Homelessness and Food Insecurity Among College Students

State’s public colleges see rise in hunger, homelessness, By Michael Levenson, January 25, 2017, Boston Globe: “The state’s colleges and universities are reporting that hunger and homelessness among students have increased over the past year, an alarming new disclosure that makes clear that many low-income students have far more to worry about than just exams and extracurricular activities.  The findings, released Tuesday, come from a survey of administrators at the 29 state colleges and universities, 24 of which operate their own food pantries or have partnerships with community food banks…”

Foster Care System – Massachusetts

8 graphics that show the shape of the foster care system, By Matt Rocheleau, October 18, 2016, Boston Globe: “The number of children in the state foster care system has risen in recent months, prompting state officials to recruit more foster parents.  There were 6,118 children in the state Department of Children and Families foster care system at the end of July, about 9 percent more than the 5,618 a year earlier, according to the agency. At least part of the increase has been attributed to the opioid crisis, which has led to more children being removed from drug-addicted parents, the Globe has reported…”

Health Care Spending – Massachusetts

Low-income communities see fewer health care dollars, AG report finds, By Priyanka Dayal McCluskey, October 13, 2016, Boston Globe: “Massachusetts’ health insurance market has an income inequality problem, according to a report from Attorney General Maura Healey’s office, whose findings mirror national studies.  The analysis found that more health care dollars are spent on higher-income communities than on lower-income communities — even though the latter tend to have greater medical needs. Healey’s office called this a ‘distressing’ trend that has persisted for years…”

Common Application for Benefits – Massachusetts

Senate considers merging applications for MassHealth, food stamps, By Shira Schoenberg, May 26, 2016, MassLive.com: “At Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, director of operations Jo-Ann Silva-Winbush employs 19 counselors trained to help people apply for publicly subsidized health insurance. She hired two other counselors to help people apply for food stamps. A patient might wait a half hour to fill out a health insurance application, then another half hour to see another counselor to fill out a food stamp application.  Most of the information on the two applications is identical…”

Child Care Subsidies – Massachusetts

Computer woes delay child-care subsidies, By Stephanie Ebbert, November 20, 2015, Boston Globe: “About 1,600 low-income children remain stuck on a waiting list for subsidized child care because a computer system built by the state government has been beset by problems for four months.  The Department of Early Education and Care launched the new, $5.05-million system on July 1, despite concerns about its readiness raised by the child-care providers who rely on it to get paid…”

Gender Wage Gap

Latinas’ gender wage gap is worst, study finds, By Katie Johnson, July 29, 2015, Boston Globe: “In Massachusetts, Hispanic women who clean offices and houses for a living make just 54 cents on the dollar compared with what male janitors make. Compared with their Hispanic male counterparts, Latina cleaners make just 59 percent. New research from the University of Massachusetts Boston shows that the already yawning gender wage gap becomes a chasm in lower-income jobs, particularly for Hispanic women…”

SNAP Eligibility System – Massachusetts

As Massachusetts food stamp agency tries to fix flaws, experienced welfare workers retire, By Shira Schoenberg, July 10, 2015, MassLive: “Massachusetts welfare officials promised the federal government that they will take steps to correct problems with the state’s food stamp program, including hiring more staff. However, the food stamp program just lost around 11 percent of its staff to an early retirement incentive…”

Foster Care System – Massachusetts

Foster care families are better and cost less than group homes, so why the shortage in Western Mass.?, By Michelle Williams, June 10, 2015, MassLive: “For most children in Massachusetts placed in emergency foster care, the process starts with a phone call. The reasons vary: a parent goes into the hospital and are unable to care for a child; a child is found to be a victim of sexual or physical violence and taken from a home. From there, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families works with partner organizations to place the child in a new residence as soon as possible. Ideally, a child is placed in a single-family home with one other foster child, but the lack of foster parents have made this goal challenging…”

Financial Opportunity Centers

Boston centers help low-income residents with budgeting, By Katie Johnson, March 20, 2015, Boston Globe: “Making money isn’t the problem for Adalziza Campbell. Managing it is.  Campbell works two jobs, as a hairdresser and a certified nursing assistant, but still can’t get ahead. She got turned down for a bank loan to buy a house and had to borrow from her dwindling savings account to pay her bills.  ‘I’m making money,’ she said. ‘Why don’t I have it?’  Like many people, Campbell, 35, of Charlestown, had never created a budget or tried to improve her credit score. But she has started learning these skills at the new Roxbury Center for Financial Empowerment in Dudley Square, one of two such sites to open in October as part of the city’s new Office of Financial Empowerment…”

Earned Income Tax Credit – Massachusetts

Wide support for lifting earned-income credit, By Katie Johnson, March 4, 2015, Boston Globe: “Quanda Burrell, a single mother of two, works full time as a day-care teacher, earns $24,000 a year, and juggles the bills that inevitably pile up in her Boston home. But each year around this time, she says, she is able to ‘clear the slate,’ paying her debts with an income tax refund bolstered by an $800 state credit.  Burrell, 29, is among more than 400,000 low-income workers in Massachusetts who would benefit from a proposed increase in the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, widely viewed as one of most effective antipoverty programs and supported by lawmakers and policy makers across the political spectrum…”

Welfare-to-Work Programs

  • ‘Welfare-to-work’ brings $455,000 into county, By Anna Rumer, February 27, 2015, Zanesville Times Recorder: “Muskingum County’s ‘welfare-to-work’ program is one of the most effective in the state, bringing nearly a half-million dollars in state funding into the county while providing almost 250 people with a second chance at gainful employment.  The Ohio Work Incentive Program, commonly referred to as ‘welfare-to-work,’ is a collaboration between local human services and OhioMeansJobs that allows people receiving cash assistance to forgo their usual 130 hours of work programs required per month to collect welfare and connects them to a paying job…”
  • From welfare to work: Massachusetts Senate to focus on developing path for aid recipients to fill jobs, By Shira Schoenberg, February 17, 2015, MassLive: “The Massachusetts Senate plans to use the upcoming legislative session to develop a strategy to move more people off welfare and into jobs, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, said Tuesday.  ‘Not long ago, Massachusetts was the pioneering state on workfare,’ Rosenberg said. ‘Massachusetts in recent years has fallen significantly behind most other states and is one of worst performing in the country in helping people move from welfare to work.’  The effort, referred to as the ‘WorkFirst Initiative,’ will be led by state Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, and will involve coordination between legislative committees that deal with the economy, education, families and public assistance…”
  • California senator says ‘welfare queen’ law must go, By Christopher Cadelago, February 22, 2015, Sacramento Bee: “The law passed two decades ago, with Democrats in charge of the Legislature: In California, a family that conceives and births an additional child while on welfare is barred from getting an increase in its grant.  Today, with Democrats still in the majority, the measure’s base of support is eroding. Advocates for the poor are mounting their strongest effort yet to repeal the so-called ‘maximum family grant’ rule, a big-ticket spending item that could bleed into state budget talks…”

SNAP System – Massachusetts

SNAP system overhaul leads to fewer receiving food stamps, Western Mass. pantries see surge in need, By Laura Newberry, February 19, 2015, MassLive: “When the state rolled out its new Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program case management system in Oct. 2014, it was touted as a way to match caseworkers with clients more quickly, a crucial step in getting food stamps into the hands of those who need them most. But since then, the state has reported a sharp decline in the number of those receiving stamps through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP.)  Advocates say the drop in recipients isn’t a result of a rebounding economy, but rather a faulty system that’s causing bureaucratic backlog…”

State Welfare Programs – Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Michigan

  • Participation in ‘workfare’ fell sharply in Mass., study finds, By Megan Woolhouse, January 22, 2015, Boston Globe: “Massachusetts has the nation’s lowest participation of welfare recipients working to receive their benefits, undermining one of the key reforms that was intended to move people from public assistance to self-sufficiency, according to a study to be released Thursday by a conservative Beacon Hill think tank. Only 7.3 percent of people receiving welfare benefits in the state held jobs in fiscal 2011, the most recent year for which data were available, according to the Pioneer Institute. That’s roughly one-fourth the national average of about 30 percent…”
  • Walker budget to bar drug users from food stamps, Medicaid, By Jason Stein, January 22, 2015, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “With federal approval in doubt, Gov. Scott Walker is moving ahead with his campaign pledge to ensure that drug users aren’t getting public health care, food stamp or jobless benefits. As Walker explores a 2016 presidential bid, the proposal being included in the governor’s Feb. 3 budget bill will help him sell himself to GOP primary voters as a leader committed to overhauling the core programs of government. For the first time Thursday, Walker committed to drug testing recipients of BadgerCare Plus health coverage and also pledged free treatment and job training for those testing positive for drugs…”
  • Snyder’s welfare plan needs ‘mother of all waivers’, By Chad Livengood, January 22, 2015, Detroit News: “Gov. Rick Snyder said Thursday the federal government may need to grant Michigan ‘the mother of all waivers’ for his administration to redesign some 145 different social services programs. Snyder’s ambitious ‘river of opportunity’ agenda that he unveiled Tuesday in his State of the State address may involve a complex untangling of a federally financed state bureaucracy for the governor to make government programs more ‘people centric’ instead of program-driven…”

SNAP EBT Cards – Massachusetts

US orders Mass. to fix food stamp procedures, By Megan Woolhouse, December 8, 2014, Boston Globe: “Massachusetts last year became one of the first states to require food stamp cards to include photos of recipients, but the new program has created such confusion that some low-income families are unable to buy groceries and the federal government is demanding that the state quickly fix the problem. The cards, known as EBTs, an acronym for Electronic Benefit Transfer, act like debit cards and are issued to heads of households. But some store cashiers have turned away the recipients’ family members or others in the household — who can legally use the benefits — because they do not match the photos. Such practices violate federal rules, which require retailers to treat food stamp recipients like any other customer…”

Legal Aid – Massachusetts

With funding low, many legal cases going undefended, By Megan Woolhouse, October 15, 2014, Boston Globe: “Massachusetts legal aid organizations turned away nearly two-thirds of people qualifying for civil legal assistance over the last year due to a lack of funding, leaving thousands of low-income residents without representation in cases from domestic violence to foreclosure, according to the findings of a statewide task force to be released Wednesday. More than 30,000 low-income clients were denied legal services in 2013, meaning many were unable to pursue cases or were left to represent themselves in court, where they often lost their cases, according to the 37-page report…”

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…”

Evictions from Public Housing

Nonprofit points to benefits of preventing evictions, By Megan Woolhouse, January 23, 2014, Boston Globe: “The state could reduce homelessness and save millions in shelter and other costs by finding ways to prevent evictions from public and subsidized housing, according to a report by a nonprofit housing group. HomeStart Inc., in coordination with the Boston Housing Authority, used its report to track its efforts to intervene in evictions from public housing and to provide financial counseling to poor families. The report said Home Start has prevented more than 500 evictions from the authority’s properties since 2010, not only saving families from homelessness but saving taxpayers thousands of dollars…”

Mental Health Screening for Children

Screening children for mental health issues may not guarantee care, By Chelsea Conaboy, November 25, 2013, Boston Globe: “Six years after the state launched an unprecedented effort to address the mental and developmental needs of young children, doctors in Massachusetts are screening more children for behavioral health concerns than any other state. Nearly 7 in 10 Massachusetts children under age 6 in low-income families were screened in 2011 and 2012 — more than twice the rate in the United States as a whole, according to data released this month by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center as part of the national Kids Count report. Doctors in North Carolina, which had the second highest rate, screened just over half of this group of children…”

Homelessness and Housing Assistance – Massachusetts

Hundreds of Massachusetts families forced back to hotels for homeless as rental assistance program winds down, By Colleen Quinn, October 17, 2013, The Republican: “For the past two years, Daysi Avalos was happy she and her five children had a home to live in, so it was a shock when the rental assistance she received from the state ran out last month. She and her children – who range in age from 8 to 18 – were forced to leave their Dorchester apartment immediately and move into a motel shelter in Leominster, the closest one available, she was told. Avalos is among the 5,400 families enrolled in the state’s HomeBASE rental assistance program that are starting to roll off the two-year program. The assistance is scheduled to end for all recipients by June 30, 2014, according to a spokesman for the Department of Housing and Community Development…”