State and Local Minimum Wages – Iowa

GOP’s minimum wage rollback headed to Branstad’s desk, By William Petroski, March 27, 2017, Des Moines Register: “The Iowa Senate gave final approval Monday to a bill that freezes the state’s minimum wage at $7.25 an hour, although Democrats angrily denounced the bill, accusing Republicans of failing to support poor Iowans. House File 295 rolls back minimum wage increases already approved in four counties, including Polk, Johnson, Linn and Wapello. In addition, Lee County supervisors have been in the process of approving a minimum wage hike…”

Medicaid Privatization – Iowa

Medicaid firms spending less on care for Iowa’s poor, disabled, By Tony Leys, March 15, 2017, Des Moines Register: “The three private firms running Iowa’s Medicaid program have found ways to trim spending on care for the poor or disabled Iowans they cover, a new report suggests. But all three continue to lose tens of millions of dollars on the controversial project.  The companies’ per-member monthly spending on health care for adults fell by as much as 28 percent from the three months ending in September 2016 to the three months ending in December 2016, the new report shows…”

February 2017 US Unemployment Rate

  • U.S. added 235,000 jobs in February; unemployment rate dropped to 4.7 percent, By Ana Swanson, March 10, 2017, Washington Post: “The U.S. economy added a healthy 235,000 jobs in February, according to government data released Friday morning, surpassing economists’ expectations and likely clearing the way for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this month. The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.7 percent, compared with 4.8 percent in January, and wages rose by 6 cents to $26.09 in February, after a 5-cent increase the month before…”
  • U.S. gains a healthy 235,000 jobs in February; unemployment rate falls to 4.7%, By Don Lee, March 10, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “Warm weather and rising business optimism helped the U.S. economy to create another burst of job growth last month, giving President Trump an early confidence boost and all but assuring that the Federal Reserve will nudge up interest rates next week.  Employers added 235,000 jobs in February, about as many as in January and well above analysts’ expectations and the average monthly payroll growth for all of last year, the Labor Department said Friday…”

Minimum Wage – St. Louis, MO

Minimum wage hike in St. Louis would be blocked by bill passed by Missouri House, By Celeste Bott, March 9, 2017, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “When the Missouri Supreme Court upheld a minimum wage increase in St. Louis last week, Bettie Douglas thought she was getting a raise.  Douglas works at a McDonald’s in St. Louis, making $7.90 an hour — 20 cents above Missouri’s minimum wage of $7.70.  But citing concerns over an inconsistent patchwork of wage laws that could prove burdensome to businesses, Republican lawmakers promptly filed bills that would require all Missouri cities to stick to the statewide standard…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • Study: Medicaid expansion made it easier to get a doctor’s appointment, By Michelle Andrews, March 6, 2017, Governing: “More than 14 million adults have enrolled in Medicaid since the health law passed, and that has caused some hand-wringing over whether there would be enough primary care providers to meet the demand. But a study out this week suggests that the newly insured people are generally able to get timely appointments for primary care…”
  • Stakes high in Illinois as Congress rethinks Medicaid, By Lisa Schencker, March 3, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Soccer coach Lesly Durand noticed last fall that he was running out of breath more easily on the field, and getting unusually tired carrying bags of equipment.  The 61-year-old Evanston man didn’t know why, so he called his doctor. That call led to tests, which led to the discovery of five blocked arteries and then, ultimately, bypass surgery.  ‘The doctors said, ‘I can’t believe you’re still alive,”said Durand, who gained insurance a couple of years ago under the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid…”
  • U.S. House ACA reform may turn up heat on N.C. Medicaid expansion, By Richard Craver, March 8, 2017, Winston-Salem Journal: “North Carolina Republican legislative leaders may have more incentive — but likely no new motivation — to expand the state’s Medicaid program as part of a proposal in the U.S. House for repealing and replacing the federal Affordable Care Act…”

State and Local Minimum Wages

  • Minimum wage increase clears Senate, By Dan Boyd, March 1, 2017, Albuquerque Journal: “A bill that would increase New Mexico’s minimum wage for the first time since 2009 is headed to the House after cruising through the Senate on Wednesday with bipartisan support.  The Senate voted 24-6 to pass the measure, which would – over the next year – increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $9 an hour…”
  • Businesses grapple with hike in St. Louis’ minimum wage, By Lisa Brown, March 2, 2017, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Usually the biggest worry Ed Brock has this time of year is making sure the Mardi Gras beads and accessories are replaced with St. Patrick’s Day items. Now, the owner of Johnnie Brock’s Dungeon, the city’s biggest costume and accessories shop, has a new headache: an unexpected increase in the city’s minimum wage is throwing his business into upheaval.  ‘I’m still digesting it,’ Brock said Wednesday, the day after the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the city of St. Louis’ minimum wage increase, leaving business owners such as he scrambling to figure out whether to make immediate changes or wait to implement a higher wage for employees…”

State Minimum Wage – Pennsylvania

Pa. minimum wage hike a possibility, By Marc Levy (AP), February 20, 2017, York Dispatch: “Years of pressure by Pennsylvania Democrats could yield a state minimum wage increase this year, although it likely will require substantial concessions in the Republican-controlled Legislature.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing hiking the hourly minimum from $7.25 to $12. That would be the nation’s highest…”

Unemployment Benefit Programs – Missouri, Ohio

  • Missouri lawmakers vote to slash unemployment benefits, By Austin Huguelet, February 23, 2017, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “The Missouri House on Wednesday reaffirmed its commitment to a plan that would cut the amount of time people can claim jobless benefits to one of the shortest periods in the country…”
  • Unemployment fraud still costing state millions, By Cornelius Frolik, February 21, 2017, Dayton Daily News: “Ohio has significantly reduced fraudulent overpayments to people collecting unemployment insurance since instituting measures designed to identify and recover money from benefit cheats…”

Suburban Poverty – Boston, MA

More families are struggling with poverty in Boston’s affluent suburbs, By Katie Johnson, February 18, 2017, Boston Globe: “Many suburbs around Boston are known for their good schools, picturesque downtowns, and steady stream of residents commuting to well-paid jobs in the city. But interspersed in this idyllic landscape is a growing number of families struggling to get by.  The number of low-income children in many affluent communities is rising at a much faster rate than it is statewide, in some cases doubling over the past decade. Wealthy communities such as Sudbury, Winchester, Hopkinton, Hingham, and Littleton have at least twice as many needy students in their schools as they did 10 years ago, according to an analysis of state data by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council done for the Globe…”

Health Insurance Coverage

  • Major hospitals pull out of Alabama Medicaid reform, call for delay, By Amy Yurkanin, February 14, 2017, Birmingham News: “An overhaul of the state’s Medicaid program that has already been postponed a year could face more delays after the departure of several health care systems over concerns about the program’s direction and costs.  State leaders have been working since 2012 to transform the Medicaid program from a system that pays for unlimited services to managed care that caps costs at a certain amount per patient to control spending. Last year, federal authorities approved a plan for managed care for Medicaid, which provides health coverage to about a million low-income Alabamians. Regional care organizations in five regions are a key part of the reform effort…”
  • As GOP plows forward on Obamacare repeal, new data show the nation’s uninsured rate hit a record low last year, By Noam N. Levey, February 14, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “The nation’s uninsured rate tumbled further last year, hitting the lowest rate on record, according to new government data that underscored what is at stake in the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  In the first nine months of 2016, just 8.8% of Americans lacked health coverage, survey data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show…”
  • Republican health care proposal would cover fewer low-income families, By Alison Kodjak, February 16, 2017, National Public Radio: “House Republicans are debating a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act that would give consumers tax credits to buy insurance, cut back on Medicaid and allow people to save their own money to pay for health care costs.  The outline plan is likely to take away some of the financial help low-income families get through Obamacare subsidies, and also result in fewer people being covered under the Medicaid health care program for the poor…”

Medicaid Expansion – Utah, Louisiana

  • State officials send feds Medicaid expansion plan for low-income parents, By Alex Stuckey, February 3, 2107, Salt Lake Tribune: “As Utah officials continue to wait for federal approval of their small-scale Medicaid expansion plan, they hope to expand coverage to some parents.  Tom Hudachko, state Department of Health spokesman, said Friday that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ‘verbally indicated’ to state officials late last year that it would approve that part of the expansion, covering low-income parents with dependent children…”
  • Louisiana’s uninsured rate falls to 12.5 percent; leaders cite Medicaid expansion, By Elizabeth Crisp, February 8, 2017, Baton Rouge Advocate: “Louisiana is one of 10 states that have seen the steepest decreases in the rate of uninsured residents over the past four years, according to survey findings released Wednesday. The 2016 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that Louisiana’s uninsured rate fell to 12.5 percent last year — down from 21.7 percent in 2013.  The survey’s researchers note that all 10 states that saw their uninsured rates drop have expanded Medicaid through the federal Affordable Care Act…”

Columbia Daily Tribune Series on Poverty

Left Behind, series homepage, Columbia Daily Tribune: “Poverty does not just affect the poor.  The Left Behind series looks at different aspects of poverty – mobility, crime, education, health care, housing, employment and transportation – and how each affects not only the poor, but the taxpayers of Boone County.  Tribune reporters spent weeks poring over data and talking to Boone County residents about how poverty affects us all…”

Retirement Savings for Low-Income Workers – California

Congress targets a California law that aims to give low-income workers retirement security, By Evan Halper, February 9, 2017, Los Angeles Times: ” An ambitious California law intended to help create retirement security for low-income workers is in the crosshairs of the Trump-era Congress, which is moving to block the state and others from launching programs to automatically enroll millions of people in IRA-type savings plans…”

The US Structurally Unemployed

The new face of American unemployment, By Jeanna Smialek and Patricia Laya, February 7, 2017, Bloomberg: “Even at so-called full employment, some 20 million Americans are left behind.  They’re looking for work, out of the labor force but unhappy about it, or report working part-time when they’d prefer more hours, according to data released last week. Their plight comes even as the U.S. flirts with what economists consider the maximum level of employment for the first time since before the recession, having added 15.8 million jobs since the start of 2010. While some of America’s jobless are simply between gigs, those persistently stuck out of work are called the structurally unemployed…”

State Medicaid Programs

  • Indiana looks to extend Medicaid experiment started under Obamacare, By Phil Galewitz, February 1, 2017, National Public Radio: “As Congress weighs repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the home state of Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday sought to keep its conservative-style Medicaid expansion under the federal health the health law.  Indiana applied to the Trump administration to extend a regulatory waiver and funding until Jan. 31, 2021, for its package of incentives and penalties that are intended to encourage low-income Hoosiers on Medicaid to adopt healthful behaviors. Beneficiaries pay premiums, get health savings accounts and can lose their benefits if they miss payments…”
  • Kasich keeps Medicaid expansion in state budget proposal, By Catherine Candisky, January 31, 2017, Columbus Dispatch: “Amid uncertainty about the expected repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Gov. John Kasich’s final two-year budget proposal maintains Medicaid health coverage for 3 million poor and disabled Ohioans, including the 700,000 childless adults added to the rolls under Obamacare.  To curb costs, Kasich’s plan for Ohio’s tax-funded health insurance program would save hundreds of millions by cutting payments to hospitals and nursing homes, charging premiums to some beneficiaries, and moving nursing home residents and others into private managed-care plans…”
  • Arizona plan to tighten Medicaid eligibility likely to stand better chance under Trump’s watch, By Ken Alltucker, February 1, 2017, Arizona Republic: “State officials again will seek to tighten Medicaid eligibility with new restrictions that could affect tens of thousand of adults enrolled in the government insurance program for low-income Arizonans.  The state’s Medicaid agency is preparing to seek federal permission to require ‘able-bodied’ Medicaid recipients to either be employed or searching for a job while enrolled. The state also proposes to cap lifetime eligibility for Medicaid at five years…”

January 2017 US Unemployment Rate

U.S. starts year with job surge, but pay gains are weak, By Patricia Cohen, February 3, 2017, New York Times: “Job growth was quick out of the gate in the new year, the government reported on Friday, as employers added a healthy 227,000 workers to their payrolls in January. But despite a surge of local minimum-wage increases in states across the country, wage growth was meager.  The official jobless rate rose slightly, to 4.8 percent, but for good cause: More people were lured back into the work force…”

Racial Wealth Gap – Chicago

Chicago’s racial wealth gap far worse than U.S. average, report finds, By Gail MarksJarvis, January 31, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “About 65 percent of African-American, Latino and Asian households in Chicago have so little savings and other assets that a sudden job loss, medical emergency or other income disruption would throw them into poverty within three months, according to a report on wealth inequities in the city.  The report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development identified the divide between the incomes of white households and minority households as wider in Chicago than the nation as a whole. And the national divide is large. Not only do Chicago’s white households on average far exceed African-Americans, Latinos and Asians in income, but there is a sharp difference in the city between the wealth held by whites and that held by minority communities…”

Earned Income Tax Credit

  • Detroiters leave $80 million unclaimed for tax credit, By Susan Tompor, January 29, 2017, Detroit Free Press: “The Earned Income Tax Credit is one big bonus check for Michigan’s struggling workforce. The credit is a one-time shot of potentially thousands of dollars that can be used to pay bills, put money down on a used car or even, maybe, save a little something for a rainy day or retirement.  It’s sort of like those big profit-sharing checks for many autoworkers that are ranging from $5,000 at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to $9,000 on average at Ford.  But you must file a tax return to get that tax-credit cash. And plenty of people don’t file for one reason or another…”
  • Gov. Scott Walker to expand low-income tax credit he once cut, By Jason Stein and Patrick Marley, February 1, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Gov. Scott Walker is reversing course on a key tax credit for the working poor, proposing to raise incomes for more than 130,000 state families by returning the more than $20 million a year he cut from the program in 2011.  The Republican governor will unveil the proposal at the Wauwatosa Rotary Club Wednesday as part of a broader package in his budget bill that aims to strengthen families and marriage. The measure marks the changing priorities for Walker as he shifts from the budget cuts of his first term to his current goal of trying to draw Wisconsinites into the work force…”

State Medicaid Programs

  • Obamacare, Medicaid-expansion recipients in Ohio fear repeal, By Catherine Candisky, Alan Johnson and JoAnne Viviano, January 22, 2017, Columbus Dispatch: “Breast-cancer survivor Susan Halpern said she is terrified about losing her health-care coverage if the Trump administration follows through with its promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  Bankruptcy could be on the horizon, the Columbus woman said.  ‘I’m trying to figure out a way to survive and keep some kind of health insurance,’ said Halpern, 57, who owns a small social-media business.  Nearly 1 million Ohioans, and 20 million nationwide, are covered under the law’s expansion of Medicaid coverage and creation of an insurance exchange marketplace that offers federal subsidies to help many Americans pay premiums…”
  • Republican states look to customize Medicaid expansion, not eliminate it, By Christine Vestal, January 23, 2017, Stateline: “As candidates two years ago, the Republican governors of Kentucky and Arkansas swore they would do away with ‘Obamacare’ if elected. But a funny thing happened between the campaign trail and the governor’s mansion: Reality set in.  After promising to uproot Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin simply renamed his Democratic predecessor’s health care plan for low-income adults and proposed changes designed to help people find jobs and get off the rolls…”