Poverty Measurement in the US

Census Bureau clarifies poverty numbers, By Sharon Bernstein, December 16, 2011, MSNBC.com: “Officials at the U.S. Census Bureau moved Friday to clarify widely reported figures meant to estimate the number of Americans living in poverty. ¬†Dueling Census reports – one based on official poverty estimates that was released just last week and another based on an experimental calculus used in November – differed from one another by 20 percentage points regarding the number of people viewed as living in poverty. The widely reported figure showed that one out of two Americans are in poverty or are low-income. Other Census figures put the figure closer to one out of three Americans. That’s because the experimental measure, a supplement to the official poverty figures meant to take into account such factors as whether a family is receiving food stamps and how much people pay in taxes, uses a poverty level of $24,343 for a family of four instead of the $21,113 used by the official measure…”

Joblessness and Unemployment

  • Unemployment fell in 43 states in November, By Martin Crutsinger (AP), December 20, 2011, Atlanta Journal Constitution: “Unemployment rates fell in 43 states in November, the most number of states to report such declines in eight years. The falling state rates reflect the brightening jobs picture nationally. The U.S. unemployment rate fell sharply in November to 8.6 percent, the lowest since March 2009. The economy has generated 100,000 or more jobs five months in a row – the first time that’s happened since 2006, before the Great Recession. Only three states reported higher unemployment rates in November, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Four states showed no change…”
  • Bills to restructure Michigan jobless, workers comp insurance systems signed, By Dawson Bell, December 20, 2011, Detroit Free Press: “Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation Monday to restructure Michigan’s unemployment and workers compensation insurance systems, changes he said would ‘ensure their solvency and integrity.’ The bills, approved earlier this month by the Legislature, authorize the issuance of revenue bonds to pay off the state’s $3-billion federal unemployment insurance debt, saving the state about $117 million in 2012 and sparing employers more than $270 million in federal penalties, administration officials said. The debt arose from a decade of high unemployment in Michigan, as unemployment taxes assessed on employers have not kept pace with claims made by Michigan workers…”

Medicaid Programs – Wisconsin, Utah

  • Private contractors play increasing role in Medicaid, audit finds, By Jason Stein, December 20, 2011, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “As the state’s health programs for the poor have ballooned in recent years, the state relied increasingly on private contractors to run its health programs for the poor and completed fewer investigations into potential fraud, a new audit has found. The report released Tuesday by the Legislative Audit Bureau found that as of June there were at least three times as many contract workers working on Medicaid health programs as there were state workers. Over the past four years, payments to private vendors for Medicaid have nearly doubled, the audit found…”
  • Utah’s budget debate: transportation and Medicaid, By Kirsten Stewart, December 19, 2011, Salt Lake Tribune: “Unveiling his budget for next year, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert last week bemoaned the growing share flowing to Medicaid. The health insurance program for low-income people consumes 17.6 percent of Utah’s budget, hurting the state’s ability to fund other priorities such as public schools, said Herbert, sounding a theme popular among conservatives. But advocates for the poor say the national strategy of pitting Medicaid against public schools doesn’t reflect reality in Utah. They point to another familiar budget boogeyman: transportation…”