Public Defender System – Missouri

Missouri sued over low funding for public defender system, By Margaret Stafford (AP), March 9, 2017, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Missouri’s public defender system is so badly underfunded and understaffed its lawyers are unable to provide even rudimentary representation for indigent clients, who often languish in jail or appear in court without attorneys, according to a class-action lawsuit seeking to force the state to increase funding…”

Minimum Wage – St. Louis, MO

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

State and Local Minimum Wages

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

Unemployment Benefit Programs – Missouri, Ohio

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

Columbia Daily Tribune Series on Poverty

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

Youth Homelessness

Survey reveals factors in youth homelessness, By Jackie Rehwald, November 2, 2016, Springfield News-Leader: “According to a survey of homeless and at-risk youth in Springfield, young people are more likely to be homeless if they have a parent with a drug or alcohol problem; they have witnessed or been a victim of repeated traumas; or they have ever been homeless with their family.  Factors such as mental illness and whether or not the youth uses drugs or alcohol seem ‘important factors, but secondary,’ said Tim Knapp, Missouri State University sociology professor who helped analyze the results of the survey…”

TANF programs – Missouri, California

  • Tougher rules shrink Missouri welfare rolls, advocates for the poor say, By Kurt Erickson, June 17, 2016, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “New figures show the number of poor people receiving temporary cash benefits in Missouri has plummeted in the past five years.  And, the number is expected to nosedive further in the coming months under a proposed new law that calls for the state to scrub the welfare rolls to eliminate people who aren’t eligible for the aid…”
  • California’s new budget repeals welfare rule denying extra aid for newborns, By Jessica Calefati, June 16, 2016, San Jose Mercury News: “Capping a month of remarkably productive talks between Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders, lawmakers on Wednesday adopted a new state budget that repeals a harsh welfare rule advocates for needy families had fought against for years.  Assembly members barely debated the $122.5 billion general fund budget, passing it 52-27. The Senate approved the spending plan 27-11 over the objections of most Republicans, who argued that the Legislature was a bit too generous this year and should have saved more of the tax revenue it collected…”

Food Insecurity – Missouri

Report shows more Missourians experiencing hunger, biggest increase in country, By Michele Munz, April 27, 2016, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “The percentage of households experiencing hunger in Missouri has more than doubled in the last decade, the highest increase in the country, according to a report released Wednesday by the University of Missouri…”

Public Defenders – Missouri

Missouri public defender director warns his department is in crisis, Associated Press, February 21, 2016, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “The director of Missouri’s public defenders is warning that the state’s chronically underfunded system for representing poor people has become a ‘house of cards’ that could face a federal lawsuit if it’s not improved. The Office of the State Public Defender is asking for a funding boost of more than $25 million for the fiscal year that starts in July, but Gov. Jay Nixon’s budget proposal calls for a $1.5 million increase to the department. Most of it slated for ‘representation costs,’ though he isn’t proposing to add more full-time employees…”

Safety Net Programs – Pennsylvania, Kansas, Missouri

  • Three-month time limit on food stamps to affect many in Allegheny County, By Kate Giammarise, January 4, 2016, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “A three-month time limit on food stamps for unemployed or underemployed adults ages 18 to 50 who aren’t disabled or raising minor children will apply to most of Allegheny County and southwestern Pennsylvania in 2016, according to a recent federal decision. The change is due to a requirement in the 1996 welfare overhaul law that hasn’t been in effect for many years because of high unemployment rates during the recession. As unemployment rates continue to fall, some parts of Pennsylvania will be subject to the rule this year, though areas with more persistent high unemployment are exempt…”
  • Gov. Sam Brownback announces mentoring program for welfare recipients, By Bryan Lowry, January 6, 2016, Wichita Eagle: “Gov. Sam Brownback unveiled a mentoring program for welfare recipients Wednesday, a program he hopes will help lift low-income families out of poverty.  The program aims to reduce the amount of time participants rely on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, more commonly known as welfare, by pairing them with community volunteers and helping them pursue education and employment. It is based on a similar program used by the Kansas Department of Corrections to curb recidivism…”
  • Missouri’s social safety net shrinking with new laws, Associated Press, January 1, 2016, Kansas City Star: “Missouri’s social safety net will shrink in January as new laws force an end to welfare payments for some families and reduce how long the unemployed can receive benefits to one of the shortest periods nationally…”

Medicaid Coverage Gap – Missouri

Failure to expand Medicaid impacts thousands in Ozarks, By Jon Swedien, Springfield News-Leader: “Looking back over the past year, Terri McCulloch said she was like one of the living dead. The 52-year-old said a thyroid condition had rendered her sick and unable to work. And in the wake of a recent divorce, she was left scrambling for a new place to live and without the health insurance…”

TANF Time Limits and Domestic Abuse Survivors

Abused and impoverished: Domestic abuse survivors vexed by new welfare limitations, By Natalia Alamdari, November 3, 2015, Columbia Missourian: “Kenya was 15 when she started dating him. She gave birth to their son, Kayden, by the time she was 16. Although still a child herself, Kenya knew the hitting and the name-calling were wrong. Having your hair pulled and being yelled at in public wasn’t normal, right? But still, ‘all I wanted was for him to care about me,’ she said. So Kenya stayed with her abusive boyfriend. She was too young to sign a lease for her own apartment and had nowhere else to go…”

Aging Out of Foster Care – Missouri

Creating a safety net for kids aging out of foster care, By Jackie Rehwald, November 5, 2015, Springfield News-Leader: “Shortly after being released from state’s custody at age 18, Suzi Evans used her savings to buy a car. She had no license or insurance. No one was there to tell Evans she was making a mistake, and no one had ever taught her to drive…”

Minimum Wage – St. Louis, MO

Judge strikes down St. Louis’ minimum wage increase hours before it takes effect, By Nicholas J.C. Pistor, October 16, 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “A circuit judge struck down the city’s minimum wage law on Wednesday just hours before it was set to go into force. Circuit Judge Steven Ohmer issued a sobering blow to the city’s law just after 4:30 p.m., declaring it void and out of step with state law. The city quickly said it would appeal to a higher court…”

Unemployment Benefits – Missouri

Fight brewing over Missouri cutting jobless benefits, By Jason Hancock, October 4, 2015, Kansas City Star: “It took six years for Missouri’s unemployment rate to return to pre-recession levels, finally dropping below 6 percent last summer. It has remained there ever since. Under a bill passed recently by lawmakers over the objections of the governor, a jobless rate that low will mean a dramatic reduction in how long out-of-work Missourians can receive unemployment benefits. The new law is supposed to go into effect in January. Whether it will isn’t clear. Legal wrangling may delay or even completely derail its implementation…”

Unemployment Benefits – Missouri

Missouri lawmakers cut jobless benefits, limit minimum wages, By David A. Lieb, September 17, 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature put a conservative stamp on state employment laws Wednesday, voting to cut unemployment benefits to one of the shortest periods nationally while also outlawing local minimum wage increases…”

Summer Meal Programs

Efforts to feed thousands of low-income children barely make a dent in child hunger, By Elisa Crouch, July 24, 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “More than 1.1 million children in Missouri and Illinois qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch during the school year. But when school’s out, the vast majority of them go hungry. It’s a problem that has prompted a number of school districts, public libraries and social service agencies to set up summer feeding sites so that children can be guaranteed at least one or two meals a day. Thousands of children have benefited…”

Public Defender System – Missouri

Missouri could face legal challenge for shortfalls in public defender system, By Dave Helling, July 19, 2015, Kansas City Star: “Anthony Cardarella represents dozens of clients accused of crimes who are considered too poor to pay for the legal help the U.S. Constitution guarantees them. The public defender is busy, so busy he’s reminded of the classic ‘I Love Lucy’ episode in which a conveyor belt of candy passes far too quickly for the comic to keep pace. ‘It’s a lot like that,’ he said. Cardarella’s heavy workload isn’t unique. Each of Missouri’s public defenders will average more than 200 cases this year, everything from murders and serious felonies to juvenile cases and probation violations. That’s about four cases a week…”

Court Fines and the Poor

‘Sweeping’ court reform comes as Nixon signs bill to cap cities’ revenue, end predatory habits, By Robert Patrick and Stephen Deere, July 10, 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday signed a broad municipal court reform bill that will cap court revenue and impose new requirements in an attempt to end what the bill’s sponsor called predatory practices aimed at the poor. Nixon called the reform bill the ‘most sweeping’ municipal court reform bill in state history, and the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, called it the ‘most significant…'”

Welfare Reform – Missouri

After his welfare limits veto is overridden, Nixon vetoes unemployment changes, By Jason Hancock, May 5, 2015, Kansas City Star: “Lawmakers voted Tuesday to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill that would cut thousands of low-income Missourians off of a federal welfare program.  Meantime, Nixon vetoed a separate bill that would cut the amount of time a laid-off worker could collect jobless benefits to 13 weeks from 20 weeks. Republican leaders spoke confidently that they could override that veto, too…”