Voting Rights and Registration

  • Automatic voter registration goes beyond the DMV, By J.B. Wogan, April 17, 2018, Governing: “New Jersey on Tuesday became the 12th state, plus the District of Columbia, to enact an automatic voter registration law, which is intended to increase participation in elections. While automatic voter registration (AVR) is itself a new trend — first adopted in Oregon in 2015 — New Jersey’s law represents a new twist: It allows the practice to extend beyond the DMV…”
  • This New Jersey law is blocking African Americans from voting in shocking numbers, By Samantha Melamed, April 12, 2018, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Thirty years in prison can teach you patience. That’s a good thing for Ronald Pierce, who was paroled last year, as he’s likely in for a long fight.  Pierce, a 59-year-old North Jersey man, accepts that he’s on parole and will be for the rest of his life. But one thing he can’t accept: He’s also being denied the right to vote…”

Kids Count Report – Michigan

  • Kids Count Report: Poverty down, health and education remain concerns, By Erin Dietzer, April 17, 2018, Holland Sentinel: “The good news in the 2018 Michigan Kids Count Report is that poverty is finally seeing a drop. The bad news is that a majority of child well-being indicators have stagnated or worsened statewide since 2010, with widening disparities by race, ethnicity and income…”
  • Report: Rate of black kids living in poverty dips, April 17, 2018, Detroit News: “While Michigan continues to recover from the Great Recession, one group has lagged behind. The number of black children living in poverty has dropped but still remains alarmingly high, according to the 2018 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book. It has fallen from 48 percent in 2010 to 42 percent in 2016…”

Assistance Programs and Work Requirements

  • Trump executive order strengthens work requirements for neediest Americans, By Tracy Jan, April 10, 2018, Washington Post: “President Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order directing federal agencies to strengthen existing work requirements and introduce new ones for low-income Americans receiving Medicaid, food stamps, public housing benefits and welfare as part of a broad overhaul of government assistance programs…”
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signs new limits on welfare programs into law, By Jason Stein, April 10, 2018, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday signed new limits on welfare programs into law, committing state and federal taxpayers to nearly $80 million in spending to draw more people into the labor force…”

Kids Count Report – Florida

Fewer kids in Florida live in poverty but state ranks 40 overall for child well-being, By Liz Freeman, April 5, 2018, Naples Daily News: “Kids can’t get ahead when they are behind with learning and thriving. New Florida Kids Count data shows modest improvement statewide for children getting out of poverty and for students graduating on time, but more needs to be done to improve their future, according to program officials…”

Bail System

When bail feels less like freedom, more like extortion, By Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Shaila Dewan, March 31, 2018, New York Times: “Most bail bond agents make it their business to get their clients to court. But when Ronald Egana showed up at the criminal courthouse in New Orleans, he was surprised to find that his bondsman wanted to stop him. A bounty hunter was waiting at the courthouse metal detector to intercept Mr. Egana and haul him to the bond company office, he said. The reason: The bondsman wanted to get paid. Mr. Egana ended up in handcuffs, missing his court appearance while the agency got his mother on the phone and demanded more than $1,500 in overdue payments, according to a lawsuit. It was not the first time Mr. Egana had been held captive by the bond company, he said, nor would it be the last. Each time, his friends or family was forced to pay more to get him released, he said…”

Home Loan Discrimination

Redlining was banned 50 years ago. It’s still hurting minorities today., By Tracy Jan, March 28, 2018, Washington Post: “Racial discrimination in mortgage lending in the 1930s shaped the demographic and wealth patterns of American communities today, a new study shows, with 3 out of 4 neighborhoods ‘redlined’ on government maps 80 years ago continuing to struggle economically. The study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, released Wednesday, shows that the vast majority of neighborhoods marked ‘hazardous’ in red ink on maps drawn by the federal Home Owners’ Loan Corp. from 1935 to 1939 are today much more likely than other areas to comprise lower-income, minority residents…”

Legal Aid Funding – Kentucky

Kentucky could become third state not to fund legal aid, By Adam Beam (AP), March 27, 2018, Ledger-Enquirer: “Edna Bland had just adopted a child, her father was dying and her husband was having risky heart surgery when a mortgage company tried to take her house in 2009. Because Bland had not been charged with a crime, she was not guaranteed the right to an attorney. A judge ruled against her, and the mortgage company tried to put a lock on her house…”

Kids Count Report – Colorado

Colorado kids doing better in many areas, but face problems with suicide, school funding, infant mortality, report says, By Monte Whaley, March 22, 2018, Denver Post: “Colorado kids are doing better on several fronts than they were 25 years ago, including in areas of public health, early development and education, according to a report released Thursday. In 2016, Colorado’s infant mortality rate was nearly half of what it was in 1991, the teen birth rate plummeted by nearly 70 percent and the uninsured rate for kids reached a record low…”

Racial Inequality

Extensive data shows punishing reach of racism for black boys, By Emily Badger, Claire Cain Miller, Adam Pearce and Kevin Quealy, March 19, 2018, New York Times: “Black boys raised in America, even in the wealthiest families and living in some of the most well-to-do neighborhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds, according to a sweeping new study that traced the lives of millions of children. White boys who grow up rich are likely to remain that way. Black boys raised at the top, however, are more likely to become poor than to stay wealthy in their own adult households…”

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…”

Bail Reform – Ohio

Cuyahoga County task force seeks sweeping bail reforms, By Peter Krouse, March 16, 2018, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Cuyahoga County should adopt sweeping judicial reforms that would dramatically change the way bail is set and give poor defendants a better shot at justice, according to a much-awaited report by a task force of local judges, lawyers and legal experts.  Today’s release of the report follows more than 18 months of reporting by cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer in Justice for All, a series examining how the region’s bail systems dispense unequal justice, needlessly and unfairly jailing some suspects simply because they can’t afford to pay for their freedom…”

Medicaid and Dental Care – Wisconsin

  • For those on Medicaid, it can be a struggle to find dental care in the Twin Ports, By Brady Slater, March 3, 2018, Duluth News Tribune: “Zymrie Bekteshi is doing the best she can in the world. She’s a single mother raising a boy and girl, both under the age of 10. She sews for a local company serving the aviation industry. Her employer lets her work from home. ‘Work from home is good,’ she said. ‘I have nobody to help me, no family if kids get sick. So they give me a machine to work with in my home.’ Even with the job she’s held for 11 years, she described herself as ‘low-income.’ Not long ago, Bekteshi, of Duluth, experienced one of the risks concomitant with living near the poverty line: trouble finding a dentist for her kids…”
  • Wisconsin pilot program aims to increase access to dental care for low-income children, By Shamane Mills, February 26, 2018, Wisconsin Public Radio: “Dental care for low-income children has been a problem in Wisconsin for years. One reason is that parents can’t find dentists who will accept Medicaid, known in Wisconsin as BadgerCare. To help address this gap, the state is paying some dentists who take Medicaid patients more to see if it will improve access to care. The Enhanced Dental Reimbursement Pilot Program began in October 2016 and includes Brown, Marathon, Racine and Polk counties…”
  • Dentists ask for more funding for treating patients with Medicaid, By Shamane Mills, February 27, 2018, Wisconsin Public Radio: “Medicaid is one of the biggest cost drivers in the state budget, but dentists say they’re getting less than 1 percent of that money. They’re asking the state to pay them more for taking on patients who get insurance through Medicaid. In an attempt to address the gap in dental care for low-income children across Wisconsin, the state began a pilot program that does just that…”
  • Dentists: Slights in funding, respect at the root of Wisconsin’s dental care disparity, By Shamane Mills, February 27, 2018, Wisconsin Public Radio: “Dentists will tell you they deal with a lot of neglect. They often see patients who put off flossing or brushing, or let cavities sit unfilled. And like a tooth problem that gets ignored for too long, some Wisconsin dentists say state officials neglect their sector of care, slighting the industry with what they consider inadequate state funding which ultimately makes it harder for their patients to get treatment…”

School Funding – Baltimore, MD

Free lunch program unintentionally cost some Baltimore schools thousands in federal funding, By Talia Richman, March 7, 2018, Baltimore Sun: “When Baltimore’s public school district joined a universal free lunch program three years ago, the city celebrated. Now every student in the district, regardless of income, could get healthy, wholesome food each day, courtesy of federal taxpayers. But in an unintended consequence, the move has cost some of the city’s high-poverty schools hundreds of thousands of dollars in other federal funding — losses that have led principals to cut staff and programs from some of the buildings that need them most…”

Debt Collection and the Poor

  • Debtors’ prison: ACLU report details ‘criminalization of private debt’, By Jon Schuppe, February 21, 2018, NBC News: “Americans’ reliance on household debt ─ and poor people’s struggles to pay it off ─ has fueled a collection industry that forces many of them into jail, a practice that critics call a misuse of the criminal justice system…”
  • How Chicago ticket debt sends black motorists into bankruptcy, By Melissa Sanchez and Sandhya Kambhampati, February 27, 2018, ProPublica: “By last summer, Laqueanda Reneau felt like she had finally gotten her life on track. A single mother who had gotten pregnant in high school, she supported her family with a series of jobs at coffee shops, restaurants and clothing stores until she landed a position she loved as a community organizer on Chicago’s West Side. At the same time, she was working her way toward a degree in public health at DePaul University. But one large barrier stood in her way: $6,700 in unpaid tickets, late fines and impound fees…”

Cash Bail System

  • What happened when New Jersey stopped relying on cash bail, By Maddie Hanna, February 16, 2018, Philadelphia Inquirer: “One year into New Jersey’s nationally watched overhaul of its bail system, the state’s pretrial jail population has dropped 20 percent as courts have all but stopped setting cash bail…”
  • Philadelphia DA drops cash bail for ‘low-level’ crimes, By Anthony Izaguirre (AP), February 21, 2018, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Philadelphia’s top prosecutor said Wednesday his office will stop jailing people who cannot afford to pay cash bail in minor criminal cases, affirming the commitment of the country’s fifth-largest city to a national movement that argues the practice targets poor Americans…”

Public Defender System – Missouri

Some Missouri lawmakers want to privatize the public defender system. For one county, it starts March 1., By Sky Chadde, February 20, 2018, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Next month, when poor people are charged with crimes in one southern Missouri county, a private attorney will represent them — even if they can’t afford it. That’s because the Missouri State Public Defender has decided to completely privatize Texas County. Starting March 1, if a defendant is deemed indigent, judges there will contract with private lawyers, with the state footing the bill, according to Michael Barrett, director for the public defender office…”

Bail Reform

  • New Jersey claims bail-reform a success, cites huge drop in jail population, By Peter Krouse, February 13, 2018, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “One year after sweeping criminal-justice reforms became law in New Jersey, the state has “successfully transformed an antiquated money bail system into a modern risk-based system,” the state’s courts reported Tuesday…”
  • Could Dallas’ bail system be deemed an ‘instrument of oppression’ after Houston ruling?, By Naomi Martin, February 16, 2018, Dallas News: “On the one hand, it was a kick in the gut.  But it was also a roadmap. That’s how Dallas County officials see a much-anticipated ruling by a federal appeals court on bail reform. For years, county leaders and judges have been in talks to overhaul the criminal bail system to make it easier for poor arrestees who aren’t dangerous to be released from jail while they await trial…”

Budget Proposal and Safety Net Programs

  • Trump’s budget hits poor Americans the hardest, By Tracy Jan, Caitlin Dewey and Jeff Stein, February 12, 2018, Washington Post: “President Trump proposed a budget Monday that hits the poorest Americans the hardest, slashing billions of dollars in food stamps, health insurance and federal housing subsidies while pushing legislation to institute broad work requirements for families receiving housing vouchers, expanding on moves by some states to require recipients of Medicaid and food stamps to work…”
  • Trump wants to end states’ power to make food stamps more accessible during recessions, By J.B. Wogan, February 14, 2018, Governing: “The Trump administration, which often stresses the need for states to have more flexibility, wants to give them less when it comes to food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)…”
  • New study lauds food stamps’ anti-poverty impact as Trump weighs alternative, By Steve Goldstein, February 15, 2018, MarketWatch: “As the Trump administration weighs slashing and dramatically reshaping the food-stamp program, a new study finds the program dramatically cuts the poverty rate. The Urban Institute released a study on what’s called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is better known as food stamps…”
  • Trump’s proposal to end heating assistance called dangerous for rural Minnesotans, seniors, By Maya Rao and Jim Spencer, February 14, 2018, Star Tribune: “In northwestern Minnesota, Corann Fladhammer has relied on $1,400 in federal assistance to heat her home as temperatures plunged in recent months. Without it, she said, it would be difficult for seniors like her to stay in their homes…”

Housing Subsidies

Revised federal housing subsidies offer mobility to low-income residents, By Carey L.  Biron, February 13, 2018, Christian Science Monitor: “Tiara Moore, a public school bus aide, has been living with her uncle and young daughter in a high-crime, high-poverty part of Chicago – and she’s wanted to move. Her top choice is DuPage County, just outside Chicago and closer to where her mother lives, but moving has not been easy because the size of the housing assistance she receives from the federal government has limited her choices…”

School Funding – Connecticut

In school funding fight, Connecticut weighs uncertain next steps, By J. Brian Charles, February 7, 2018, Governing: “Connecticut is the richest state in the country. And like all affluent states, Connecticut pours billions into education each year. Only the District of Columbia and two other states (Alaska and New York) spend more per student. But for all the money Connecticut spends, it can’t seem to close the gap between students in the richest districts in the state (places like Greenwich, Westport, Avon and Farmington) and the poorest districts in the largest cities like Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport…”