Inequality and Poverty – Cross-National

How the U.S. compares on income inequality and poverty, By Elizabeth Shell, June 19, 2014, PBS Newshour: “There’s new data on income inequality out from the OECD Thursday, so we thought we’d take a look to see how the U.S. compares against the group’s 33 other countries — and its upcoming World Cup matches (more on that in a bit). When we look at income, the U.S. has had a wider gap — meaning less equal distribution of income — than the OECD average for at least the past 30 years. The data also shows that lower-income households across the OECD were hit harder by the financial crisis — the poor either lost more during the crisis or benefited less from the recovery than did their higher-income neighbors. While real household income hasn’t changed much (stagnated) across the 34 member countries, young adults have been hit the hardest since the financial crisis. . .”

Economic Recovery

U.S. economic recovery looks distant as growth stalls, By Binyamin Appelbaum, June 11, 2014, New York Times: “Recessions are always painful, but the Great Recession that ran from late 2007 to the middle of 2009 may have inflicted a new kind of pain: an era of slower growth. It has been five years since the official end of that severe economic downturn. The nation’s total annual output has moved substantially above the prerecession peak, but economic growth has averaged only about 2 percent a year, well below its historical average. Household incomes continue to stagnate, and millions of Americans still can’t find jobs. And a growing number of experts see evidence that the economy will never rebound completely. . .”

Extended Jobless Benefits

Extension of benefits for jobless is set to end, by Annie Lowrey, November 17, 2013, New York Times: “Unless Congress acts, during the last week of December an estimated 1.3 million people will lose access to an emergency program providing them with additional weeks of jobless benefits. A further 850,000 will be denied benefits in the first quarter of 2014. Congressional Democrats and the White House, pointing to the sluggish recovery and the still-high jobless rate, are pushing once again to extend the period covered by the unemployment insurance program. But with Congress still far from a budget deal and still struggling to find alternatives to the $1 trillion in long-term cuts known as sequestration, lawmakers say the chances of an extension before Congress adjourns in two weeks are slim…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Families feel the pangs of SNAP cuts, By Lolly Bowean, Juan Perez Jr. and Vikki Ortiz Healy, November 10, 2013, Chicago Tribune: “It wasn’t until years after Amy Jezler lost her job at the Salvation Army and her family lost their south suburban home to foreclosure that money got so tight she had to resort to signing up for food stamps. And even then, it was difficult to visit the Family Community Resource Center in Blue Island and ask for help, Jezler said. ‘I was always taught to do it on your own,’ the Park Forest resident said. ‘I was getting to the point where it was harder and harder. (I had) to make the decision: Do I pay bills this month, or do I eat?’ For a year and a half, Jezler has collected $193 a month from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to help feed her husband, who has been in and out of work, and her 10-year-old daughter, she said. But on Thursday, she learned her food stamp benefits had been slashed by $30…”
  • Should Oregon pay $1.5 million to put photos on food stamps, welfare cards? Lawmakers consider fraud reduction options, By Yuxing Zheng, November 14, 2013, The Oregonian: “It would cost Oregon at least $1.5 million in the first year and about $930,000 annually after that to put photographs of cardholders on the Oregon Trail cards used by food stamps and welfare recipients. That’s the estimate recently heard by lawmakers on an interim legislative work group considering methods of reducing public assistance fraud. A May audit from the Secretary of State’s office found that hundreds of Oregonians who were deceased, incarcerated, or won the lottery benefited from one of three public assistance programs intended for low-income individuals…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Cut in food stamps forces hard choices on poor, By Kim Severson and Winnie Hu, November 7, 2013, New York Times: “For many, a $10 or $20 cut in the monthly food budget would be absorbed with little notice. But for millions of poor Americans who rely on food stamps, reductions that began this month present awful choices. One gallon of milk for the kids instead of two. No fresh broccoli for dinner or snacks to take to school. Weeks of grits and margarine for breakfast. And for many, it will mean turning to a food pantry or a soup kitchen by the middle of the month…”
  • Deep cuts to food stamp program started Friday, By Devon Merling, November 7, 2013, Deseret News: “As of last Friday, Nov. 1, 48 million Americans who receive money to buy vouchers under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as ‘food stamps,’ will see a cut to their monthly benefits…”
  • Food stamp reductions: N.J. recipients finding it harder to feed families, By Jason Grant, November 5, 2013, Star-Ledger: “The lines are growing deeper across New Jersey at soup kitchens, some volunteers say, in the wake of recent cuts to the federal food stamp program. At grocery stores, such as the C-Town supermarket in Newark, anxious words are filling the air: The cuts that came down Friday — the result of a rollback to increased benefits under President Obama’s 2008 economic stimulus bill — are what many customers are talking about, a cashier says…”
  • Cuts to food stamps will mean increased demand at area food pantries, By Jamie Munks, November 6, 2013, Glens Falls Post-Star: “Cuts to the federal food stamp program that took effect Friday have caused anxiety among local people who receive the benefits and those who run food pantries. The cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, widely known as food stamps, began last week with the sunset of higher benefits that were part of the 2009 federal stimulus package meant to help Americans through the recession…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • As cuts to food stamps take effect, more trims to benefits are expected, By Catherine Rampell, October 31, 2013, New York Times: “Starting Friday, millions of Americans receiving food stamps will be required to get by with less government assistance every month, a move that not only will cost them money they use to feed their families but is expected to slightly dampen economic growth as well. Cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, popularly referred to as food stamps, reflect the lapse of a temporary increase created by the administration’s stimulus program in 2009…”
  • Food stamp cuts set to kick in Friday as Congress debates billions in further reductions, By Mary Clare Jalonick (AP), November 1, 2013, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune: “More than 47 million Americans who receive food stamps will see their benefits go down starting Friday, just as Congress has begun negotiations on further cuts to the program. Beginning in November, a temporary benefit from the 2009 economic stimulus that boosts food stamp dollars will no longer be available. According to the Agriculture Department, that means a family of four receiving food stamps will start receiving $36 less a month…”
  • Automatic cut in federal food stamps kicks in today, By Virginia Young, November 1, 2013, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “People living in poverty could find it harder to pay the grocery bill this month. An across-the-board 5.5 percent cut in food stamps takes effect today. Benefits are being scaled back because of the expiration of a temporary boost passed by Congress in 2009 to help people during the recession…”
  • How food stamp cuts affect your state, By Jake Grovum, November 1, 2013, Stateline: “The record number of Americans relying on federal aid to put food on the table will have to make do with less starting today, as a recession-era boost to food stamps officially expires. Benefits are being reduced by about 5 percent beginning Nov. 1 for all of the nearly 47.7 million Americans on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program…”

September 2013 US Unemployment Rate

  • U.S. gains 148,000 jobs; jobless rate, 7.2%, By Paul Davidson, October 22, 2013, USA Today: “Employers added a disappointing 148,000 jobs in September, extending a summer slowdown in payroll growth.The unemployment rate fell to 7.2% from 7.3%, the Labor Department said Tuesday.The closely-watched survey was scheduled to be released Oct. 4, but was delayed by the federal government shutdown.Economists’ consensus forecast had estimated that 180,000 jobs were added last month. Businesses added just 126,000 jobs, while federal, state and local governments added 22,000…”
  • Delayed Jobs Report Finds U.S. Adding Only 148,000 Jobs, By Catherine Rampell, October 22, 2013, New York Times: “American employers added 148,000 jobs in September, according to a delayed report released Tuesday by the Labor Department. The pace of growth was somewhat slower than what economists had been expecting. The unemployment rate ticked down to 7.2 percent from 7.3 percent the previous month. Federal Reserve officials and economists are closely watching the report for any signs of weakness. But the numbers may not offer the most current picture of the economy…”
  • Unemployment drops to 5-year low, but job growth disappoints, By Don Lee, October 22, 2013, Los Angeles Times: “The nation’s unemployment rate dropped to a five-year low of 7.2% in September, the government reported Tuesday, but employers continued to show reluctance in hiring as they added a moderate 148,000 jobs over the month. The Labor Department report, delayed 2 1/2 weeks because of the partial federal government shutdown, reflected an economy growing at a lackluster rate. The latest job gains matched the pace since the start of summer but came in below Wall Street’s forecast for an increase of about 175,000 jobs. The disappointing growth is likely to reinforce the hesitance of Federal Reserve officials to begin a withdrawal of its monetary stimulus program…”
  • September jobs report shows young people still losing out, By Margaret Price, October 22, 2013, Christian Science Monitor: “Six years after finishing college – with a degree in molecular and cellular biology – Sydney Gray works 18 hours a week as a cashier at a New Orleans farmers’ market. Other times, she volunteers there to get free food. “I can’t even get a job waiting tables,” says Ms. Gray, whose two previous part-time jobs ended when the employers folded. “When I apply for jobs, I’m competing against people with master’s degrees and PhDs.” Today’s job market is not only grueling for young people, it’s also perplexing. The unemployment rate for 20 to 24-year-olds fell slightly to 12.9 percent in September, nearly six percentage points higher than the national average of 7.2 percent and slightly higher than that figure was in September 2012 (12.4 percent)…”
  • U.S. hiring slows in September to 126,000 private-sector jobs, By John Schmid, October 22, 2013, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “In a sign that the U.S. economy might be losing steam, American employers in September chalked up the second-worst month of hiring of the year with only 126,000 new private-sector jobs. The inability of Washington’s politicians to resolve a budget debt and deficit issues, most recently manifested in a 16-day partial government shutdown, perpetuates a chronic economic uncertainty that leaves employers too cautious to hire aggressively, economists said in reaction to Thursday’s jobs data. “September job growth was positive but disappointing,” and decidedly slower than many expected, said John Heywood, economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Anxiety among families, providers as stimulus-funded increase in food stamps is set to expire, By Rik Stevens (AP), October 10, 2013, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “A temporary increase in food stamps expires Oct. 31, meaning for millions of Americans, the benefits that help put food on the table won’t stretch as far as they have for the past four years. Food stamps — actually the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — go to 47 million Americans a month, almost half of them children and teenagers…”
  • Food stamp funding dwindles as demand swells, By Anita Wadhwani, October 10, 2013, The Tennessean: “Just west of downtown Nashville, a few blocks to the north of a gourmet marshmallow store, craft distillery, coffee shop and art galleries in Marathon Village, a long line of mostly women and young kids waited on a hot afternoon to fill up cardboard boxes with fresh greens, fruits and canned goods. The food giveaway by nonprofit Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee came during the last week of the month — a few days after Kara Bellenger’s September food stamp allotment had run out. The 21-year-old mother is attending a community college program to become a crime scene investigator and said she hasn’t been able to find part-time work to support her 2-year-old son…”

SNAP and Work Requirements – Kansas

  • Change in Kansas food stamp rules could cut off 20,000 recipients, By Brad Cooper, September 4, 2013, Kansas City Star: “Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration announced steps Wednesday to nudge more people off public assistance to encourage them to find jobs. The Kansas Department for Children and Families said that beginning Oct. 1, an estimated 20,000 unemployed Kansas residents who receive food stamps will be forced to work at least 20 hours a week to keep the benefit…”
  • Kansas to require able-bodied adults with no children to work before getting food stamps, Associated Press, September 4, 2013, Washington Post: “A federal waiver that allowed about 20,000 unemployed Kansas residents to receive food assistance will be allowed to expire at the end of the month, state officials announced Wednesday, saying they wanted to encourage work over welfare dependency. The Kansas Department for Children and Families said able-bodied adults with no dependents would need to work no less than 20 hours per week to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as SNAP or food stamps…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Gridlock in Congress keeps food stamp funding higher in Oregon, By Jim Myers, September 1, 2013, The Oregonian: “Food stamp programs in Oregon and across the nation continue to be saved from billions of dollars in budget cuts and other major changes by an unlikely savior: Congressional gridlock. In a clear case of unintended consequences, the much-criticized trend in Congress to accomplish nothing of lasting significance entered its second year of no food stamp overhaul. Until Congress acts, states will receive the same level of benefits. That’s a big deal in Oregon, where one in five Oregonians benefit from the state’s program, which receives about $1.2 billion annually…”
  • As debate reopens, food stamp recipients continue to squeeze, By Sheryl Gay Stolberg, September 4, 2013, New York Times: “As a self-described ‘true Southern man’ — and reluctant recipient of food stamps — Dustin Rigsby, a struggling mechanic, hunts deer, dove and squirrel to help feed his family. He shops for grocery bargains, cooks budget-stretching stews and limits himself to one meal a day. Tarnisha Adams, who left her job skinning hogs at a slaughterhouse when she became ill with cancer, gets $352 a month in food stamps for herself and three college-age boys. She buys discount meat and canned vegetables, cheaper than fresh. Like Mr. Rigsby, she eats once a day — ‘if I eat,’ she said. When Congress officially returns to Washington next week, the diets of families like the Rigsbys and Adamses will be caught up in a debate over deficit reduction…”

Stimulus Spending and Assistance Programs – Ohio

Stimulus bolsters public assistance, By Russ Zimmer, February 18, 2012, Fremont News-Messenger: “Most stimulus spending in Ohio last year went to supplementing public assistance programs for the poor, according to a CentralOhio.com analysis of data gathered by investigative news nonprofit ProPublica. The $840 billion American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 turned 3 years old Friday and is, by all accounts, winding down. The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board has paid out all but $100 billion, a board spokeswoman said. About $16.8 billion has been injected into Ohio since the bill’s passage on Feb. 17, 2009, ProPublica reports. More than a quarter of it — $4.5 billion — has been directed toward helping the state cover its share of Medicaid bills and meeting the greater demand on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Last year, state government received at least $2.1 billion from stimulus-funded sources, according to Ohio Office of Budget and Management spokesman Dave Pagnard…”

US Homelessness Rate

  • Homelessness down but seen rising anew: report, By Ian Simpson, January 18, 2012, Orlando Sentinel: “U.S. homelessness slipped 1 percent from 2009 to 2011, but the sluggish economy left more poor people struggling to pay for housing and just a step away from shelters, an advocacy group said in a new study on Wednesday. The drop to 636,017 homeless people last year could prove short-lived, since it was likely due to $1.5 billion in federal aid that will run out this year, the National Alliance to End Homelessness said in its report…”
  • Stimulus money kept Americans off the street, study finds, By Matt Smith, January 18, 2012, CNN.com: “Federal aid helped many cash-strapped Americans keep a roof over their heads during the prolonged economic slump, but the number of people living a step away from the streets has grown sharply, researchers reported Wednesday. The estimated U.S. homeless population dipped about 1% between 2009 and 2011 despite the lingering effects of the 2007-2009 recession, the Washington-based Homelessness Research Institute concluded. About $1.5 billion from the 2009 economic stimulus measure went toward rental assistance and programs steering recently evicted people toward new housing, ‘and it seems likely that that has worked,’ said Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness…”

States and Medicaid Cuts

Many states cut Medicaid payments as stimulus ends, By Doug Trapp, November 16, 2011, San Antonio Express-News: “Fourteen states and the District of Columbia cut Medicaid physician pay for fiscal year 2011, down from 20 states in fiscal 2010. But continuing state budget deficits could lead to more new fee cuts than those already adopted for fiscal 2012, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The foundation’s 11th annual survey of state Medicaid programs concluded that continued Medicaid budget pressure on many states led them to expand cost-saving measures in 2011 and 2012. These moves included increasing enrollment in Medicaid managed care, reducing or ending optional benefits such as dental care, tightening prescription drug formularies, enacting or hiking co-payments and, most frequently, reducing Medicaid fees to doctors, according to the Kaiser report, released on Oct. 27…”

Weatherization Program – Indiana

Weatherization goal passed: 20,185 homes got improvements with stimulus funds, By Mary Beth Schneider, October 27, 2011, Indianapolis Star: “Indiana has surpassed its goal of weatherizing about 20,000 homes with federal stimulus dollars and hopes to deliver energy-saving improvements to as many as 3,000 others before the program ends in March. Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, standing outside an Eastside home outfitted with a new furnace, water heater and insulation, said Wednesday that the jump in projections is possible because of cost savings that have left some of the $131.8 million in federal funds available. The success marks a turnaround from the program’s slow start. In November 2009, when the first benchmarks were to be met, the state was to have completed work on 2,202 homes. Instead, only 403 were completed…”

COBRA Health Coverage

  • Federal subsidy for COBRA health coverage to expire, By Phil Galewitz, August 30, 2011, Miami Herald: “One of the key consumer benefits of the federal stimulus package – subsidies to help laid-off workers continue their health care coverage – draws to a close Wednesday, raising concerns about how the unemployed will cover those expenses. It’s a dilemma that Holly Jespersen knows firsthand. She lost her job twice in the past two years – both times losing her employer-paid health insurance. But the second time, she paid about $350 a month more for insurance than she had the first time because she didn’t qualify for the subsidy. ‘It made a huge difference for me,’ said Jespersen, 36, of Darien, Conn. ‘I wish I still had it.’ Jespersen was one of millions of laid-off workers to benefit from the federal subsidies for COBRA, a program set up under federal law that allows people who lose their jobs to keep the employer-provided insurance, typically for 18 months, if they pay the entire premium plus a small percentage for an administrative fee…”
  • No more coverage for the unemployed, By Tim Darragh, August 31, 2011, Allentown Morning Call: “Hospital emergency departments may see a continued increase in the number of uninsured people they treat, now that a federal stimulus-funded benefit that helped underwrite health care coverage for the unemployed ended Wednesday. Deficit-conscious members of Congress last year decided to let the subsidy expire, leaving unemployed people who had been getting COBRA coverage the option of paying for it in full, finding a short-term policy or going without health insurance. Enrollment in the program ended in May 2010, and subsidies expired Wednesday for most eligible individuals. There is little doubt that many, if not most, of those people will go uninsured, said Antoinette Kraus, project manager of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, a coalition of organizations working to expand health coverage for working people and the poor…”

Expansion of Jobless Benefits – Ohio

Ohio unlikely to get $176M for jobless benefits, By Andy Brownfield (AP), August 21, 2011, Dayton Daily News: “As Ohio faced Monday’s deadline to expand unemployment benefits and receive $176 million in federal stimulus money, state officials had not applied for the money and the General Assembly had not scheduled any sessions to take any action.  The federal government set aside $7 billion for unemployment compensation for states that broaden their unemployment programs. The provision is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. ‘The idea was to reward states who update laws to increase access to benefits,’ said Wayne Vroman, an unemployment compensation expert under contract with the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. But Gov. John Kasich says it makes no sense for the state to make long-term changes to a fiscally-damaged system for a one-time payment, spokesman Rob Nichols said. And the jobs department, which administers the state’s unemployment compensation system, is not seeking any changes, department spokesman Ben Johnson said…”

Weatherization Program – California

State’s slow start puts federal stimulus funds at risk, audit finds, By Kate Linthicum, July 12, 2011, Los Angeles Times: “California could lose tens of millions of dollars in job-creating federal stimulus money for home weatherization projects because the state and several local agencies – including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power – have failed to perform as promised, according to an audit released Monday. Two years ago, California was awarded nearly $186 million to help low-income homeowners make their houses more energy-efficient. But as of April 30, the state had spent $68 million, the audit found. California State Auditor Elaine Howle, whose office conducted the review, warned that California could be forced to forfeit more than $37 million early next year if it doesn’t quickly pick up the pace of distributing grants. Howle blamed a host of factors for California’s sluggish spending of the federal money, part of a $5-billion economic recovery allocation approved in 2009 to put people to work insulating attics, weather-sealing windows and making other energy-saving improvements on nearly 590,000 homes nationwide…”

Medicaid Cuts – California

Medi-Cal cuts sought as stimulus funds run out, By Victoria Colliver, June 30, 2011, San Francisco Chronicle: “Billions of federal stimulus dollars that boosted Medicaid programs for the past two years will run out Friday, while at the same time California is trying to get approval for a series of cuts to the health program for the poor. It could be a one-two punch for more than 7 million Californians enrolled in Medicaid, known here as Medi-Cal. California received about $12.4 billion of the $90 billion the Obama administration injected into Medicaid programs nationwide as a way to help ease the strain of unemployment and other impacts of the recession. The extra help meant the federal government matched California at 62 cents on the dollar instead of 50 cents. That ends Friday. As a result, Medi-Cal patients will pay more and receive fewer benefits…”

Extension of Jobless Benefits

  • Extra jobless aid is cut in Mass., By Kaivan Mangouri, June 21, 2011, Boston Globe: “Thousands of Massachusetts residents will lose jobless benefits beginning next month as the state’s steadily declining unemployment rate disqualifies it for the extra federal assistance provided earlier in the recession. Unemployed workers will lose seven weeks of benefits under the rules of a federal program that extends eligibility based on state unemployment rates. Residents in states with rates above 8 percent are eligible to collect 20 weeks of additional benefits under this program; once the three-month average is below 8 percent, residents are eligible for 13 weeks…”
  • Economists debate impact of Arizona’s unemployment-aid cut, By Ronald J. Hansen, June 21, 2011, Arizona Republic: “Arizona could be turning itself into an economic laboratory of sorts by declining to extend unemployment benefits for those out of work for months. Last week, the Legislature did not enact a technical change needed to accept federal cash that would extend unemployment checks from 79 to 99 weeks for at least 15,000 Arizonans. Some lawmakers argued that the extension of benefits, worth up to $240 weekly in Arizona, is a disincentive to find another job. Others disagree, noting that the scarcity of jobs means many people will struggle to find work regardless of whether they receive an unemployment check, and some argue that jobless aid has other positive economic effects. Arizona’s lack of extended aid helps put the theories to the test…”
  • Extension of aid to jobless goes unused, By Jason Stein, June 20, 2011, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “More than 10,000 out-of-work Wisconsin residents are no longer receiving an estimated $89 million in federally funded jobless benefits because state officials have not acted to renew them. The change to state law would not touch the state’s struggling unemployment insurance trust fund and would provide 13 more weeks of benefits to workers who have been without employment for roughly a year and a half. The change in state law, which has tepid support from Gov. Scott Walker, could come before a state advisory panel Thursday. However, the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council has done nothing, despite knowing about the issue for months. The Legislature could have gone ahead on its own. It did pass in the state budget a cost-saving proposal to stop paying workers the first week of unemployment insurance benefits – a difference to both the state and the workers of tens of millions of dollars a year. But with some Republicans and business leaders wary that benefits are actually a disincentive to work, there’s been no action. As a result, the extended benefits ran out on April 16…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – New Mexico

Martinez extends state’s food stamp aid, By Barry Massey (AP), June 6, 2011, Santa Fe New Mexican: “Republican Gov. Susana Martinez announced Monday she will extend a state program through September to supplement federal food-stamp benefits for about 4,000 low-income elderly and disabled New Mexicans. Martinez will use federal economic stimulus money to prevent a reduction of food-stamp benefits starting in July, when the program otherwise would have ended. The Legislature did not approve any money for the program in the upcoming fiscal year, which starts next month, although the Martinez administration had requested $650,000. The governor estimated it will cost $50,000 a month to continue the food-stamp assistance…”