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…”

Affordable Housing – Springfield, MO

Despite efforts of task force, Springfield becomes top metro area for poverty, By Stephen Herzog, March 14, 2015, Springfield News-Leader: “It’s difficult to pinpoint where Misty Middleton’s day begins and ends.  She works overnight, 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., in the health care industry. ‘I check on a lady every two hours and reposition her,’ she said. ‘I get two or three, maybe four hours of sleep on a good night.’  She doesn’t sleep much at home. When she’s not on the clock, she’s either at nursing school, studying or coordinating meals and school for her five children. It’s a struggle, but she won’t quit, saying: ‘We have to get out of this place.’  She’s specifically talking about the family’s apartment, in a neighborhood with a bad reputation.  She could just as easily be referring to the never-ending fight to get out of poverty — a cyclical, tough and sometimes hopeless situation that more and more Springfield families now face…”

Section 8 Housing – St. Louis, MO

St. Louis passes bills to reduce Section 8 concentration in poor neighborhoods, By Walker Moskop, February 26, 2015, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “The Section 8 housing voucher program is designed to avoid the challenges of concentrated poverty typically associated with traditional public housing. Tenants receive rent subsidy vouchers from a local housing authority and can redeem them anywhere landlords accept them, so long as properties meet certain standards.  In the end, though, most voucher recipients in St. Louis still end up clustered in lower-income communities.  In an attempt to alleviate that concentration, St. Louis passed two measures last week aimed at making it easier for landlords to participate in the program while also banning the practice of rejecting tenants because they have vouchers…”

Court Fines and the Poor

  • Civil rights attorneys sue Ferguson over ‘debtors prisons’, By Joseph Shapiro, February 8, 2015, National Public Radio: “In a new challenge to police practices in Ferguson, Mo., a group of civil rights lawyers is suing the city over the way people are jailed when they fail to pay fines for traffic tickets and other minor offenses. The lawsuit, filed Sunday night on the eve of the six-month anniversary of the police shooting of Michael Brown, alleges that the city violates the Constitution by jailing people without adequately considering whether they were indigent and, as a result, unable to pay. The suit is filed on behalf of 11 plaintiffs who say they were too poor to pay but were then jailed — sometimes for two weeks or more…”
  • Does Ferguson run ‘debtor’s prison’? Lawsuit targets a source of unrest, By Harry Bruinius, February 9, 2015, Christian Science Monitor: “A lawsuit filed Sunday aims to correct one of the driving factors behind the racial unrest in Ferguson, Mo., last summer: a local court system that, critics say, systematically jailed people too poor to pay fines accumulated from traffic tickets or other minor infractions. A kind of 19th-century ‘debtor’s prison’ has been in place for years in Ferguson and nearby Jennings, Mo., say those who filed the lawsuit. The result, they add, is ‘a Dickensian system that flagrantly violates the basic constitutional and human rights of our community’s most vulnerable people.’ The lawsuit comes at a time when several states and cities – including Ferguson – are beginning to address the grievances laid bare last summer. Ferguson has just not gone far enough or fast enough, the lawsuit claims…”

State Minimum Wages – Ohio, Missouri

  • Ohio’s minimum wage increase expected to boost economy by $40 million, By Ray Jablonski, December 18, 2014, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Ohio’s minimum wage will increase slightly on Jan. 1, which is expected to provide a boost to the state’s economy. As the calendar flips to 2015, Ohio’s minimum wage will increase by 15 cents to $8.10 per hour, benefiting an estimated 313,000 low-wage workers in the state, according to a release from the National Employment Law Project, a non-partisan, nonprofit organization that advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. In addition, the minimum wage for tipped workers in Ohio will rise by 7 cents to $4.05 per hour…”
  • Missouri’s minimum wage will rise in 2015, but there will be no change in Kansas, By Diane Stafford, December 17, 2014, Kansas City Star: “Cost-of-living adjustments built into Missouri’s minimum wage law will push the state’s wage floor up to $7.65 an hour on Jan. 1. The state’s minimum has been $7.50 an hour in 2014. Missouri is among 29 states that have, or will have as of Jan. 1, state minimums that are higher than the federal rate of $7.25 an hour. In states that have their own minimum wage statutes, the higher of the state and federal rates must by paid by employers who are covered by the laws. Workers in Kansas fall under the federal rate, which has not been raised since 2009…”