SNAP/Food Stamps

  • Feds: Georgia can’t tie food stamps to drug tests: By Craig Schneider, June 3, 2014, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Georgia cannot implement a new law requiring drug tests for some food stamp applicants and recipients, federal officials told the state Tuesday. The law, passed by the Legislature in March and signed by Gov. Nathan Deal, would require testing in cases where state workers have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is using drugs. It is scheduled to go into effect on July 1. But U.S. Department of Agriculture policy “prohibits states from mandating drug testing of (food stamp) applicants and recipients,” according to a letter . . .”
  • Economic upswing has fewer Americans receiving food stamps, By Pam Fessler, May 29, 2014, NPR: “Critics of the food stamp program have been alarmed in recent years by its rapid growth. Last year, about 1 in 7 people in the U.S. received food stamps, or SNAP benefits, as they’re called. That’s almost 48 million people, a record high. But the numbers have started to drop. In February, the last month for which figures were available, 1.6 million fewer people received food stamps than at the peak in December 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the program. ‘It’s really showing that the program is doing what it’s designed to do,’ says Dorothy Rosenbaum, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank . . .”
  • Can food stamps help improve diets, fight obesity and save money? By Melissa Healy, June 3, 2014, Los Angeles Times: “Prohibiting the use of federal food stamps to purchase sugar-sweetened beverages and subsidizing the purchase of fruits and vegetables with the coupons would improve nutrition, foster weight loss and drive down rates of Type 2 diabetes among the program’s 47.6 million recipients, according to a new study. In so doing, the $79.8-billion Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) might also reap taxpayers untold future savings for the federally funded care of diabetes and other obesity-related ills among Medicaid recipients . . .”

Charter Schools and Impoverished Students – Atlanta, GA

Data show relatively fewer students in poverty served by charter schools, By Ty Tagami, November 3, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Charter schools educate a smaller proportion of metro Atlanta’s impoverished students than the public school systems in which those charters are located, a new analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows. It’s widely accepted among education researchers that academic outcomes are linked to demographics: Schools with more students from low-income households tend to perform poorly compared to schools with more well-off students. One solution, some argue, is charter schools — independent public schools that operate free of some state restrictions as long as they meet performance goals. Proponents tout them as a superior alternative to traditional public schools, especially for children from low-income families stuck in failing schools and unable to afford private school tuition…”

Medicaid Expansion – Georgia, Iowa

  • Deal rejects expansion of Medicaid, By Daniel Malloy, August 28, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday that he will not expand the Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act – which would have provided an estimated 650,000 low-income Georgians with health coverage – because it would be too expensive. Deal had said that he would wait until after the presidential election to decide, but during an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11 Alive and Politico at the Republican National Convention, Deal was firm that he will not take federal money to expand the state-based health insurance program for the poor in 2014…”
  • Hospitals urge state to expand Medicaid, By Tony Leys, August 28, 2012, Des Moines Register: “Iowa hospital executives want the state to accept hundreds of millions of dollars in extra federal Medicaid money under the national health reform program. Gov. Terry Branstad plans to decline the money, which would expand Medicaid to cover about 150,000 poor Iowa adults. Branstad is skeptical that the federal government can afford to keep its promise to pay at least 90 percent of the cost. The Iowa Hospital Association board recently voted unanimously to support expansion of Medicaid, which it termed a ‘historic opportunity to significantly address the plight of uninsured Iowans.’ Association members plan to aggressively lobby legislators on the subject…”

High School Graduation Rate – Georgia

Georgia failed to count thousands of high school dropouts, By Nancy Badertscher and Kelly Guckian, August 19, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Georgia’s dropout problem is twice as bad as school officials previously calculated, an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows. Using data for the Class of 2011, obtained through an open records request, the AJC found that 30,751 students left high school without a diploma, nearly double the 15,590 initially reported. The discrepancy came to light because this year the federal government made all states use a new, more rigorous method to calculate graduation rates. Under the new formula, the state’s graduation rate plunged from 80.9 percent to 67.4 percent, one of the nation’s lowest. Part of the reason for the decline is that the new formula defines a graduate as someone who earns a diploma in four years, though thousands of students take five years or longer. But the AJC’s analysis shows – for the first time – how much of the discrepancy stemmed from a failure to accurately measure how many students drop out…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • Medicaid: Flood of funds awaits OK in Georgia, By Carrie Teegardin and Misty Williams, August 12, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Gov. Nathan Deal is facing a $40 billion dilemma. The federal health care law would inject that gigantic sum into Georgia’s health care economy over 10 years by adding more than 650,000 low-income Georgians to the Medicaid program. Deal, a strong opponent of the law, is wary of the proposition. The state projects that Georgia’s share of the law’s $40 billion cost for a fully expanded Medicaid program would reach $4.5 billion over a decade, a sum the governor fears would break a state budget already stretched by health costs. From a political perspective, Deal could safely turn down the expansion since the law is wildly unpopular among Republicans. In fact, Republican governors in at least five states have already announced they will do just that…”
  • Medicaid: Projection at issue, By Carrie Teegardin, August 12, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Budget gurus and health officials in every state are trying to project the costs and benefits of the Affordable Care Act. Georgia is no exception. As state officials try to decide whether Georgia will agree to expand its Medicaid program, putting a price tag on that decision has been the first order of business. Some experts who have reviewed the numbers say the state’s projections may overstate the likely costs. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reviewed the details of the state’s latest projections, obtained through the Georgia Open Records Act…”
  • Medicaid: Block grants preferred by some states, By Misty Williams, August 12, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “While five Republican governors have flatly refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, another five have said there’s one way the expansion could work. Those governors want ‘block grants,’ which limit the amount of federal dollars states get to one lump sum but have fewer rules on how it must be spent. Officials are then free to figure out what works best in their states. Under the current system, federal funding is open ended – increasing if enrollment or health care costs go up – but comes with a lot more instructions…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • House Democrats fall short in efforts to block food stamp cuts as lawmakers write farm bill, Associated Press, July 11, 2012, Washington Post: “Democrats fell short in efforts Wednesday to block cuts to the food stamp program as the House Agriculture Committee moved ahead on a half-trillion-dollar bill to fund farm and nutrition programs over the next five years. The program that helps feed 46 million people at a cost of near $80 billion a year was the dominant issue as committee members tried to advance one of the larger and more expensive bills that Congress is taking up this year. Democrats insisted that any cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would result in people going hungry. Republicans said they were merely trying to bring efficiency to a program to ensure that anyone who is qualified for food benefits will receive them…”
  • Number of Georgians on food stamps balloons, By Daniel Malloy and Katie Leslie, July 7, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Nearly one in five Georgians now gets federal assistance to put dinner on the table. As Congress debates the future of the food stamp program, with Republicans looking to cut it back, the number of recipients in Georgia has ballooned to 1.9 million as of April, or nearly 20 percent of the population. The state’s 0.4 percent increase from March was the seventh largest growth rate in the country, making Georgia one of 13 states where the number of beneficiaries rose, according to data compiled by the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center…”

Foster Care System – Atlanta

Atlanta foster care system improves adoption rates, By Paige Cornwell, June 16, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The metropolitan Atlanta foster care system continues to improve its adoption rate and is maintaining strong oversight over its foster homes, but still falls short in several key areas, according to a monitoring report released Friday. Of the children ready for adoption during the latter half of 2010, 84 percent were adopted within 12 months, according to the report by federally appointed monitors of child welfare systems, which covers the last six months of 2011. An additional 11 percent of adoptions were finalized within 13-17 months. This is the state’s best performance to date and the first time it surpassed the 80 percent performance threshold, the report notes. . .”

Medicaid Reform – Georgia

  • Reshaping Medicaid care to affect many, By Carrie Teegardin and Misty Williams, June 3, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Georgia is reshaping its Medicaid program, a complex lifeline for 1.7 million vulnerable people that consumes $21 million in state and federal dollars every single day. The state is widely expected to announce a plan this summer that would dramatically expand the use of for-profit insurance companies in a new approach to managing Medicaid. The hope: that the companies would help hold down burgeoning Medicaid costs by emphasizing prevention and better tracking and coordinating care. That should mean fewer poor, disabled and elderly Georgians end up in emergency rooms, that more psychiatric patients remain stable and that doctors share test results instead of ordering duplicates that taxpayers wind up funding…”
  • Medicaid more than medical aid, By Misty Williams and Carrie Teegardin, June 4, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “People like Francel Kendrick once spent most of their lives locked inside state hospitals. Today, because of Georgia’s Medicaid program, Kendrick and thousands of disabled people like him can hold down a job and ride a city bus to their own homes after work. Medicaid isn’t just a health plan for low-income people. These days, it’s a job training program, relief for a mom with an autistic son and crisis teams to help someone with schizophrenia live a stable life in the community. State health officials who are redesigning the state’s $7.8 billion Medicaid program face an especially tricky task in dealing with recipients who rely on this broad spectrum of services. They are Georgians with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses, as well as foster children and people with disabling physical conditions that keep them in bed or in wheelchairs…”

Voter Registration at Public Assistance Agencies – Georgia

Georgia settles voter registration suit, By Bill Rankin, April 19, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The state of Georgia has settled a lawsuit by agreeing to provide the opportunity to register to vote every time people apply for public assistance benefits, a coalition of civil rights groups said Thursday. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who signed off on the agreement, condemned the litigation. He said the settlement will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to comply with ‘outdated and unneeded federal voter registration mandates and in attorneys fees paid to venue-shopping interest groups.’ The lawsuit alleged the state had been ignoring its obligations under the National Voter Registration Act…”

Drug Testing and Assistance Programs

  • No savings are found from welfare drug tests, By Lizette Alvarez, April 17, 2012, New York Times: “Ushered in amid promises that it would save taxpayers money and deter drug users, a Florida law requiring drug tests for people who seek welfare benefits resulted in no direct savings, snared few drug users and had no effect on the number of applications, according to recently released state data. ‘Many states are considering following Florida’s example, and the new data from the state shows they shouldn’t,’ said Derek Newton, communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which sued the state last year to stop the testing and recently obtained the documents. ‘Not only is it unconstitutional and an invasion of privacy, but it doesn’t save money, as was proposed…’”
  • Deal OKs welfare drug tests; lawsuit likely, By Kristina Torres, April 16, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Gov. Nathan Deal backed Georgia’s proposal to drug-test parents who seek welfare, pushing the state towards a legal confrontation with opponents over the new law’s fairness. Deal signed House Bill 861 on Monday without ceremony. The bill will likely be challenged in court. The Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights affirmed it was preparing a lawsuit as the state moved ahead with the mandate. The American Civil Liberties Union has also had issues with the bill, which was among several approved by Deal during the day…”
  • Lawmakers continue talks on plan to drug test welfare recipients, By Tony Gonzalez, April 18, 2012, The Tennessean: “With the 2012 legislative session winding down, lawmakers on Wednesday scrambled to tune up a proposal requiring drug testing of welfare applicants so it doesn’t run afoul of the Constitution. Members of the Senate Finance Committee wanted to know whether all recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds would be required to take drug tests…”

States and Extended Jobless Benefits

  • Growing economy weakens federal jobless benefits for Idaho, other states, By Jessie L. Bonner (AP), April 9, 2012, Idaho Statesman: “The state Department of Labor says long-term unemployment benefits in Idaho will be gone after Dec. 31, though some people will be cut off sooner depending on when they started receiving the federal assistance. Regular benefits last up to 26 weeks and are paid by the state, but two long-term programs that are funded by the U.S. government are triggered on and off by Idaho’s jobless numbers. Labor spokesman Bob Fick says the first program, known as emergency unemployment compensation, will shrink from 53 weeks of benefits to 13 weeks. The second program, known as extended benefits, currently pays up to 20 weeks but will be completely eliminated..”
  • Unemployment down, triggers benefit cuts, By Christopher Quinn, April 9, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Georgia’s dropping unemployment rate has triggered a cut in federal unemployment benefits. About 15,000 people will lose a final 20 weeks of extended unemployment benefits April 21. Those losing their unemployment insurance payments this month have been without jobs the longest. They are drawing checks from the last of six layers of state unemployment and federal extensions that can stretch to nearly two years…”
  • Nearly 8,000 Wisconsinites to lose extended jobless benefits, By John Schmid, April 5, 2012, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Wisconsin will discontinue long-term unemployment insurance benefits to 7,761 state residents Saturday because the state’s unemployment rate has dropped below a threshold that automatically phases out a federal program that pays for the benefits. At issue are an additional 13 weeks of extended benefits that augment other existing tiers of federally funded unemployment insurance…”

Incarceration for Child Support Debt – Georgia

Judge allows thousands to join child support lawsuit, By Bill Rankin, January 3, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Thousands of parents facing possible jail time for failing to pay child support can join a lawsuit that says lawyers should be appointed to represent them if unable to afford counsel, a judge has ruled. In a Dec. 30 order, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter granted class-action status to a suit filed last year against the state by five parents who had been jailed for child-support debt. Georgia is one of the few states nationwide that does not provide lawyers for indigent parents facing civil contempt in child-support proceedings. The state already struggles, because of budget shortfalls, to provide lawyers to indigent people charged with criminal offenses. The lawsuit contends Georgia is creating modern-day debtor’s prisons for those jailed when they have no ability to pay because they have lost jobs or are disabled and unable to find work…”

Food Banks and SNAP – Georgia

Deluged nonprofits help needy get food stamps, By April Hunt, January 3, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Teresa Ashe took a break from looking for work on a recent rainy morning to fill out the necessary paperwork that would get her a week’s worth of food. But the laid-off housekeeper didn’t rush home to tuck into the offerings of tinned stew or boxes of mac and cheese from the Christian Aid Mission Partnership, or CAMP, food pantry in Austell. She waited in the office so she could meet with an expert to help her apply online for food stamps. If approved, she will be eating more fresh vegetables and meat for her new year job hunt. ‘I don’t know what’s going to come next,’ said Ashe, whose unemployment benefits ran out the week before Christmas. ‘It’s going to be thin until I can find a job. I can use the help.’ Ashe is hardly alone. Faced with a record number of hungry Georgians, food-bank operators and state officials have teamed up to find more potential recipients of the food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program…”

Joblessness and Unemployment

  • Unemployment rates fell in two-thirds of US cities last month, despite slowdown in hiring, Associated Press, September 28, 2011, Washington Post: “Unemployment rates fell in roughly two-thirds of U.S. cities last month, despite zero job growth nationwide. The Labor Department said Wednesday that unemployment rates dropped in 237 of the nation’s largest metro areas in August from July. They rose in 103 and stayed the same in 32. That’s an improvement from July, when rates fell in 193 areas and rose in 118. Some areas with large agricultural sectors added jobs to coincide with the start of the harvest. Auto companies boosted hiring in several other cities…”
  • Georgia could cut jobless benefits to repay feds, By Dan Chapman, September 27, 2011, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Georgia borrowed $721 million from Washington to help the unemployed survive the lousy economy and now, as the bills come due, it may repay the debt by cutting back on jobless benefits. The state Labor Department will send a $21.4 million check to Washington this week, the first payment on debt run up since late 2009. Labor Commissioner Mark Butler is weighing a slew of repayment options, but strongly hinted he favors cutting benefits — both the weekly amount and the number of weeks of eligibility…”

State Medicaid Programs – Georgia, Utah

  • State proposes increases in Medicaid co-pays, By Misty Williams, July 14, 2011, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Children could be among the hardest hit by proposed increases in co-pays for Medicaid enrollees and the creation of co-pays for families in the state’s PeachCare for Kids health care program starting this fall. A plan to double existing co-pays for inpatient hospital services to $25 is also among the changes proposed by the Georgia Department of Community Health that would save the state an estimated $4.2 million. Co-pays for prescription drugs, vision care and other services would also climb under the plan outlined at a department board meeting Thursday. Children ages 6 and older enrolled in PeachCare would be the most dramatically affected by the changes, which would take effect Sept. 1, since those families don’t currently have co-pays, said Jerry Dubberly, the state’s Medicaid division chief. PeachCare provides health care to more than 200,000 children through age 18 who don’t qualify for Medicaid and have family incomes up to 235 percent of the federal poverty level…”
  • Fewer Utah doctors to treat Medicaid patients, By Kirsten Stewart, July 10, 2011, Salt Lake Tribune: “When people ask family practitioner Ray Ward if he does charity care, he likes to joke, ‘Yes, I take Medicaid.’ It means making less money, but the Bountiful doctor does it out of a sense of duty. ‘I still come out OK at the end of the year,’ he says. ‘So far, I haven’t had to turn anyone away. I still accept [Medicaid] patients.’ Physicians like Ward, however, are in increasingly short supply. In Utah the number of doctors who accept Medicaid has shrunk 25 percent in 11 years. This year, 3,166 doctors are certified to bill the low-income health program, down from 4,210 in 2000. That’s just over half of the state’s 5,844 practicing physicians. Meanwhile, Medicaid enrollment, now at about 244,470, is swelling with no immediate end in sight…”

State Job Training Programs

  • Georgia Work$ expands, By Christine Vestal, September 20, 2010, Stateline.org: “When Augusta Roosa lost her accounting job at a restaurant on Jekyll Island, Georgia, she figured it would be just a matter of time before she landed another job in her line of work. But after six months of looking, she decided to go for a long shot. ‘I knew the back of the restaurant so I figured ‘why not learn the front?” says 29-year-old Roosa. The trick was getting a local restaurant owner to give her a chance to prove she could learn everything she needed to know on the job. That’s where a nationally recognized program called Georgia Work$ came in. Started in 2003, it allows jobless workers to become trainees for selected businesses at no cost to the employers. Starting today (Sept. 20), Georgia is more than doubling the number of people who can benefit from the program by opening it up to anyone without a job, not just those collecting unemployment checks, as originally designed…”
  • Utah incentive helps put people ‘Back to Work’, By Mike Gorrell, September 20, 2010, Salt Lake Tribune: “Javier Mendez married Marquita Luker on Aug. 18, so it was not a good time for him to be out of work. But he was, laid off a couple of months earlier from a gritty job removing asbestos from older buildings. So the 32-year-old Taylorsville man was eager to take advantage of a new Utah Department of Workforce Services program that offers companies an incentive – worth up to $2,000 – to hire people receiving unemployment insurance benefits. ‘That’s like a gimme,’ Mendez said last week while working among a crisscrossing grid of pipes running in and out of a chiller unit at the $20.5 million JL Sorenson Recreation Center being built in Herriman by Layton Construction. His new company, Thermal West, is one of the first to participate in the state agency’s ‘Back to Work’ program, which began in July. The department has received enough federal funding through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program to find work for up to 2,500 recipients of unemployment insurance benefits and 700 out-of-work youth. How? By offering companies the $2,000 subsidy if they hire someone off the active unemployment rolls and put them to work for three months, at a guaranteed minimum wage of $9 an hour…”

Costs of Chronic Homelessness

The high cost of our homeless, By Jenel Few, August 22, 2010, Savannah Morning News: “For the past 12 years, Samuel Wayne Anderson has spent most nights in a shelter, a cheap motel, a makeshift campsite or a cell at the Chatham County jail. The 72-year-old veteran with a long, white beard and penchant for liquor spends most of his days hanging out in downtown Savannah. He’s a regular at the Inner City Night Shelter and the free health clinics downtown. Many know him as the man who totes an open 32-ounce bottle of King Cobra, asks tourists for change and makes it hard for them to enjoy the scenic squares in the Historic District. Anderson is chronically homeless. He has family in Ellabell that love him. His son Stephen Anderson is currently serving with the military in Iraq. But for whatever reason, the old man’s preference for alcohol and a solitary life has drawn him to the street for most of his adult life…”

Recession and Rural Hospitals – Georgia

Rural hospitals face challenges across the state, By Charles Oliver, August 22, 2010, Dalton Daily Citizen: “The economic downturn, cuts in state and federal health care programs, and attempts by private businesses to rein in their own health care costs have combined to create a ‘perfect storm’ that threatens small rural hospitals across the state, according to Jimmy Lewis, CEO of HomeTown Health, which represents 55 rural hospitals in Georgia including Murray Medical Center. ‘We could wake up tomorrow and have 10 hospitals about to close,’ said Lewis. Forty-one Georgia hospitals have closed since 1980, according to the Georgia Hospital Association, many of them small rural hospitals. The problem that rural hospitals face is that their ‘payer mix’ is typically heavy in patients on Medicare and Medicaid and those without insurance…”

Child Care Subsidies – Georgia

  • Operators: State subsidy drives families into low-quality day care, By S. Heather Duncan, August 23, 2010, Macon Telegraph: “Day care providers say the state of Georgia is depressing the day care market and leaving poor families with no choice but to attend the worst day cares. The state pays most of the cost of day care for eligible low-income families by directly reimbursing the day care provider. The state sets that reimbursement payment based on geography and a study of day care rates in the local market. Federal rules require that the state survey the day care market every two years, but Georgia last conducted a survey in 2005 – and last increased its reimbursement in 2006. Congress is now considering a large increase in child care assistance funding. Day care owners say the state should use any new funding to increase its reimbursement rates…”
  • Day care assistance funds drying up as need deepens, By S. Heather Duncan, August 23, 2010, Macon Telegraph: “For parents such as Vanita Adams, government help with day care costs made the difference between employment and welfare. Adams, who works as a parent aide for the Macon-Bibb Equal Opportunity Council, received a state subsidy to help her send her two sons to after-school care for about a year. ‘I was separated when it started, and becoming a one-income household was very hard,’ she said. Her divorce was eliminating some of the child care help she had received from family members at the same time she lost income through furloughs. ‘Without the help, I probably would have been out of a job,’ Adams said. Her plight is common. A quarter of Georgia children younger than age 5 receive some kind of subsidized child care, according to a 2010 report by the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute. And since the recession, demand is higher than ever, child care advocates say…”

High School Graduation Rates – Atlanta, GA

Atlanta grad rate doesn’t add up, By Alan Judd and Heather Vogell
, August 15, 2010, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Thousands of high school students vanished from the rolls of Atlanta Public Schools in the past eight years, often with few hints to where they went. Schools recorded many of them as “transfers” to other systems, at times without proof that the students hadn’t dropped out altogether. In 2008, a consultant to the district estimated recently, school officials couldn’t document the whereabouts of more than one-third of the district’s departed students. The mass exodus from Atlanta’s high schools may be the primary reason for one of the district’s proudest academic achievements: a dramatic increase in its graduation rate, an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows. District officials boast that the rate of students getting diplomas within four years has risen 30 percentage points since 2002. But the rate’s only surge, from 43 percent to 72 percent, came between 2003 and 2005, the Journal-Constitution’s analysis of state data found. During that time, the district removed from its rolls about 30 percent of all pupils in grades nine through 12 – roughly 16,000 students…”