Low-Income Housing – Wisconsin, Texas

  • Scott Walker’s budget would limit low-income tax credits to those who work, By Jason Stein, February 13, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Gov. Scott Walker’s budget would require able-bodied adults to work to receive a low-income housing credit — part of broader proposals in the bill to move more people into jobs. Starting in 2018, able-bodied adults below the age of 62 will need to earn money to claim the state’s Homestead Credit. The disabled and seniors would be exempt from the requirement…”
  • State lawmakers take aim at low-income housing, By Lydia DePillis, February 15, 2017, Houston Chronicle: “Two bills filed this month in the state legislature would make it harder to develop affordable housing in Texas, imposing onerous new requirements on the projects and giving neighbors broad powers to oppose them. Although the chances of passage are unclear — thousands of measures are filed during the four-month session and only a few become law — the bills would be consistent with many other restrictions the legislature has placed on affordable housing development. Meanwhile, helping low-income people access housing is a rising concern for Texas cities, as a flood of new residents has boosted the cost of both rental and for-sale units…”

Earned Income Tax Credit

  • Detroiters leave $80 million unclaimed for tax credit, By Susan Tompor, January 29, 2017, Detroit Free Press: “The Earned Income Tax Credit is one big bonus check for Michigan’s struggling workforce. The credit is a one-time shot of potentially thousands of dollars that can be used to pay bills, put money down on a used car or even, maybe, save a little something for a rainy day or retirement.  It’s sort of like those big profit-sharing checks for many autoworkers that are ranging from $5,000 at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to $9,000 on average at Ford.  But you must file a tax return to get that tax-credit cash. And plenty of people don’t file for one reason or another…”
  • Gov. Scott Walker to expand low-income tax credit he once cut, By Jason Stein and Patrick Marley, February 1, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Gov. Scott Walker is reversing course on a key tax credit for the working poor, proposing to raise incomes for more than 130,000 state families by returning the more than $20 million a year he cut from the program in 2011.  The Republican governor will unveil the proposal at the Wauwatosa Rotary Club Wednesday as part of a broader package in his budget bill that aims to strengthen families and marriage. The measure marks the changing priorities for Walker as he shifts from the budget cuts of his first term to his current goal of trying to draw Wisconsinites into the work force…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Wisconsin

  • 21K employed through FoodShare jobs program, 64K lost benefits, By Molly Beck, January 11, 2017, Wisconsin State Journal: “About 21,000 Wisconsin residents using food stamps have gained employment through a state program designed to connect recipients with jobs, Gov. Scott Walker announced during his annual State of the State address Tuesday.  That’s the number of FoodShare recipients who have gotten jobs through the state program that was created when lawmakers reinstated a requirement that able-bodied adults without children at home be employed in order to keep FoodShare benefits…”
  • Official: Food stamp drug tests would violate federal law, By Jason Stein, January 11, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to drug test some food stamp recipients violates federal law and cannot proceed without an act of Congress, a top appointee in the Obama administration says.  Wisconsin’s Republican governor has called on President-elect Donald Trump to act immediately on taking office to allow the Walker administration to start testing able-bodied recipients of Wisconsin’s Food Share program…”

Teen Birthrate – Milwaukee, WI

City’s teen birthrate at historic low, By Crocker Stephenson, October 27, 2016, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Milwaukee’s birthrate for girls 15 to 17 years old continues to plunge, reaching a historic low in 2015, the Milwaukee Health Department plans to announce Friday.  The decrease was seen across all racial and ethnic groups, according to the department. The city’s teen birthrate has declined 65% since 2006, when one out of every 20 girls gave birth to a child…”

Racial Graduation Gap – Wisconsin

Wisconsin posts largest white-black graduation gap, By Erin Richards, October 17, 2016, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Wisconsin’s high school graduation rate of 88.4% in 2015 was 6th highest nationally, according to new federal data that revealed a record high U.S. graduation rate Monday, but the state retains the unfortunate distinction of being No. 1 for the widest graduation-rate gap between white and black students. Wisconsin also has the 10th highest gap between white and Hispanic students graduating in four years, an analysis by the Journal Sentinel showed…”

Homelessness and Housing – Madison, WI

  • ‘We are failing’: Need overwhelms patchwork of homeless service providers, By Dean Mosiman and Doug Erickson, August 28, 2016, Wisconsin State Journal: “Death, for Roy and Cindy Jacobs, had become preferable to the grind of living on the streets from their 1983 Chevy van.  For months, since their lease was not renewed in the summer of 2015, they sought housing, chased meals, struggled to stay clean and find restrooms, saw degrading and illicit behavior, and engaged the elements as part of a small group of homeless living out of beaten vehicles parked on East Side streets.  By late March, the couple were on the verge of suicide, their despair unbearable by Easter morning. ‘Things were just out of control,’ Roy said. ‘We were right there. I even wrote a goodbye letter.’ That morning, they showed up early, as usual, for volunteer work at First United Methodist Church Downtown, which was providing a meal for the homeless later in the day…”
  • Shelter, at a cost: Madison’s outmoded homeless shelters can be dehumanizing, demoralizing, By Doug Erickson and Dean Mosiman, August 31, 2016, Wisconsin State Journal: “As Madison looks at potentially big changes to its homeless shelter system, its current hodgepodge of ill-suited, outdated drop-in sites has fallen far behind what experts recommend for shelters that promote dignity and contribute to a person’s recovery.  The shelters have long been considered deficient, their flaws readily acknowledged and bemoaned by those who run them.  None of the sites was built as a shelter. Homeless men sleep in church basements. The facility for single women and families is a former Catholic school.  In many areas, from the degree of privacy to the number of toilets and the amount of storage space, they come up short compared to facilities in other cities and models espoused in the field…”

Student Homelessness in Madison, WI

Shelter to school: For homeless 6-year-old, kindergarten provides stability in an otherwise chaotic life, By Doug Erickson and Dean Mosiman, July 17, 2016, Wisconsin State Journal: “Six-year-old K’won Watson cries as his mother rouses him at the Salvation Army homeless shelter in Madison. He had wanted more sleep and will spend much of the school day yawning.  It is March, and K’won is in kindergarten — one of the hundreds of students who are homeless in Madison on any given day.  He and his infant brother, Amir, and their mother, Alicia Turner, 25, are living at the shelter in a dormitory-style room that is clean but spare. To add some warmth, Turner has decorated the door with three drawings she’s done with colored markers — two of butterflies, one of a fruit basket.  Like his older brother, Amir wakes up cranky, too. Turner changes his diaper while sending K’won to brush his teeth in restrooms shared by 18 families…”

Child Support Enforcement

  • Not just a deadbeat dad, By Dwyer Gunn, July 12, 2016, Pacific Standard: “On a sunny Tuesday morning in February, Lewis Griffin walked into a meeting room in the Arapahoe County Human Services Building in Aurora, Colorado. Griffin, a barber and ex-convict who’s also the co-facilitator of a fatherhood class, is a tall black man with closely cropped silvering hair — on the day I met him, he was sharply dressed in grey jeans, a neatly pressed grey-striped button-down shirt, and sleek, modern glasses. Griffin has an open, friendly manner and a disarming sense of humor. When he introduced himself to me, he clasped both hands to his chest, inhaled sharply, and said with exaggerated anxiety, ‘I’m nervous!’  The men (and one woman) gathered in the meeting room that morning all had one thing in common: They were non-custodial parents who had fallen behind on their child support payments…”
  • Wisconsin’s grand child support experiment, By Dwyer Gunn, July 13, 2016, Pacific Standard: “In 1997, the state of Wisconsin decided to experiment with the way it handled child support payments made to welfare recipients. In previous years, under the Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) program, recipients who also received child support payments from a non-custodial parent were required to relinquish the bulk of what they received in child support to the state — states only ‘passed through’ the first $50 of child support in a given month. The federal welfare-reform bill (formally known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act) of the previous year gave states room to experiment with and set their own policies…”

Wisconsin Poverty Report

Report sheds new light on problem of poverty in Wisconsin, By Bill Glauber, June 26, 2016, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Despite an increase in jobs, there was no reduction in poverty in Wisconsin between 2013 and 2014 under a broad measure developed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin.  Monday’s release of the eighth Wisconsin Poverty Report, produced by the Institute for Research on Poverty, showed that the poverty rate remained flat.  Unlike the federal government’s official poverty measure — which is based on pretax cash income — the Wisconsin Poverty Measure accounts for family income and government benefits…”

Infant Mortality – Milwaukee, WI

As racial gap widens, infant mortality rate goal virtually beyond reach, By Crocker Stephenson, June 14, 2016, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “African-American babies are dying in Milwaukee at a rate that is more than three times that of white babies, according to data released Tuesday by the Milwaukee Health Department. Approaching historic levels, it is the worst racial disparity in infant deaths that the city has seen in more than a decade.  And while the average infant mortality rate for both black and white babies decreased during the three-year period ending in 2015, it now appears all but impossible that the city will reach the goal it set in 2011 of reducing the black infant mortality rate 15% by 2017…”

Wisconsin State Journal Series on Homelessness in Madison

Homeless in Madison | A City Challenged, series homepage, By Dean Mosiman and Doug Erickson, June, 2016, Wisconsin State Journal: “They sleep in beaten vehicles and tents in the woods. Doubled up with family or friends in worn apartments and ratty motel rooms. Huddled under bridges and in crowded shelters. The stereotype is a weathered denizen of the Capitol Square. In reality, perhaps half are children, most out of sight. Despite the efforts of many, perhaps 2,400 men, women and children are homeless on any given night in Madison. Statewide, that number swells to 20,000— enough to fill the Kohl Center, and then some. The number of homeless people seeking help in the state grew by 18 percent this decade…”

SNAP Work Requirements – Wisconsin

41K lost food stamps, 12K found jobs under new work requirement, By Molly Beck, April 21, 2016, Wisconsin State Journal: “More than 41,000 people lost access to food stamps within the first year of a new state law that requires some FoodShare recipients to seek employment, while nearly 12,000 people found jobs through a new job training program for recipients, state data show. A report released by the Department of Health Services on Wednesday shows 11,971 participants of the FoodShare Employment and Training program reported finding employment. Meanwhile, 41,149 able-bodied adults without children lost FoodShare benefits after the state said they failed to seek employment…”

Medicaid Expansion – Wisconsin

Wisconsin uses Affordable Care Act but rejects funding for it, By Guy Boulton, February 29, 2016, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Wisconsin’s decision last week to challenge a fee imposed by the Affordable Care Act set up a comparison not lost on advocates who support the law. The fee has cost the state about $23 million so far. In contrast, Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature’s opposition to the law is projected to cost $678.6 million in state tax dollars through the 2017 fiscal year. That’s because Wisconsin is the only state in the country to use the Affordable Care Act to expand its Medicaid program while turning down the additional federal dollars available through the law to pay for it…”

Racial Achievement Gap – Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s racial achievement gap widens, By Abigail Becker, December 16, 2015, Appleton Post-Crescent: “When Madison Memorial High School sophomore Demitrius Kigeya solves math problems in his head, other students give him surprised looks. He believes it is because he is black.  ‘I just pay attention in class and do my homework,’ said Kigeya, 15.  Odoi Lassey, 16, a junior, echoed Kigeya’s feelings. ‘People don’t expect you to know anything,’ explained Lassey, who, like Kigeya, is a high academic performer, plays on the high school soccer team and is active in Memorial’s Black Student Union. ‘It’s almost as if you know something, they think you’re weird or you’re acting white … some people think you’re not black just because you try to help yourself out and do well in school.’  The negative stereotype that follows students such as Kigeya and Lassey is rooted in Wisconsin’s dismal racial academic achievement record…”

SNAP and Work Requirements – Wisconsin

15K dropped from food stamp program after not finding work, By Molly Beck, November 29, 2015, Wisconsin State Journal: “Nearly 15,000 people lost access to food stamps in the first three months of a new law that requires some recipients to seek employment, new state data show. The Department of Health Services figures were released to the State Journal after a request under the state’s open records law. The agency subsequently published the data on its website. The 2013-15 state budget created a rule for some recipients of the state’s food stamp program known as FoodShare: If you’re an able-bodied adult without children living at home, you must work at least 80 hours a month or look for work to stay in the program…”

State Jobless Benefit Requirements

  • N.C. House OKs tougher requirement for jobless benefits, By Richard Craver, August 19, 2015, Winston-Salem Journal: “The N.C. House approved changes Thursday to the state’s unemployment insurance benefits law that raise the number of required weekly job search contacts from two to five. Senate Bill 15, approved 83-27 on third vote, goes to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature. The changes would take effect Jan. 1.  The bill requires that people who receive unemployment benefits keep a record of their contacts, which can include online applications, and provide it to N.C. Division of Employment Security officials upon request…”
  • Worker advocates: New rule is Scott Walker’s latest effort to make unemployment benefits harder to collect, By Pat Schneider, August 21, 2015, Capital Times: “Patrick Hickey says that an additional filing requirement to collect unemployment compensation will lead to late checks and lost benefits, and that imposing it is part of how Gov. Scott Walker is curtailing assistance to state residents. ‘This is part and parcel of the administration’s goal to stigmatize poverty and shame poor people by making the system so cumbersome and humiliating that people give up,’ said Hickey, a member of the Workers’ Rights Center in Madison. The new rule will require workers making weekly unemployment benefits claims by phone to begin faxing or mailing in a log of their weekly job search efforts, according to a notice on the state Department of Workforce Development web site…”

Infant Mortality – Milwaukee, WI

Preterm birth kills more Milwaukee babies than other causes combined, By Crocker Stephenson, May 5, 2015, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Preterm birth kills Milwaukee babies more readily than all the other causes of infant death combined, kills a disproportionate number of African-American babies, and each year across Wisconsin absorbs hundreds of millions of dollars that might otherwise be used to promote healthy birth outcomes. That has been the trend for years. According to preliminary data to be released Wednesday by the Milwaukee Health Department, 2014 was no different…”

Health Care for Foster Children – Wisconsin

Program streamlines health care for foster children, By Robert Gebelhoff, April 27, 2015, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Not long ago, when doctors were assigned to provide primary care for foster children, they would spend hours on the phone trying to find specialists willing to provide other medical needs, such as mental health or dental care.  Thomasien Malsch, manager at three Milwaukee-area Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin clinics, said her team would put in at least 20 calls at times to find specialists willing to take the children on.  That frustrating process has eased considerably with the establishment of Care4Kids, a private-public partnership between Children’s and the state departments of Children and Families and Health Services…”

Wisconsin Poverty Report

Despite job gains, poverty in Wisconsin ticks up, report says, By Bill Glauber, April 20, 2015, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Despite modest improvement in employment, poverty rose slightly in Wisconsin between 2012 and 2013, according to a study released Tuesday by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers. The Wisconsin Poverty Measure rose from 10.2% in 2012 to 10.9% in 2013, around 2.5 percentage points below the official poverty rate. The figures are contained in the seventh Wisconsin Poverty Report produced by the Institute for Research on Poverty…”

Shelter and Housing for the Homeless

  • Tiny houses in Madison, Wis., offer affordable, cozy alternative to homelessness, By Jenna Ross, March 16, 2015, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “On his day off, Gene Cox rose with the sun, pulled a hood over his gray hair and started a pot of coffee.  Deep sleep was still new to him. His first night here, in late February, Cox awoke every two hours, looked around and realized that he was no longer living in his van — which, in cold months, required routinely waking to turn the key and blast the heat.  Cox now has a house. A tiny one. But all 98 square feet are his…”
  • With extended hours, Minneapolis shelters hope to reduce homelessness, By Marion Renault, March 16, 2015, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “Dave Baker shares a bedroom with more than 60 other people, so he knows how precious a good night’s sleep can be. ‘The guy next to you could be snoring, he could be on the phone,’ said Baker, 48, who has been staying at the Higher Ground Shelter in Minneapolis for 14 months. ‘You may be up at 2, 3, 5 and 11 the night before. Any sleep you get in here is a benefit.’  Baker also knows what it’s like to wake up before the rest of the city, since Twin Cities homeless shelters have historically pushed residents out the door around 7 a.m. because of staff shortages or the need to prepare the space for its daytime use.  Now a $100,000 contract from Hennepin County has permitted two Minneapolis shelters — Catholic Charities’ Higher Ground and Simpson Housing Services — to extend their hours so that residents don’t have to depart at the crack of dawn.