Public Defense System

Public defenders fight back against budget cuts, growing caseloads, By Teresa Wiltz, November 21, 2017, Stateline: “Public defenders have complained for decades they’ve got too many cases and not enough money — or time — to do their clients justice. Now, more public defense advocates are suing states for more funding. Overwhelmed public defenders also are increasingly trying other tactics: refusing to take on new cases, raising money through crowdfunding, even trying to assign a case to a sitting governor…”

Gazette Series on Iowa Foster Care System

  • Iowa’s foster care system pushes to reunite children with their birthparents, By Molly Duffy and Michaela Ramm, November 27, 2017, The Gazette: “Breanne French had been caring for the baby boy, whose bloodcurdling screaming fits finally had started to dissipate, for nine months when the Iowa Department of Human Services gave him back to his birth mother. The 11-month-old child had spent most of his life in one of two places: with Breanne, a licensed foster parent, and in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. His birth mother was in a rehabilitation facility for heroin use when she went into labor, and for the first two months of his life, doctors and nurses were weaning him off the drug…”
  • Unknowns of temporarily caring for children in foster care means Iowa’s foster parents feel ‘every emotion’, By Molly Duffy, November 27, 2017, The Gazette: “When children like Nicolas are removed from their birth families, the Iowa Department of Human Services often places them with adults who are, to the children, little more than strangers. But by the time a child is given to licensed foster parents, state agents have spent months digging into their pasts…”
  • Iowa’s social workers see growing foster care caseloads, By Michaela Ramm, November 27, 2017, The Gazette: “As a social worker and a foster parent, Emily Steeples sees foster care’s shortcomings up close. Steeples is a foster and adoptive family connections specialist for Four Oaks in Cedar Rapids, which provides support for families across most of the state. She and her spouse, Krista Kronstein, 36, also have been foster parents since 2015…”
  • Most children in Iowa’s foster care system reunite with their birthparents, some never find their way back, By Molly Duffy, November 27, 2017, The Gazette: “After the state moved Nicolas back into the care of his birth mother, Breanne French tried to accept he wasn’t hers to keep. After nine months of taking care of the baby boy as a foster care placement, his birth mother was in recovery from drug addiction and passing drug tests. Although the Iowa Department of Human Services had returned Nicolas to her, social workers still were involved with the birth mother and her baby, but they were making progress together…”

State Children’s Health Insurance Program

  • Millions of kids may lose health insurance over missed deadline by Congress, By Elizabeth Chuck, November 17, 2017, NBC News: “The diagnosis was dire: Roland Williams, a St. Louis boy with a megawatt smile and a penchant for painting, had an extremely rare form of lung cancer, oncologists told his mother in May 2016. ‘They didn’t think he would make it to see his 10th birthday,’ Myra Gregory said. ‘But thankfully the insurance was covering everything at that time, so we were happy to make it to see number 10 and 11.’  Roland is covered under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a federal health insurance program that provides inexpensive coverage to nearly 9 million children in low-income families…”
  • Nevada wants $11.3M for Children’s Health Insurance Program, By Jessie Bekker, November 20, 2017, Las Vegas Review-Journal: “Nevada has requested an extra $11.3 million in federal funding to continue the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program while Congress decides if it will renew funding for the decades-old program…”
  • Minnesota dipping into own funds to keep kids’ health program running, By Michael Ollove, November 22, 2017, Stateline: “The state of Minnesota has run out of federal funds for its Children’s Health Insurance Program this month, requiring the state to contribute more of its own resources to keep the health plan in operation. It appears to be the first state to run out of federal funds for the program since Congress failed to meet a September deadline to reauthorize the program…”
  • End of Children’s Health Insurance Program looming in Colorado, Virginia, By Michael Ollove, November 21, 2017, Stateline: “Colorado and Virginia are preparing to send out letters to low-income families who get health services through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, notifying them that the program will end in those states in two months unless it is reauthorized by Congress before then…”

State Licensing and Employment

  • When unpaid student loan bills mean you can no longer work, By Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Stacy Cowley and Natalie Kitroeff, November 18, 2017, New York Times: “Fall behind on your student loan payments, lose your job. Few people realize that the loans they take out to pay for their education could eventually derail their careers. But in 19 states, government agencies can seize state-issued professional licenses from residents who default on their educational debts. Another state, South Dakota, suspends driver’s licenses, making it nearly impossible for people to get to work. As debt levels rise, creditors are taking increasingly tough actions to chase people who fall behind on student loans…”
  • The disappearing right to earn a living, By Conor Friedersdorf, November 17, 2017, The Atlantic: “In most states, a person who desires to install home-entertainment systems for a living, or as a part-time gig for extra cash, faces relatively few barriers to entry. This is work teenagers routinely do for grandparents after they make a technology purchase. But in Connecticut, a home-entertainment installer is required to obtain a license from the state before serving customers. It costs applicants $185. To qualify, they must have a 12th-grade education, complete a test, and accumulate one year of apprenticeship experience in the field. A typical aspirant can expect the licensing process to delay them 575 days…”

Child Poverty – Dallas, TX

One in five Dallas-area children lives in poverty, report finds, By Corbett Smith, November 14, 2017, Dallas Morning News: “One in five children in North Texas lives in poverty, with more than 260,000 kids in the area considered food insecure, according to a biennial study released Tuesday from Children’s Health and the University of Texas at Dallas…”

Child Welfare System – Arizona

Arizona’s foster care boards don’t look like their communities. Here’s why that matters, By Maria Polletta, November 12, 2017, Arizona Republic: “Experts have long recognized inequalities in America’s child-welfare system: When kids share identical circumstances except for race, black and Native American children enter foster care more often, spend more time in the system and wait longer to be adopted. In an attempt to ensure fair treatment for kids taken from their parents, Arizona lawmakers decades ago mandated that Foster Care Review Boards — which help decide the fates of children in foster care — mirror the races, ethnicities and income levels of the communities they serve.  They don’t…”

Medicaid and Work Requirements

  • Trump administration plan to add Medicaid work requirement stirs fears, By Phil Kalewitz, November 15, 2017, Washington Post: “The Trump administration’s recent endorsement of work requirements in Medicaid and increased state flexibility is part of broader strategy to shrink the fast-growing program for the poor and advance conservative ideas that Republicans failed to get through Congress…”
  • Mississippi seeks OK for job training for some on Medicaid, Emily Wagster Pettus (AP), November 16, 2017, Clarion Ledger: “Mississippi is seeking federal permission to require job training for some able-bodied adults who receive Medicaid, and the Trump administration has signaled that is open to approving such plans…”

Medicaid and Retroactive Eligibility

  • Several states roll back ‘retroactive Medicaid,’ a buffer for the poor, By Michelle Andrews, November 14, 2017, National Public Radio: “If you’re poor, uninsured and have a bad car wreck or fall seriously ill, there’s a chance in most states to enroll for Medicaid after the fact. If you qualify for Medicaid, the program will pay your medical bills going back three months. This ‘retroactive eligibility’ provides financial protection as patients await approval of their Medicaid applications. It protects hospitals, too, from having to absorb the costs of caring for these patients. But a growing number of states are rescinding this benefit…”
  • Legislator: ‘We made a mistake’ on policy changing Medicaid benefits, By Brianne Pfannenstiel, November 14, 2017, Des Moines Register: “A bipartisan group of legislators expressed concern Tuesday over a new law that will reduce coverage for thousands of new Medicaid beneficiaries in Iowa…”

Student Homelessness

New study finds that 4.2 million kids experience homelessness each year, By Leila Fadel, November 15, 2017, National Public Radio: “Marquan Ellis was evicted from his home in Las Vegas, Nevada when he was 18. His mother battled with a drug and gambling addiction while he stayed at his godmother’s house. But he couldn’t stay there forever. He found his way to the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth where he enrolled in the independent living program…”

Kids Count Report – Kentucky

A quarter of Kentucky kids are living in poverty, survey shows, By Deborah Yetter, November 14, 2017, Louisville Courier Journal: “One-quarter of the state’s children are living below the federal poverty level, according to a report by Kentucky Youth Advocates. Twelve percent of Kentucky children live in extreme poverty, which is below 50 percent of the poverty level. And nearly half of Kentucky’s children live in homes considered low income, or 200 percent of the poverty level, the report found…”

SNAP Application Process -Pennsylvania

More than 350,000 Pa. seniors take advantage of streamlined food-stamp application, By Kate Giammarise, November 13, 2017, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “More than a year after the state rolled out a vastly simplified application process for some senior citizens applying for food assistance, more than 350,000 older Pennsylvanians have used the streamlined tool. Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services introduced the easier application in June of last year, changing the form from a 24-page document that covered multiple assistance programs to a more manageable two-page application…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • LePage says he’ll block voter-approved Medicaid expansion unless legislators fund it, By Scott Thistle, November 8, 2017, Portland Press Herald: “Just hours after a Medicaid expansion was endorsed by nearly 60 percent of Maine voters, Gov. Paul LePage and his Republican allies vowed to delay, if not derail, the citizen-initiated law that would provide health care to as many as 70,000 low-income residents of the state…”
  • Election results invigorate Medicaid expansion hopes, By Abby Goodnough and Margot Sanger-Katz, November 8, 2017, New York Times: “The election results in Maine and Virginia have energized supporters of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in several holdout states. After months of battling Republican efforts to repeal the law, they now see political consensus shifting in their direction…”
  • Medicaid expansion takes a bite out of medical debt, By Alex Smith, November 10, 2017, National Public Radio: “As the administration and Republicans in Congress look to scale back Medicaid, many voters and state lawmakers across the country are moving to make it bigger. On Tuesday, Maine voters approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Advocates are looking to follow suit with ballot measures in Utah, Missouri and Idaho in 2018…”

City Minimum Wages

  • Minnesota Chamber of Commerce sues Minneapolis over $15 minimum wage, By Emma Nelson, November 10, 2017, Star Tribune: “The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is taking the city of Minneapolis to court over the $15 minimum wage, saying the ordinance conflicts with existing state law…”
  • San Diego has fined businesses $60,000 over minimum wage violations, By David Garrick, November 10, 2017, San Diego Union-Tribune: “Investigators enforcing San Diego’s minimum wage law have handled more than 500 complaints against 70 businesses and levied nearly $60,000 in fines since the law took effect last year. City officials say those numbers will increase as outreach efforts make more people aware that San Diego’s hourly minimum wage of $11.50 is higher than the state minimum of $10 for small businesses and $10.50 for large ones…”

Healthy Food Programs for SNAP Recipients

  • New program buoys purchases of fresh food with food stamps, By Rachel Alexander, November 9, 2017, Spokesman-Review: “Brandaleen Harper used to have trouble affording produce for herself and her son, Gabriel. Harper works part time in child care and said her food stamps often don’t stretch far enough to cover everything she’d like to buy. But a new program through the Spokane Regional Health District and the Washington State Department of Health is making it easier for people using food stamps to buy fruits and vegetables…”
  • Assembly approves giving Wisconsin food stamp users a discount on produce, healthy groceries, By Patrick Marley, November 7, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Some people who use food stamps would get a break on buying produce and other healthy groceries, under a bill the state Assembly overwhelmingly approved Tuesday…”

Academic Gaps in Early Childhood

Study: Academic gaps persist — but haven’t widened — between high- and low-income kindergartners, By Neal Morton, November 6, 2017, Seattle Times: “When education economist Emma García started researching the academic gaps that show up in kindergarten between low-income students and their high-income peers, she had reason to suspect the gaps had widened in recent years…”

Seattle Times Series on Homelessness

Project Homeless, homepage, Seattle Times: “The Seattle Times is launching Project Homeless, a community-funded initiative to explore the causes of homelessness, explain what the region is doing about the crisis and spotlight potential solutions. Today, we examine one of the obstacles to moving people into stable housing…”

Medicaid and Work Requirements

States will be allowed to impose Medicaid work requirements, top federal official says, By Paige Winfield Cunningham, November 7, 2016, Washington Post: “The government will give states broader leeway in running their Medicaid programs and allow them to impose work requirements on enrollees, a top federal health official said Tuesday in outlining how the Trump administration plans to put its mark on the insurance program for low-income Americans…”

Homelessness on the West Coast

Homelessness soars on West Coast as cities struggle to cope, Associated Press, November 6, 2017, CNBC: “In a park in the middle of a leafy, bohemian neighborhood where homes list for close to $1 million, a tractor’s massive claw scooped up the refuse of the homeless — mattresses, tents, wooden frames, a wicker chair, an outdoor propane heater. Workers in masks and steel-shanked boots plucked used needles and mounds of waste from the underbrush. Just a day before, this corner of Ravenna Park was an illegal home for the down and out, one of 400 such encampments that have popped up in Seattle’s parks, under bridges, on freeway medians and along busy sidewalks. Now, as police and social workers approached, some of the dispossessed scurried away, vanishing into a metropolis that is struggling to cope with an enormous wave of homelessness. That struggle is not Seattle’s alone…”

October 2017 US Unemployment Rate

  • U.S. jobs growth reaches 261,000 as economy rebounds from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, By Danielle Paquette, November 3, 2017, Washington Post: “The U.S. economy added 261,000 jobs in October as the country rebounded from hurricanes Harvey and Irma as expected, and the jobless rate ticked down to 4.1 percent — the lowest level since 2000. The pace of hiring in October showed that the economy was recovering from the storms, Friday’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found. But year-over-year wage growth sank to 2.4 percent…”
  • U.S. adds 261,000 jobs in October, and a revision restores job creation streak, By Bill Chappell, November 3, 2017, National Public Radio: “The U.S. economy added 261,000 jobs in October, according to the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate fell by a small notch, from 4.2 percent to 4.1 percent. While job creation showed a rebound from hurricane season, the October result didn’t meet analysts’ expectations that the report would easily top 300,000 jobs…”