Foster Care Programs – Florida, Minnesota

  • Florida child welfare system under-performing for foster kids, study finds, By Christopher O’Donnell, January 20, 2017, Tampa Bay Times: “A federal agency has given the Florida Department of Children and Families 90 days to come up with a plan to improve its care of foster kids after a study found the state is underperforming in critical areas…”
  • State pledges $400,000 to shrink number of Indian children in foster care, By Brandon Stahl, January 20, 2017, Star Tribune: “With the number of American Indian children in Minnesota foster care reaching ‘unacceptable’ levels, the state pledged Thursday to spend $400,000 over the next three years to reduce those numbers. The announcement comes after a two-part Star Tribune series last summer found that Minnesota has more American Indian children in foster care than any other state, including those with significantly larger Indian populations…”

Kids Count Report – Florida

  • Kids Count report: Many area children living in poverty, By Liz Freeman, January 8, 2017, News-Press: “Children in Southwest Florida are falling behind compared to the health and well-being of children around the state, a report released today shows. More children in Collier and Lee counties live in poverty and rely on food stamps, are uninsured and overweight, and have gone through maltreatment dispositions compared to their counterparts statewide, according to a Florida Kids Count report…”
  • Report highlights racial disparities among Jacksonville’s children in poverty, By Tessa Duvall, January 9, 2017, Florida Times-Union: “A report that looks at children’s quality of life in Florida paints a bleak economic picture for Duval County’s black children.  Florida Kids Count, released Monday, shows that black children represent a much larger percentage of poor children than their white and Hispanic peers…”

State Medicaid Programs

  • Tens of thousands of Ohioans could lose Medicaid coverage under fee proposal, By Catherine Candisky, April 7, 2016, Columbus Dispatch: “Gov. John Kasich’s administration projects tens of thousands of poor Ohioans will lose Medicaid coverage while taxpayers save nearly $1 billion under a plan to charge new fees for the government health coverage and impose penalties on those who miss payments.  The proposal, subject to federal approval, would require those being treated for breast and cervical cancer, teens coming out of foster care and other working-age, nondisabled adults on Medicaid to make monthly payments into a health-savings account to help cover their expenses beginning Jan. 1, 2018…”
  • Support for Medicaid copays plan is crumbling, By Kevin Litten, April 7, 2016, New Orleans Times-Picayune: “Legislative support appears to be crumbling for plans to charge Medicaid recipients copays for receiving health care services. Gov. John Bel Edwards threw his support behind copays after Republicans pushed for the measure as part of Medicaid expansion.  But two legislators interviewed Wednesday (April 6) said there are serious doubts about whether there is enough support to get the plan out of committee after health care providers began lobbying against the bill. The House Health and Welfare Committee is scheduled to hear Medicaid copay bills Thursday…”
  • Florida deal could finally improve healthcare for poor children, By Carol Marbin Miller, April 5, 2016, Miami Herald: “Florida health administrators have agreed to settle a long-simmering lawsuit that claims the state’s Medicaid insurance program for needy children is so poorly funded and managed that impoverished youngsters are consigned to a second-rate healthcare system where long waits for access and substandard care are the norm.  A federal court judge in Miami sided with needy children and their doctors in a 153-page ruling in December 2014, saying state lawmakers had so starved the Florida Medicaid program of funding that it was operating in violation of federal law…”

Foster Care – Florida, Ohio, New York City

  • Rate of kids coming into Florida’s foster care rising, By Margie Menzel, November 28, 2015, Orlando Sentinel: “More children are coming into Florida’s foster-care system after a sweeping child-welfare reform law went into effect 19 months ago, but officials say the state is trying to focus on what’s best for kids in difficult situations…”
  • Ohio House approves bill to extend foster-care eligibility to 21-year-olds, By Jim Siegel and Rita Price, December 1, 2015, Columbus Dispatch: “The Ohio House gave overwhelming support Tuesday to a bill designed to improve Ohio’s guardianship system and expand the age at which young Ohioans are eligible for foster care services.  But before House Bill 50 passed in an unusual process that included three committee votes, majority Republicans removed a bill of rights aimed at providing specific protections to 67,000 wards who are under court-appointed guardianship…”
  • New York City to stop sending older teens to foster-care intake center, By Mara Gay, December 1, 2015, Wall Street Journal: “New York City’s child-welfare agency plans to stop placing older youths in a single intake center on Manhattan’s East Side as they wait to be placed with foster families, and instead find temporary homes for them, city officials said…”

Unemployment Benefits – Florida

Florida’s unemployment benefits ‘virtually inaccessible,’ study finds, By Marcia Heroux Pounds, September 22, 2015, Sun Sentinel: “Fewer than one in eight unemployed workers in Florida receives jobless benefits, the result of a burdensome system that is “virtually inaccessible” for the average person out of work, a new report concludes. Florida, more than nearly any other state, has made it more difficult for laid-off workers to apply and qualify for unemployment benefits, the National Employment Law Project, an advocate for the unemployed, said in a report Tuesday…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

States watching Medicaid standoff between Florida, Obama, By Kelli Kennedy (AP), May 7, 2015, Miami Herald: “The Obama administration rebuffed Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to extend federal funds for hospitals that treat the uninsured, increasing the pressure on states that have refused to expand coverage for low-income people under the president’s health care law.  The decision means Florida’s already acrimonious state budget process will likely become tenser. The standoff also has implications for eight other states, including Texas, which draw billions of dollars from the same pool of hospital funds. And like Florida, several are also refusing to expand Medicaid coverage. Republican leaders in those states are adamant about not expecting any federal money tied to Obama’s Affordable Care Act…”

Miami Herald Series on Medicaid Coverage Gap

Life in Florida without Medicaid expansion, series homepage, Miami Herald: “For two years, Florida legislators have refused to expand Medicaid as envisioned under the Affordable Care Act. Their decision left an estimated 850,000 Floridians without healthcare insurance in the ‘coverage gap.’ Those caught in the gap earn too much to receive Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for subsidies to buy a plan through the federal marketplace. The Miami Herald looks at how these Floridians are coping and what other states are doing to close the gap…”

Income Gap – Florida

Income gap in Florida among highest in U.S., By Ledyard King, January 29, 2015, Florida Today: “Few states reflect the growing gap between the rich and not-so-rich as much as Florida, two studies released this week show. The wealthiest 1 percent of Floridians saw their incomes grow nearly 40 percent between 2009, when the Great Recession officially ended, and 2012, according to one analysis by the Economic Policy Institute. The analysis by the progressive Washington think tank showed that over the same period, other state residents saw their incomes decline an average 7.1 percent…”

Children’s Health Insurance Coverage

  • Children’s health program faces cloudy future under ACA, By Christine Vestal, December 4, 2014, Stateline: “The Children’s Health Insurance Program got a big boost under the Affordable Care Act, which called for an increase in federal funding for the program and required states to maintain 2010 enrollment levels through 2019. But in the waning days of the lame-duck Congress, it is still not clear when or whether funding for the federal-state, low-income children’s health plan known as CHIP will be authorized beyond Sept. 30, when it is set to expire…”
  • Reports: Fewer uninsured children in Florida, but challenges ahead for public program, By Daniel Chang, December 4, 2014, Miami Herald: “In Florida, as in the rest of the nation, the number of children without healthcare coverage has declined during the last five years — but the Sunshine State still has one of the country’s highest rates of uninsured children, a challenge that could be met or missed depending on policy decisions on the state and federal levels, according to a brief published this week by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. While the number of uninsured children aged 18 and younger in the state has decreased from about 668,000 in 2008 to 445,000 in 2013, according to the report, Florida has the highest rate in the South and fifth highest in the nation…”

Drug Testing and Public Assistance Programs

  • Kansas is testing few welfare recipients for drugs, By Brad Cooper, December 1, 2014, Kansas City Star: “Drug-testing welfare applicants often gets the knock that it costs so much and catches so few. In Kansas, drug testing catches so few because it’s testing so few. After its first four months, a new Kansas law for testing welfare applicants for drugs is off to a sluggish start, only testing 20 applicants. Four tested positive. Five others refused the test. The law, passed by the Legislature in 2013, took effect July 1. It was billed as a way of weaning the less affluent off drugs, getting them treatment and job training and helping them out of poverty…”
  • Court rejects Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s drug testing of welfare applicants, By Mary Ellen Klas, December 3, 2014, Miami Herald: “A federal appeals court on Wednesday dealt another blow to Gov. Rick Scott’s crusade to conduct drug tests on welfare applicants when it upheld a lower court ruling that the practice was unconstitutional. The unanimous ruling from a bipartisan panel of judges concluded that the state failed to show any evidence as to why it was necessary to force applicants seeking Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to surrender their constitutional rights as a condition of receiving the aid…”
  • Welfare drug testing pilot program approved by Michigan House, By Jonathan Oosting, December 3, 2014, MLive: “The Michigan House on Wednesday approved a long-discussed pilot program that would mandate suspicion-based drug testing for welfare recipients, who could lose cash benefits for failing more than one test. The two-bill package, approved by the Senate in an earlier form but now awaiting final concurrence, would require the Michigan Department of Human Services to launch a one-year pilot program in at least three counties beginning by October 2015…”

Working Households and Basic Needs – Florida

United Way study finds working families struggling to get by, By Jenny Staletovich, November 11, 2014, Miami Herald: “Almost half the residents of Florida, including much of the state’s glitzy southern half, are barely getting by, living below the federal poverty level or struggling to pay for food, housing, childcare and other basic needs, according to a United Way study released Tuesday. Dubbed the ALICE report, the study looks closely at the working poor — those people squeezed between the nation’s poorest and its middle class, often overlooked and living paycheck-to-paycheck. Statewide, about 2.1 million households fall into the category, the report found. In Miami-Dade County, the rate is even higher: 21 percent of households live below the federal poverty level and an additional 29 percent can’t afford a ‘survival budget…'”

Students and Internet Access

With no Internet at home, Miami-Dade kids crowd libraries for online homework, By Douglas Hanks, October 12, 2014, Miami Herald: “Once again, Christina Morua found herself in the South Dade library longer than she would like on a school night. The 28-year-old single mom sat in the bustling children’s section on a recent Thursday, waiting for her fourth-grader to get on a computer and start some online math homework. ‘We don’t have any Internet at home,’ Morua said as her oldest, 11-year-old Abel, clicked through an assignment on a library laptop while Alina, 9, waited for her turn at a desktop. ‘We just reserved a computer. We have to wait 70 minutes. He got one of the last laptops.’ With more school materials heading online, parents like Morua find they can no longer count on home for homework. That leaves Miami-Dade libraries as a crucial venue for their youngest patrons, but funding challenges, reduced hours on school nights and aging equipment have made it harder to meet the demand…”

Medicaid Expansion for Children – Texas, Florida

Texas and Florida did expand Medicaid — for kids, By Phil Galewitz, September 29, 2014, USA Today: “Republican lawmakers in Florida and Texas snubbed the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion for adults, but their states did broaden the program this year — for school-age children. Those states were among 21 — including some big Democrat-led states, such as California — that were required to widen Medicaid eligibility for children between the ages of 6 and 18 by 2014. That little-known provision of the health law was one factor helping 1.5 million kids gain coverage in the state-federal health insurance program for the poor, according to a survey of a dozen states by Kaiser Health News…”

Child Welfare System – Florida

Florida Senate moves forward with massive rewrite of child welfare laws, By Mary Ellen Klas and Carol Marbin Miller, Miami Herald: “A key Senate committee approved a sweeping overhaul of Florida’s child welfare law Wednesday, the first step toward passage of a series of reforms designed to stanch the deaths of children at the hands of their parents or other caregivers. The proposal, an amendment to SB 1666 approved by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, is the most significant revamp of the state’s child welfare system in at least a decade. It aims to increase the quality and quantity of child protection investigators and strengthen the ability of the state to remove a vulnerable child from an unsafe home after the parents have demonstrated a pattern of neglect or abuse…”

Miami Herald Series on Florida Child Welfare System

Innocents Lost: a Miami Herald I-Team investigation, series homepage, March 2014, Miami Herald: “After Florida cut protections for children from troubled homes, more children died, often in cruel and preventable ways. To understand the magnitude of the problem — and possible solutions — the Herald studied every death over a six-year period involving families with child welfare histories. This series is the result of a year’s worth of reporting by the Herald’s Investigation Team, and multiple lawsuits to obtain state death records…”

State Unemployment Systems – Florida, Massachusetts

  • Unemployment without benefits, By Matt Dixon, February 17, 2014, Florida Times-Union: “When lawmakers passed a $63 million ‘modernization’ of the state’s unemployment compensation system in 2011, proponents promised it would ‘improve the claims, benefits and appeals process.’ So far, the opposite has been true. Instead of streamlining the system, the changes have created a technological mess that has blocked or delayed badly needed benefits to more than 100,000 Floridians who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. The modernization project, dubbed ‘Project CONNECT,’ was passed along partisan lines, with Democrats and some legal groups in opposition. So far, many of their fears have been realized, according to a Times-Union investigation…”
  • Jobless aid still eluding some in Mass., By Megan Woolhouse, February 18, 2014, Boston Globe: “Devastated by the layoff last year from her job of 15 years, Heidi Thompson-Totman found new hope when she was approved for a federally funded program that would provide her with up to about a year of unemployment benefits while she retrained to work as a graphic designer. Borrowing $2,000 to cover tuition and enrolling at North Shore Community College last fall, Thompson-Totman looked forward to completing her associate’s degree and getting back to work — until her weekly benefit of about $300 stopped without explanation two months ago. Now, she and her husband, barely getting by, are planning to sell their Boxford home so they can pay college tuition for their two children. ‘We are going downhill fast,’ said Thompson-Totman, 47. ‘We can’t make our bills.’ Thompson-Totman is among many jobless Massachusetts residents enrolled in or approved for retraining programs who had benefits mistakenly cut off or delayed because of another defect in the new $46 million computer system for managing unemployment claims…”

Recession and Poverty

  • After recession, economic gap widens, By Michael Pollick, September 29, 2013, Sarasota Herald-Tribune: “For Realtors selling million-dollar homes and wealth managers who control seven-figure nest eggs in Southwest Florida, the recession that began in 2007 was more of a bother than a crisis. Navigating the Great Recession, at least for the uber-rich and those who make handsome livings catering to them, provided as many opportunities as problems…”
  • Great Recession won’t recede for many, By Michael Pollick, September 29, 2013, Sarasota Herald-Tribune: “When Joel Sugar moved to Sarasota from Illinois in 2006, Southwest Florida’s economy was humming along at an unprecedented pace. Housing prices were skyrocketing, jobs were plentiful, opportunities seemed endless. For Sugar and countless others, those days seem like a lifetime ago. ‘I honestly cannot believe how much our standard of living has dropped, and how we have accepted it,’ said Sugar, who in better times owned a jewelry store in Joliet, Ill…”
  • In urban North Carolina, deep pockets of misery are masked, By Gene Nichol, September 29, 2013, News and Observer: “It’s common to think of North Carolina poverty on a rural-urban axis. We’ve become a state, the narrative goes, of booming, economically vibrant metropolitan centers accompanied by in many instances struggling, chronically poor rural communities. The traditional portrait is accurate, so far as it goes. Per capita income is markedly higher in urban counties. Poverty and unemployment rates, on average, are elevated in rural ones. Our policy framework, understandably, reflects the divide…”

States and the Affordable Care Act

  • As healthcare law rolls out, its effects will depend on your state, By Noam N. Levey, September 6, 2013, Los Angeles Times: “Colorado residents shopping for health insurance next year will be able to compare health plans using a star system that ranks insurance companies on quality. In Oregon and Maryland, consumers will save as much as 30% on some plans after state regulators forced insurers to lower 2014 premiums. Californians will get extra help selecting a health plan next year from a small army of community workers paid in part by foundations and the state. As President Obama’s healthcare law rolls out next month, even supporters acknowledge there will be problems. But Americans who live in states backing the Affordable Care Act will receive substantial protections and assistance unavailable to residents in states still fighting the 2010 law…”
  • Law will shift demographics for Medicaid toward healthier group, study finds, By Ankita Rao, September 9, 2013, Washington Post: “The health law is expected to change the face of Medicaid – literally. As part of the federal overhaul, some states have opted to expand in January this state-federal health insurance program for low income people to include Americans who earn as much as 138 percent of the federal poverty line (just under $16,000 for an individual in 2013). As a result, the new enrollees will include more white, male and healthy individuals than those eligible before the Affordable Care Act expansion, according to a study in the Annals of Family Medicine…”
  • Corbett weighing Medicaid expansion if tied to changes, By Don Sapatkin, September 11, 2013, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Gov. Corbett is considering an expansion of Medicaid to cover hundreds of thousands of uninsured residents if he can also win significant changes to the existing part of the entitlement program, which otherwise would continue in its current form. Linking the two issues – a Medicaid expansion envisioned by the Affordable Care Act and money-saving changes in a program that he considers unsustainable – could achieve goals sought by liberals and conservatives. But it will require a delicate balancing act with both parties in Harrisburg as well as the Obama administration…”
  • Lack of Medicaid expansion puts some Floridians in new donut hole, By Marni Jameson, September 13, 2013, Orlando Sentinel: “Nearly 1 million Floridians will fall through a large donut hole next month when the health insurance exchange — a key element in the Affordable Care Act — opens. The unintended coverage gap in the new health-care law will put a large group of uninsured residents right in the middle — not earning enough to qualify for tax credits available through the exchange, but earning too much to qualify for Medicaid…”

Youth Homelessness – Florida

Miami-Dade volunteers survey kids on the street, By Elinor J. Brecher, August 29, 2013, Miami Herald: “Armed with some disquieting statistics about why kids end up on the streets, about 100 volunteers fanned out across Miami-Dade County on Thursday for a headcount of homeless 13 to 24-year-olds. Called ‘iCount,’ the Housing Survey for Youth Under 25 was a joint effort of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust and the Miami Coalition for the Homeless, with support from organizations that deal with at-risk youth, including the Miami-Dade school system’s Homeless Education Program, Miami Bridge, Pridelines, The Alliance for GLBTQ Youth, Our Kids, Switchboard of Miami and Educate Tomorrow…”