Retirement Security

Think income inequality is bad? Retirement inequality may be worse., By Mike Maciag, March 2018, Governing: “For years, salon owner Luke Huffstutter, of Portland, Ore., wanted to offer his employees a way to save for retirement. Costs  were too steep for the small company, though, and few employees took the initiative to set up 401(k) plans on their own. But last summer, Oregon launched a retirement savings program that automatically enrolls employees in Roth IRAs, the first such state-sponsored program in the nation. Huffstutter signed up, and most of his 38 employees are now enrolled…”

Welfare Reform

  • Would new limits on food stamps help or hurt children? Missouri lawmakers disagree, By Tessa Weinberg, March 14, 2018, Kansas City Star: “As Republican lawmakers push bills to tighten access to the state’s welfare programs, their critics worry one group of Missourians could be hurt the most: low-income children. A handful of bills would put greater restrictions on people receiving aid through federal welfare programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as SNAP, or food stamps…”
  • Missouri House supports bill adding welfare program restrictions, By Suman Naishadham, March 15, 2018, Columbia Missourian: “House members approved new restrictions and penalties for individuals who use two welfare programs on Thursday, despite impassioned arguments the move will create unfair financial hardships for those who rely on the funding…”
  • Trump’s vow on welfare faces an uncertain future, By Glenn Thrush, March 15, 2018, New York Times: “In his State of the Union speech two months ago, President Trump vowed to end welfare as he defined it, heralding a plan to force recipients off federal housing vouchers, food assistance and Medicaid if they were not willing to do ‘a hard day’s work.’ Days before the speech, as part of the plan, several federal departments took steps to impose the stricter work requirements on able-bodied adults receiving noncash aid. The move could result in the loss of subsistence benefits for as many as four million poor, single adults over the next few years, experts say. But Mr. Trump’s effort faces an uncertain future…”

February 2018 US Unemployment Rate

  • Jobs report: U.S. employers added 313,000 jobs in February, By Paul Davidson, March 9, 2018, USA Today: “A hot labor market showed no sign of cooling as U.S. employers added a blockbuster 313,000 jobs in February. The unemployment rate was unchanged at a 17-year low of 4.1%, the Labor Department said Friday…”
  • U.S. added 313,000 jobs in February. Here’s what that means., By Patricia Cohen, March 9, 2018, New You Times: “Whether you work on Wall Street or in a warehouse, the latest jobs report released by the government on Friday contained good news, with impressive employment gains in low-, middle- and high-wage industries…”

Black Unemployment

Lowest ever black jobless rate is still twice that of whites, By Natalie Kitroeff and Ben Casselman, February 23, 2018, New York Times: “President Trump celebrated the milestone on Twitter and in his State of the Union address. The unemployment rate for black Americans had hit its lowest point on record, a sign that the recovery was at last reaching groups that had been left behind. But the achievement was bittersweet: Black joblessness was still roughly twice the rate for whites…”

Medicaid and Work Requirements

  • Work for it. What Trump’s tough new Medicaid rules mean., By Benjy Sarlin, February 20, 2018, NBC News: “Every day that Steve Olshewsky can convince himself to get out of bed and face the world is a small victory in his eyes. After a series of panic attacks forced him out of work in 2009, Olshewsky returned to his hometown to recover with family. He’s made great strides since then, thanks to medication and his work at Participation Station, a peer-run outpatient clinic for serious mental illness. There, he sits in on group sessions, teaches tai chi to members, and talks clients through rough days on the clinic phone line. But Olshewsky, who pays for his prescriptions through Medicaid, could soon have to prove he deserves to keep his coverage under a new set of restrictions on able-bodied Medicaid recipients. The Trump administration approved the rules in January through a waiver program that allows states to experiment with changes to Medicaid…”
  • Should Medicaid come with work requirements? Ohio says yes, By Kaitlin Schroeder, February 20, 2018, Dayton Daily News: “Ohio for the first time is seeking federal approval to create job requirements as a condition to qualify for Medicaid. Most Ohio residents enrolled through the expansion of Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor, are already working or would be exempt because of things like their age, disability or care taking responsibilities…”

Minimum Wage – St. Paul, MN

As St. Paul considers a minimum wage increase, some want to exempt youth workers, By Frederick Melo, February 16, 2018, Twin Cities Pioneer Press: “Cookie Cart produces more than just delicious snickerdoodle, chocolate chip and hand-decorated cookies. The Minneapolis-based nonprofit also claims to ‘bake bright futures’ by training low-income teenagers in every aspect of the business, from marketing to distribution, on top of soft skills such as business etiquette and résumé-building…”

Unemployment Benefits – North Carolina, Kentucky

  • NC has country’s smallest unemployment benefits – but a $3 billion fund, By Colin Campbell, February 8, 2018, News and Observer: “People without jobs in North Carolina receive some of the lowest unemployment benefits in the country and receive payments for a shorter time than in nearly every other state, according to a new report. A 2013 state law cut both the size and duration of unemployment benefits in North Carolina. Lawmakers said they made the change because the trust fund that pays for the program had a $2 billion deficit…”
  • Unemployed and out of luck. Plan would cut benefits for out-of-work Kentuckians, By Daniel Desrochers, February 8, 2018, Lexington Herald Leader: “A proposal in the Kentucky legislature would eliminate or reduce unemployment benefits for tens of thousands of out-of-work Kentuckians each year, boosting the bottom lines of businesses by forcing the unemployed to live on less…”


States and Welfare Reform

  • Where the work-for-welfare movement is heading, By Jen Fifield, January 25, 2018, Stateline: “As President Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress set out to impose tougher restrictions on welfare, their conservative allies across the country are trying to help them accomplish their mission, state by state. Republican governors and state legislators are moving ahead with proposals that would make it harder for people to get and keep welfare benefits and restrict what benefits they get. Measures already have been floated in about a dozen states, and, policy analysts say, what happens in states in the coming year will serve as an indicator of what’s to come nationally…”
  • Report: Poor families struggling with Kansas welfare rules, By Madeline Fox, January 25, 2018, “Income that doesn’t come close to the poverty line. Persistent job insecurity. Shifting schedules and irregular hours. Cumbersome barriers to state assistance meant for the neediest Kansans. A new report from the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities paints a stark picture of the Kansas welfare system. Analysts focused on two major changes to Kansas welfare eligibility rules enacted under Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration — work requirements and time limits…”
  • Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget would let welfare recipients keep more benefits while working, By Shira Schoenberg, January 25, 2018, MassLive: “A proposal in Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget aims to help welfare recipients return to work by continuing to pay them benefits even after they start a new job. ‘We’re going to make it possible for people who work to be able to continue to do so past the point that they would have been able to historically,’ Baker said Wednesday…”

Homeless Day-Labor Program – Denver, CO

After Denver hired homeless people to shovel mulch and perform other day labor, more than 100 landed regular jobs, By Jon Murray, January 16, 2018, Denver Post: “Jeffrey Maes didn’t expect to live on the streets in his 50s. He had started several businesses, but he says the last one, a remodeling company, went south just as he was stretched thin on four properties. He lost them all, he said, and ended up without a home — along with the realization that he was considered unemployable. But last year, he heard about a Denver-sponsored day-labor program that had helped friends get back on their feet. After nearly four years of homelessness, Maes gave it a shot…”

Welfare Reform – Kansas

Brownback cut welfare in Kansas. Is Congress about to follow?, By Jonathan Shorman, January 14, 2018, Wichita Eagle: “Welfare restrictions and work requirements have knocked tens of thousands of Kansans off assistance over the past few years. Many get kicked out for not working, but only a small percentage leave because they have a job, the latest federal data reveals. Republicans in Congress have said they want to tackle welfare reform. Some, including Rep. Ron Estes of Wichita, say Washington, D.C. should look to Kansas as an example, but it’s unclear whether program cuts in Kansas left recipients better off…”

Minimum Wage

After nine years of no change, is the federal minimum wage irrelevant?, By Jana Kasperkevic, January 15, 2018, Marketplace: “If President Donald Trump does not increase the federal minimum wage within the next two years, it will be more than ten years since its last increase — the longest that the federal minimum wage has remained unchanged since it was enacted. With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25, states and cities across the U.S. have increased their local minimum wages instead — some going as far as more than doubling the amount to $15 an hour…”

State Minimum Wages

Minimum wage hikes: 18 states, 20 cities to lift pay floors Jan. 1, By Paul Davidson, December 19, 2017, USA Today: “The movement to lift earnings of low-paid workers will gather force in 2018, with a growing number of states and cities raising their minimum wages as high as $15 an hour. Proponents say the initiatives can help narrow a widening income gap between the wealthy and poor. Business advocates say they’re already leading to restaurant closings and layoffs…”

November 2017 US Unemployment Rate

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…”

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…”

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…”

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…”

Unemployment Compensation Fund – Ohio

Should Ohio workers have their wages taxed to pay for state jobless benefits?, By Catherine Candisky, October 22, 2017, Columbus Dispatch: “A proposal to shore up Ohio’s unemployment-compensation fund would draw millions of dollars from workers because they would be required for the first time to contribute to jobless benefits. Under House Bill 382 introduced by state Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, new premiums charged to employees would begin in 2019, generating $125 million that year. That would equal 10 percent of the unemployment taxes paid by employers, who also face a rate increase…”