cost of tax expenditures has increased by over 250 percent and currently exceeds $1.1 trillion. A primary reason for this growth is that there is greater bipartisan support to enact tax expenditures than to fund or increase direct spending programs, especially since tax expenditures are often viewed as tax cuts. These expenditures have significantly reduced the share of taxpayers who owe Federal income tax. As a result, in 2009, only about half of rural taxpayers owed any Federal income tax. This is slightly below the overall rate of 53 percent of all taxpayers and reflects the lower income levels of rural taxpayers. In 2008, 22 percent of rural taxpayers received a cash payment from one or more of the refundable tax credits. The average amount was $2,428. Thus, an effect of the increased use of the tax code for social policy goals has been an increase in the number of rural taxpayers who owe no Federal income tax and who receive a cash payment as a result of the refundable tax credits…”

Rural Health Care Access

Rural poor caught in budget war over clinics, By Curt Brown, May 14, 2011, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “Deb Zupke gets both angry and bewildered that the ordinary-looking strip-mall storefront in her hometown has become a target of the budget battles in Washington and St. Paul. Planned Parenthood relocated its clinic to the site just next to the Ace Hardware store in the Belle Mar Mall one year ago. Nearly 5,000 women come from the local university and far-flung farms to visit the four exam rooms, the little lab area and the bland-but-warm reception area every year — just like Zupke and her two older sisters did while growing up on a dairy farm 10 miles west of here. ‘For rural women like us, this was the only place to go for our annual exams and birth control,’ said Zupke, now 27 and pregnant with her first child. ‘Abortion is the first thing that pops into everybody’s mind when they hear Planned Parenthood, and I don’t know why. I know what their real focus is because I was a recipient, and it was my primary care.’ In this and 15 other outstate clinics from Albert Lea to Thief River Falls, nearly 60 percent of Planned Parenthood’s 64,000 Minnesota patients come for Pap smears, breast cancer screenings, infection treatment and birth control. Far beyond offering birth control, the clinics have become the backbone of the public health system in outstate Minnesota, where health-care options are increasingly sparse…”

Public Defender System – Michigan

ACLU: Michigan’s public defender system among worst, By Doug Guthrie, May 18, 2011, Detroit News: “Michigan’s system of appointing lawyers to represent criminal defendants who can’t afford to hire their own is among the worst in the nation, according to a report issued today by the American Civil Liberties Union. Using numerous prior studies by others that condemned the state’s dependence on a patchwork of dissimilar systems run separately by 83 counties, the report blasts a lack of oversight, funding, training and failure to meet national standards…”

States and Tax Revenues

For states, a glimmer of hope on deficits, By Michael Cooper, May 17, 2011, New York Times: “From stronger-than-expected tax collections in deficit-ridden California to projected surpluses in struggling states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, a growing number of recession-weary states are finally announcing a bit of good budget news for the first time since the downturn began. But it would probably be premature to pop the Champagne, or even the prosecco – or to otherwise declare the fiscal crisis that has hammered states to be over. ‘If the question is ‘Are we out of the woods?,’ I think the answer is probably no,’ said Donald J. Boyd, a senior fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, which closely tracks state tax collections. ‘We’re closer to the edge. But there are still so many things that states and localities need to worry about…’”