Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

School Meal Programs – Omaha, NE

OPS won’t expand free-lunch-for-all program to more schools, citing concerns over possible loss of aid, By Erin Duffy, July 18, 2017, Omaha World-Herald: “All students at six Omaha elementary schools have been able to eat free lunches for the past year and a half as part of a federal program intended to combat hunger at high-poverty schools. But the pilot program won’t be expanded to more of the Omaha district’s schools in the coming school year because of worries that it could affect the level of school funding the district receives…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Food stamp use on the rise in Nebraska, unlike in Iowa and rest of U.S., By Barbara Soderlin, August 23, 2016, Omaha World-Herald: “The recession is in the rearview mirror, and the state’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the nation, but the number of Nebraskans who rely on government assistance for groceries has been on the rise — heading in the opposite direction of Iowa and the rest of the country. People who work with poor families say they don’t expect the number of Nebraskans on food stamps to fall anytime soon: Low wages are driving the need for benefits, those people say. And better outreach is helping more people access benefits than in the past…”
  • Why food stamp fraud is ‘fairly rampant’ at corner stores in some Chicago neighborhoods, By Greg Trotter, August 19, 2016, Chicago Tribune: “Food stamp trafficking often begins with an innocuous question.  ‘Can I talk to you?’  Sami Deffala, who’s managed a corner store in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood for 13 years, said he hears that every day from customers vying for a private moment in hopes of using their Link cards to exchange SNAP benefits, the modern-day version of food stamps, for cash — an illegal practice called trafficking by federal regulators. And every day, Deffala said, he hears them out but refuses to take part in the scheme…”

Child Welfare Systems – New Jersey, Nebraska

  • N.J. making progress revamping child welfare system once among worst in U.S., By Susan K. Livio, June 8, 2016, NJ.com: “The federal monitor of New Jersey’s child welfare system Wednesday praised the Christie administration for one again making “significant progress” working with troubled families last year, but also highlighted lingering problems caseworkers had ensuring a child is safe to return home from foster care. Like nearly all of her reports she has issued in the last decade, Judith Meltzer issued a mixed report card on the state’s overhaul of child protection services, but stressed how far the system had come from being once regarded as one of the nation’s worst…”
  • Report shows recent, ‘significant’ increase of children in foster care, By Martha Stoddard, June 9, 2016, Omaha World-Herald: “A new state report shows that the number of Nebraska children in foster care has been growing in recent months, reversing a three-year downward trend.  The Foster Care Review Office’s quarterly report offered no explanation for the change.  But it said the increase for children in the child welfare system has been ‘significant…'”

Public Defenders and Legal Aid

  • Some public defender offices turning away clients, East Baton Rouge ‘treading water’ during budget crisis, By Bryn Stole, February 16, 2016, Baton Rouge Advocate: “Public defenders in East Baton Rouge Parish are, for the time being, weathering the deepening funding crisis better than some other district offices elsewhere in Louisiana. Unlike public defenders in other parishes such as Lafayette, Vermilion, Acadia and Orleans, Mike Mitchell, the chief public defender in East Baton Rouge, said his office hasn’t yet been forced to turn away clients…”
  • $1 hike in court fees aimed at boosting Legal Aid, By Zack Pluhacek, February 17, 2016, Lincoln Journal Star: “A bill to raise state court fees by $1 would provide much-needed funding for Legal Aid of Nebraska, supporters said Wednesday. State Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, who sponsored the legislative measure (LB1098), says it would raise an extra $355,000 a year for the nonprofit law firm that provides free legal help to low-income people in non-criminal cases. Seven in 10 low-income Nebraskans deal with a significant legal issue each year, Morfeld said…”

 

Minimum Wage

  • $12 vs. $15 minimum-wage debate continues between economists, experts, politicians, By Olivera Perkins, January 7, 2016, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Go to any minimum wage rally in the past few years, and there is one number dominating the event: $15. It’s scrawled on the bouncing placards held by rally goers. Emblazoned on their banners. Laced through their chants.  But many economists and other think tank experts, even those supporting a substantial hike to the federal minimum wage, are questioning if $15 is too high. For many of them, $12 is more realistic or probable, especially if it is phased-in by 2020…”
  • Some businesses say Nebraska’s $9 minimum wage will be a burden, but others just shrug, By Janice Podsada, January 6, 2016, Omaha World-Herald: “The sometimes rough-and-tumble job of refereeing ’25 to 75 large dogs at serious play’ now pays $9 an hour at an Omaha doggie day care facility, but that’s just to start. If new employees work out, ‘they’ll see their pay raised to $10 an hour after a few weeks,’ said Renee Johnson, owner of ComeSitStay, a dog day care and overnight boarding facility at 180th and Harrison Streets. On Jan. 1, Nebraska’s minimum wage leapt to $9 an hour for nontipped workers from $8 in 2015, a 12.5 percent increase…”
  • Push begins to increase Oregon minimum wage, By Ed Russo, January 8, 2016, Register-Guard: “With the Legislature preparing to convene, activists say they are launching a signature-gathering drive to increase Oregon’s minimum wage within two years to $13.50 an hour.  The Portland-based Raise the Wage Coalition said Thursday that it will ‘hit the streets in communities across the state’ to collect the 89,000 signatures required to put Initiative Petition 58 on the November ballot.  If approved by voters, the measure would raise the statewide minimum hourly wage to $13.50 by 2018…”
  • Oregon, Washington slide as leaders in minimum wage, By Jeff Mapes, January 7, 2016, Oregon Public Broadcasting: “After a decade of mandating the highest minimum wages in the country, Washington and Oregon are now dropping back in the pack. Six other states jumped past Washington and Oregon – which had been ranked No. 1 and No. 2 since 2005 – at the start of the new year, thanks largely to efforts in several legislatures around the country to raise the wage floor for workers…”

Unemployment Benefits – Nebraska

Stricter state benefits requirements may soon call for jobless to make 5 contacts a week with employers, By Paul Hammel, August 6, 2015, Omaha World-Herald: “The state’s plan to hasten the transition from unemployment to ‘re-employment’ is getting mixed reviews. Under proposed changes to the state’s ‘work search’ requirements, Nebraskans on unemployment would be required to make five contacts a week with potential employers, up from the current two a week. If they remain on unemployment, such workers would have to eventually increase the number of days devoted to searching for a new job from one day a week to three or four days a week…”

Kids Count Report – Nebraska

  • Report: Nebraskans working hard, but falling behind — and kids are paying the price, By Erin Andersen, January 29, 2015, Lincoln Journal Star: “Nearly 41 percent of Nebraska kids — more than two out of every five — are growing up in a low-income family. The vast majority have parents working one, two or more jobs. A disproportionate number of these children are minorities. Those are among the findings of the 2014 Kids Count Report in Nebraska. The report, released Thursday, measures child well-being in economic stability, health, education, child welfare and juvenile justice. It’s intended to provide policymakers with strong data about Nebraska’s children and families…”
  • Number of low-income kids in Nebraska rose from 2005-2013, report says, By Betsie Freeman, January 29, 2015, Omaha World-Herald: “The number of Nebraska children growing up in low-income families rose almost 5 percentage points from 2005 to 2013, according to the yearly Kids Count report that will be released today. Last year, nearly 41 percent of the state’s youths came from low-income households, compared with 36.5 percent eight years earlier, according to statistics compiled by Voices for Children in Nebraska, the advocacy group for young people that produces the report. A low-income household is one in which wage-earners make below 200 percent of the federal poverty line…”

Hispanic Poverty – Nebraska

Poverty rate among Hispanics in Nebraska soars, By Henry J. Cordes, January 5, 2015, Omaha World-Herald: “Maria Benitez’s husband brings home $80 a day from his job painting houses. She supplements that by selling Mexican candies in South Omaha from a cart she pushes down the street. But after paying rent and other bills, there’s often not much money left to feed the couple and their three children. That’s why the 50-year-old Benitez recently stood in a light snow outside Our Lady of Guadalupe Church accepting free sack lunches handed out by James Parsons, who runs a street ministry assisting Omaha’s needy…”

Free School Lunch Program

Free lunch pilot program lets districts feed everyone at high-poverty schools, By Erin Duffy, December 15, 2014, Omaha World-Herald: “Omaha Public Schools officials hope a new free lunch pilot program being launched in six schools will speed up lunch lines, cut paperwork and fill more rumbling tummies. Starting Jan. 20, six high-poverty schools in north Omaha will start serving free meals to all students, regardless of income, no questions asked. Only one other school district in the state — Santee Community Schools, a reservation school in Niobrara with fewer than 200 students — has opted in for the program, a piece of the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010…”

Medicaid Expansion – Maine, Nebraska

  • Maine House takes up struggling Medicaid expansion bill, By Mario Moretto, March 18, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “About a week after it passed the Senate, but with less than the two-thirds support needed to muscle past a certain gubernatorial veto, the Maine House of Representatives on Tuesday will consider a bill aimed at expanding Medicaid to more than 70,000 low-income Mainers as part of the federal Affordable Care Act…”
  • Nebraska lawmakers won’t expand Medicaid this year, By Christine Scalora (AP), March 19, 2104, Centre Daily Times: “A proposal to expand health care coverage to low-income Nebraskans won’t make it out of the Legislature this year. Lawmakers fell six votes short of stopping the filibuster on the bill Wednesday after debating the measure for eight hours. It will not be taken up again in this legislative session. The ‘Wellness in Nebraska Act,’ laid out a plan to help cover health care costs for about 54,000 residents by mid-2015 through a combination of Medicaid and subsidized private health insurance. It would cost an estimated $62 million between July of this year and June 2020…”

Nebraska Kids Count Report

Aging population poses problems for Nebraska children, By Erin Andersen, January 14, 2014, Columbus Telegram: “By the year 2050, nearly one quarter of the state’s population will be 65 or older, and 38 percent of its citizens will be members of a minority. That’s the prediction of the 21st annual Kids Count report released Tuesday by Voices for Children of Nebraska. In a twist from years past, the 2013 report analyzes years of demographics and statistical history to highlight children’s well-being today, as well as forecast 37 years down the road…”

Native American Children in Foster Care – Nebraska

Rising disparity seen in rate of Native American kids in foster care, By Martha Stoddard, November 15, 2013, Omaha World-Herald: “Native American children now account for nearly 1 of every 10 foster children in Nebraska, according to figures released Thursday by the Foster Care Review Office. That’s up from a year ago, when about 1 in 14 children in out-of-home care were identified that way. And it’s several times greater than the roughly 1.5 percent of Nebraska children who are Native American…”

Foster Care System – Nebraska

Plan for new foster care approach in Nebraska gets boost from federal government, By Martha Stoddard, October 18, 2013, Omaha World-Herald: “Efforts to keep Nebraska children safe without taking them from their families have gotten a big boost from the federal government. Federal officials have granted the state flexibility in using up to $153 million of federal foster care funds over the next five years. Nebraska is one of only eight states given such approval this year. Thomas Pristow, director of children and family services within the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, said Thursday that the money is to be used to try out a new approach to dealing with child abuse and neglect…”

Affordable Care Act

  • ‘Family glitch’ in health law could be painful, By Kelly Kennedy, September 23, 2013, USA Today: “A “family glitch” in the 2010 health care law threatens to cost some families thousands of dollars in health insurance costs and leave up to 500,000 children without coverage, insurance and health care analysts say. That’s unless Congress fixes the problem, which seems unlikely given the House’s latest move Friday to strip funding from the Affordable Care Act…”
  • Affordable Care Act to replace high-cost state insurance plan, By Nancy Hicks, September 24, 2013, Lincoln Journal Star: “A state-subsidized health insurance program for Nebraskans who can’t get insurance through private companies because of medical issues will end in January when the federal Affordable Care Act begins. For the more than 3,100 Nebraskans who get insurance through that plan, the federal program will provide better coverage with less expensive premiums for most people, said Sherry Wupper, a member of the Comprehensive Health Insurance Pool board…”

Child Welfare System – Nebraska

Nebraska making progress on child welfare, By Martha Stoddard, July 26, 2013, Omaha World-Herald: “Nebraska continues making slow, steady progress in reducing the number of children under state oversight. New data show the number of state wards has dropped 13.6 percent over nearly 15 months — from 6,121 children in early March 2012 to 5,284 as of July 15. Thomas Pristow, director of the State Division of Children and Family Services, said the change represents progress for Nebraska’s child welfare system, which has undergone numerous upheavals over the past four years…”

Juvenile Justice Reform – Nebraska

Gov. Heineman signs juvenile justice reform into law, By Paul Hammel and Martha Stoddard, May 30, 2013, Omaha World-Herald: “The state embarked on a new approach in dealing with troubled juveniles Wednesday. Gov. Dave Heineman signed into law a major reform bill that shifts the focus from incarceration to treatment for youthful offenders and puts state probation officers in charge of that rehabilitation work instead of state social workers…”

Child Care Assistance

  • Legislature advances push for higher child care subsidies, By Martha Stoddard, May 23, 2013, Omaha World-Herald: “Nebraska ranks among the top states in number of working parents but dead last when it comes to helping those parents pay for child care. The state would climb to No. 44 under a bill that won second-round approval Wednesday in the Legislature. Legislative Bill 507 would allow Nebraska parents to qualify for child care subsidies at incomes up to 130 percent of the federal poverty level…”
  • In D.C., parents miss work, lose jobs trying to get child-care subsidy, By Brigid Schulte, May 15, 2013, Washington Post: “At 6:30 a.m. on a Wednesday early this month, Andria Swanson, dressed in a bright-pink terry cloth jumpsuit, joined a line that was already snaking down South Capitol Street in Congress Heights. She nervously counted the people ahead of her. ‘I’m number 19,’ she said. ‘That means I’ll get in today.’ At number 20, she said, caseworkers close the doors and tell you to come back another day…”
  • Grandparents urge state to reconsider cuts to child care assistance programs, By Beth Musgrave, May 21, 2013, Lexington Herald-Leader: “Grandparents pleaded with state officials Tuesday to reverse a freeze on new applications for a program that provides $300 in monthly assistance to relatives who take custody of abused and neglected children. Among those testifying at a public hearing Tuesday was Sandra Flynn of Lexington, who has been caring for five grandchildren — including a set of twins who were born addicted to drugs — for two years. Flynn said she relies on the $300 check per child and a little less than $300 in food stamps to provide for her family of seven…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • Mo. House committee approves GOP-backed Medicaid alternative, By Elizabeth Crisp, April 4, 2013, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “A Missouri House committee has approved a Republican alternative to the Medicaid expansion plan outlined in the federal Affordable Care Act, setting up the proposal for a potential debate on the House floor. The decision on whether to expand Missouri’s health care program for the poor has been one of the most debated topics of the session. Democrat-backed expansion efforts have swiftly been killed this session, but the House Government Oversight Committee gave bipartisan support Wednesday evening to a reform-based bill that would expand coverage in Missouri — but not to the level outlined in the federal health care law. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, privately met with House Republicans earlier in the day to try to persuade them to support the larger expansion of Medicaid. He has spent several weeks traveling the state to speak in favor of it, but Republicans who control both chambers of the Legislature have so far opposed it…”
  • Corbett considers using Medicaid expansion funds for private insurance, By Amy Worden, April 3, 2013, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Gov. Corbett, under pressure to accept a federal expansion of Medicaid, said Wednesday that he is looking at ways to use those same dollars to fund private coverage for hundreds of thousands of uninsured Pennsylvanians. Corbett has resisted opting into the Medicaid expansion envisioned under President Obama’s healthcare overhaul, saying he is concerned it would be too costly for the state down the road. He did not commit to changing his mind on Wednesday. After a late Tuesday meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, however, he said he may consider pursuing a private plan similar to what Arkansas, Ohio and a handful of other states are exploring…”
  • Lawmakers get jump on Medicaid expansion debate, By Martha Stoddard, April 4, 2013, Omaha World-Herald: “Nebraska lawmakers are expected to start their debate about expanding the Medicaid program to low-income adults in about two weeks. In anticipation, five state senators joined the leader of the Platte Institute on Wednesday to show their opposition to the idea…”

Aid to Dependent Children Program – Nebraska

  • Lawmakers consider increase in state financial aid to families, By Martha Stoddard, March 6, 2013, Omaha World-Herald: “It’s been 25 years since Nebraska last bumped up monthly payments for parents and children receiving state assistance. On Tuesday, State Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln told colleagues on the Health and Human Services Committee that the time has come for another increase. She cast the issue as a part of solving the state’s child welfare problems…”
  • Legislative committee hears proposals that would benefit low-income families, By JoAnne Young, March 5, 2013, Lincoln Journal Star: “Nyatiem Tuty, 29, a single mother of one young boy, nervously faced the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday. She told senators she lives with her mom in a Sarpy County apartment and receives government assistance, including food stamps, Medicaid and bus vouchers…”