Bail Reform – Alabama

Too poor to make bail: Alabama forced to reform ‘two-tiered’ jail system, By Anna Claire Vollers, October 11, 2017, “In May, Kandace Edwards had hit rock bottom. She was 29 years old and homeless, the mother of two toddlers. They lived in rural Randolph County on the Alabama-Georgia line, staying with a variety of friends – some of whom did not have electricity or running water – since her eviction five months previously. Edwards was also 7 months pregnant and had just lost her waitressing job, she said, after the restaurant let her go because her high-risk pregnancy prevented her from working in certain conditions. She had no income, relying on food stamps and Medicaid for support. She’d granted temporary custody of her children to her mother-in-law. Then Edwards was arrested for forging a $75 check. It was a felony charge, and bail was set at $7,500…”

Kids Count Report – Alabama

  • Kids Count: Poverty rates are up; hunger stats have stabilized, By Lisa Singleton-Rickman, September 25, 2017, Times Daily: “The recently released Kids Count 2017 data didn’t come as a shock to Sarah Jennifer Thompson, especially in the area of childhood poverty. The founder of Sydney’s Safe Foundation has been fighting child hunger for a decade, the past seven years of which has included sending weekend food home with qualifying low-income students…”
  • Alabama teen pregnancy rate is at historic low, while poverty remains high, By Kym Klass, September 18, 2017, Montgomery Advertiser: “The number of children living in poverty continues to be high in Alabama, while the state’s teen pregnancy rate is at a historic low, according to the just-released Alabama Kids Count Data Book, produced by VOICES for Alabama’s Children…”

Poverty Rate – Alabama

Alabama is 6th poorest state in nation; poverty rate at 40 percent in some counties, By Anna Claire Vollers, July 3, 2017, “Alabama is the sixth poorest state in the United States, according to a new report by an Alabama nonprofit. About 18.5 percent of Alabamians live below the federal poverty line, but the percentage varies widely by county. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Black Belt counties have the highest rates of poverty while metro areas have the lowest…”

Medicaid and Maternity Care – Alabama

Some Medicaid mothers must wait weeks, months before first doctor’s visit, By Anna Claire Vollers, May 8, 2017, “When Katie Silvia learned she was pregnant in November 2016, her first call wasn’t to her obstetrician – it was to the Alabama Medicaid office. Her husband had received a letter from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama that his insurance, a Blue Cross plan purchased through the health exchange, was not going to cover her pregnancy because their income level qualified her for pregnancy Medicaid. But according to doctors and patients, Alabama’s complex maternity Medicaid process can mean some moms don’t get their first OBGYN appointment until they’re well into their second trimester, 13 or more weeks into their pregnancies…”

State Medicaid Programs – Kansas, Alabama

  • Disability group calling for federal investigation of Medicaid backlog, By Gabriella Dunn, July 12, 2016, Wichita Eagle: “A state disability organization is calling on the federal government to investigate the state’s handling of the application backlog for Medicaid. And this week, the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit will begin an investigation into the backlog issue. The backlog was caused in part by the state switching its computer system that processes Medicaid applications about a year ago. And then in January, it switched the agency that oversees the applications, furthering the problem…”
  • Alabama’s Medicaid crisis: Four ways out, By Brian Lyman, July 15, 2016, Montgomery Advertiser: “Legislators don’t lack options to address a shortfall in the state’s Medicaid program.  But what they do lack — for now — is leadership in the Alabama House and a certainty about whether the will exists among legislators to reopen the General Fund budget…”

Local Minimum Wage Laws

When a state balks at a city’s minimum wage, By Alan Blinder, February 21, 2016, New York Times: “Veronica Roscoe, who earns $7.75 an hour working at a Burger King here, thought last August that she had won: This city had become the first in the South to approve a local minimum wage.  “It was, ‘Wow, victory,’ “ Ms. Roscoe, 55, said. “I was running around the job, acting a fool.”   But that was before the Alabama Legislature met, and before a showdown between state lawmakers and city leaders about who should have the authority to set wage policy in Birmingham. The dispute is a particularly ferocious version of a divide playing out nationally as cities increasingly move to raise their minimum wages and some states, particularly those controlled by Republicans, try to restrict their ability to set floors on pay…”

Washington Post Series: Lost Opportunity in the Deep South

  • An opportunity gamed away, By Chico Harlan, July 11, 2015, Washington Post: “Her one-story house was slumping inch by inch, day by day, into the wet ground of the Mississippi Delta. Rot climbed up the wooden beams and mildew crept across the ceiling. Soft spots spread across the damp and buckling plywood floor. Holes opened up that led straight to the soil…”
  • Graduating, but to what?, By Chico Harlan, October 17, 2015, Washington Post: “The day of his high school graduation, like so many of the days before, began with chaos. Ruleville Central had pledged to lock its front doors an hour before the ceremony to prevent a crowd overflow, and Jadareous Davis was still at his grandmother’s home six miles up the road, time slipping away. Davis scanned through his mental checklist. Shoes? His older brother hadn’t yet swung by to drop off a pair. Bow tie? Maybe he could borrow one from a neighbor. Pants? Davis wasn’t even sure whether the dress code mandated black or brown, and he called a friend for help…”
  • A grim bargain, By Chico Harlan, December 1, 2015, Washington Post: “People here were so accustomed to the rural quiet, even the distant noises tipped off that something big was coming to the most impoverished corner of Alabama. First they heard chain saws buzzing through the forest, and then they heard trucks jangling along rutted roads, hauling away the timber. Next they heard pavers blazing new asphalt past a cow pasture. And finally they heard the rumblings of a different kind, the first rumors of what was planned for the clearing…”
  • A lonely road, By Chico Harlan, December 28, 2015, Washington Post: “She set off on the latest day of job hunting wearing tiny star-shaped earrings that belonged to her 18-month-old daughter and frayed $6 shoes from Walmart that were the more comfortable of her two pairs. In her backpack she had stashed a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch, hand sanitizer for the bus and pocket change for printing résumés at the public library. She carried a spiral notebook with a handwritten list of job openings that she’d titled her ‘Plan of Action for the Week.’   It had been 20 months since Lauren Scott lost her apartment and six months since she lost her car and 10 weeks since she washed up at a homeless shelter in this suburb south of Atlanta with no money and no job. Her daughter, Za’Niyah, had already lived in seven places, and Scott feared that her child would soon grow old enough to permanently remember the chaos…”

Kids Count Report – Alabama

Report: More than a quarter of Alabama children live in poverty, By Amy Yurkanin, December 1, 2015, “The Great Recession hasn’t released its grip on Alabama children, who suffer higher rates of poverty than they did 15 years ago, according to the latest Kids Count Data Book. About 27 percent of Alabama children live in households that earn $25,000 or less for a family of four. Almost half of those children live in extreme poverty, with a household income of less than $12,000 a year. All told, about 300,000 children and families lack the economic resources needed to obtain safe housing, healthy food and adequate child care. Not all Alabama children are equally affected by poverty. Although the poverty rate has gone up in all demographics, African-American and Hispanic children are more than twice as likely to live in low-income households as their white counterparts, according to the report…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • Haslam’s Tennessee Plan would expand health coverage, By Dave Boucher, December 15, 2014, The Tennessean: “In a major policy move, Gov. Bill Haslam has announced the new Insure Tennessee plan, a two-year pilot program that would provide health care coverage to tens of thousands of Tennesseans who currently don’t have access to health insurance or have limited options. The plan would be leveraged with federal dollars, said Haslam, who has been working for more than a year on a Medicaid expansion plan that could gain approval from both federal officials and the Republican-dominated state legislature…”
  • Medicaid expansion could be months away in Alaska, Associated Press, December 14, 2014, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: “State health commissioner Valerie Davidson said it could be July before the state is in a position to begin enrolling Alaskans under expanded Medicaid coverage. Davidson said issues need to be worked out with a Medicaid eligibility system as well as with a Medicaid payment system that has been plagued by problems since going live in 2013. Both are being converted from one technology system to another, she said…”
  • Robert Bentley suggests he could accept Medicaid expansion, By Brian Lyman, December 12, 2014, Montgomery Advertiser: “Gov. Robert Bentley suggested Thursday that he could support an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program in the form of a block grant with employment requirements. In remarks before lawmakers wrapping up three days of legislative orientation, Bentley — who for years has expressed staunch opposition to expansion — said he would not expand the system until proposed reforms of the state system go into effect. However, he added he would be open to discussing a block grant program, similar to an expansion that took place in Arkansas this year…”

Kids Count Report – Alabama

Kids Count Alabama annual report shows more living in poverty; demographics changing, By Mike Cason, November 19, 2014, Birmingham News: “An annual report on child well-being in Alabama shows more children living in poverty and changing demographics. The Alabama Kids Count data book, published each year since 1992, was released today by VOICES for Alabama’s Children. The report says 290,000 Alabama children, 26 percent, lived in poverty in 2012. That was up from 21.5 percent in 2000…”

Welfare Reform – Maine, Alabama

  • Heavily debated welfare reforms go nowhere in Maine House, By Steve Mistler, April 4, 2014, Portland Press Herald: “Democrats in the House of Representatives rejected three welfare reform proposals by Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday while giving preliminary approval to a significantly altered version of a fourth. Mostly along party lines, the Democrat-controlled House voted 83-61 to approve a proposal to add smoke shops to a current law that prohibits electronic benefit transfer card transactions at certain locations, including liquor stores and casinos. The bill replaces the governor’s proposal to ban EBT card use for bail, alcohol, lottery tickets or tobacco products. Three other proposals, all related to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which distributes cash benefits to about 8,000 Maine families, were rejected in partly-line votes…”
  • Four welfare bills signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley, By Mike Cason, April 10, 2014, Huntsville Times: “Gov. Robert Bentley has signed into law a bill requiring people applying for cash welfare benefits to first apply for three jobs before becoming eligible. The governor signed SB 115 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, on Wednesday. ‘People are willing to help those in need, but they also expect those that are seeking taxpayer assistance to attempt to help themselves first,’ Orr said. SB 115 applies to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which provides monthly cash benefits to low-income families with children. As of December 2013, about 19,000 households in Alabama were receiving TANF. The average monthly benefit was $191…”

Kids Count Reports – Alabama, Kansas

  • Alabama Kids Count Data Book shows decline in child death rate, preventable teen death rate, By Mike Cason, November 20, 2013, Alabama Media Group: “A report released today shows positive trends for Alabama children in four categories, including child death rate and preventable teen death rate. Statistically significant positive trends were also shown in the number of vulnerable families (which are those in which a first birth is to a teen mother who has not finished high school) and first grade retention, which is an indicator of school readiness, according to a news release from VOICES for Alabama’s Children, which released its 2013 Alabama Kids Count Data Book today…”
  • Child poverty up in Kansas, but infant mortality down, report says, By Celia Llopis-Jepsen, November 19, 2013, Topeka Capital-Journal: “Childhood poverty continues to rise in Kansas, but infant mortality and violent deaths among teens are down, a report from a children’s advocacy group says. The annual Kids Count Kansas report, published by Kansas Action for Children, aims to analyze the well-being of children through various health, education and economic indicators. According to the 2013 report, released Tuesday, childhood poverty has shown no signs of abating in Kansas. Statewide, about 23 percent of Kansas children live in poverty, compared to 18 percent five years ago…”

TANF Programs – Kansas, Alabama

  • Rules tighten on TANF recipients, By Scott Rothschild, May 1, 2013, Lawrence Journal-World: “Low-income mothers in Kansas will have to participate in a work program sooner after giving birth to receive cash assistance, according to new rules by the Kansas Department for Children and Families. The changes will ‘bring expectations more in line with what the expectations are in the private sector, since that is what an employee can expect to receive from an employer,’ said Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for DCF. The changes deal with a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families…”
  • Committee approves welfare bills to drug test some recipients, prohibit purchases of alcohol, tattoos and tobacco, By Kim Chandler, May 2, 2013, Birmingham News: “The House State Government Committee today approved a bill to drug test welfare recipients with a history of drug offenses. The committee also approved another bill to prohibit people from using welfare benefits to buy booze, cigarettes, lottery tickets or advice on the psychic hotline. Both bills now move to the floor of the House of Representatives. The bill by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would prohibit recipients from using benefits to purchase alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, lottery tickets and from using those benefits in bars, casinos, tattoo facilities, psychic parlors or strip clubs…”

Early Childhood Education

In Alabama, a model for Obama’s push to expand preschool, By Motoko Rich, February 14, 2013, New York Times: “President Obama’s call in his State of the Union address to ‘make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America’ rallied advocates across the country who have long argued that inequity in education begins at a very young age. In details that emerged early Thursday, the administration proposed that the federal government work with states to provide preschool for every 4-year-old from low- and moderate-income families. The president’s plan also calls for expanding Early Head Start, the federal program designed to prepare children from low-income families for school, to broaden quality childcare for infants and toddlers…”

States and Medicaid Expansion – South Dakota, Alabama

  • Governor still undecided on Medicaid expansion, By Lynn Taylor Rick, November 13, 2012, Rapid City Journal: “After first hoping the courts would strike it down and then that Mitt Romney would dismantle it, a top aide to Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Monday he isn’t sure if South Dakota will expand its Medicaid rolls under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The governor, however, remains steadfast in his decision not to operate a state-run health insurance exchange, according to Tony Venhuizen, director of policy and communication with the governor’s office. Both the expansion of Medicaid and the health insurance exchange are part of the president’s health care reform legislation that was signed into law in 2010…”
  • Gov. Bentley says Alabama won’t set up exchange, expand Medicaid, By Kim Chandler, November 13, 2012, Birmingham News: “Bentley, in a show of continued resistance to the Affordable Care Act, said this afternoon that he will not set up a state health care exchange and he will not expand Medicaid under the federal healthcare overhaul. ‘I will not set up a state exchange in Alabama,’ Bentley said during a speech to the Birmingham Business Alliance. States have a Friday deadline to inform the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services if they plan to set up a state-run exchange, essentially a marketplace for people and businesses to shop for insurance. If states don’t set up their own exchange, either alone or in federal partnership, then the federal government will step in and design it…”

2012 Kids Count Data Book – Southern States

  • Report says 1 in 4 Kentucky children and 1 in 5 Hoosier kids are mired in child poverty, By Jessie Halladay, July 25, 2012, Louisville Courier-Journal: “One in four Kentucky children lives in poverty, and their numbers have increased starkly since 2005, according to the latest Kids Count report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Mirroring a national trend, the number of the state’s children living below the poverty line – defined in 2010 as $22,113 for a family of two adults and two children – rose 18 percent between 2005 and 2010, according to the annual report, which provides an annual snapshot of child well-being. In Indiana, one in five children lives in poverty, a 29 percent increase between 2005 and 2010…”
  • Maryland ranks 10th in child well-being, national study says, By Yvonne Wenger, July 25, 2012, Baltimore Sun: “Fewer Maryland children are living in high-poverty neighborhoods than a decade ago, but the lingering economic slump has left more parents without a steady paycheck, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported Wednesday. The Baltimore-based charity ranks Maryland 10th in the nation for overall child well-being in its 2012 Kids Count Data Book, which analyzed nationwide research and statistics on children’s economic well-being, education, health, family and community…”
  • Study: More SC kids living in poverty, By Gina Smith, July 26, 2012, The State: “South Carolina ranks near the bottom – 43rd among the 50 states – in a ranking of children’s well being. That is according to the newly released Kids Count report, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, that assesses the overall health of the nation’s children, including their economic health, family situation and education. The most-troubling S.C. finding is the number of children living in poverty…”
  • Kids Count report ranks W.Va. as one of worst in education, By Megan Workman, July 24, 2012, Charleston Gazette: “With nearly four out of five eighth-grade students who are not proficient in math, West Virginia received one of the worst education rankings in the country, a national report being released today shows. Nationwide, the percentage of eighth-graders who are not proficient in math decreased from 72 percent in 2005 to 66 percent in 2011, according to the report. West Virginia ranks 47th in the nation in education, according to The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book. Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico and Nevada join West Virginia as the five states ranked weakest for education…”
  • Alabama 45th of 50 for child well-being in 2012 Kids Count Data Book, By Kim Chandler, July 25, 2012, Birmingham News: “Alabama made its best showing ever in an annual ranking of child well-being, but it still came in 45th among the 50 states. The 2012 Kids Count Data Book released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation showed Alabama made gains in education but continues to struggle with high rates of child poverty. The report ranked Alabama 45th, the state’s best ranking since the Data Book began publication in 1990…”
  • Oklahoma lags in child well-being ranks, By Mike Averill, July 25, 2012, Tulsa World: “Despite slight improvement, Oklahoma remains near the bottom of the country for child well-being, according to a national report that ranks states using an index of 16 indicators in four categories. Oklahoma ranked 40th overall, up from last year’s 43rd spot, according to the 2012 Kids Count Data Book released annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation…”
  • Texas 44th in children’s well-being, By Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje, July 26, 2012, San Antonio Express-News: “Texas ranks 44th among the states when it comes to the health and well-being of its children, according to a study by a Baltimore nonprofit that advocates for at-risk kids. Using the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources, the study found the child poverty rate in Texas was higher in 2010 than the national rate of 22 percent, with 26 percent living in poverty. Texas was second from the bottom in children who lack health insurance, with an uninsured rate of 14 percent in 2010, although that’s been decreasing…”
  • Report ranks Florida behind most states on child health and education, By Margie Menzel, July 26, 2012, Daytona Beach News-Journal: “A new report Wednesday shows Florida trailing most other states in the health and education of its children — with an especially low ranking in economic well-being. The effects are harmful and could be long-term — not just for the children but for the state, advocates say. The annual Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Florida 44th in the economic well-being of its children, 38th in their health outcomes and 35th in their educational performance. The state ranks 38th overall. The number of Florida children living in poverty is up 28 percent from 2005 to 2010, the last year for which data was included in the study. That measurement considers such factors as whether the parents have secure employment or the ability to cover their housing costs…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • Working poor stand at center of Medicaid debate, By Juan Carlos Llorca (AP), July 23, 2012, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Jose Gallegos’ company eliminated employee health insurance to save money, so when his gut started hurting and his skin took on a yellow tinge, he resisted seeing a doctor. When he finally went to the emergency room, physicians diagnosed stomach cancer. Gallegos made too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy his own insurance, so he scraped together what he could, and his wife, Andrea, took on three jobs. Just over a year later, at 41, he died, leaving behind four children. Two years later, it was Andrea’s turn. A crack and sharp pain in her back drove her to the emergency room, where she learned she had breast cancer. It had snapped one of her vertebra. Now 45, she said the cancer remains in several other vertebrae, but at the moment it’s not spreading. Families like the Gallegos stand at the center of a debate over President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, which could have expanded Medicaid coverage to 1.3 million uninsured Texans. But Republican Gov. Rick Perry has said he will not widen the program because it would cost too much…”
  • Alabama weighs costs, benefits of medicaid expansion under Affordable Care Act, By Kim Chandler, July 22, 2012, Birmingham News: “Alabama could make deep reductions in the number of people who go each day without health insurance if state officials choose to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Alabama ranks 14th in the country for the number of people who likely would be added to the Medicaid rolls if the program were expanded, according to estimates from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Alabama also is one of five states where more than 60 percent of the state’s uninsured population could become eligible for Medicaid if the expansion were implemented, according to the Urban Institute. But those gains in insurance — while mostly paid for by the federal government — wouldn’t be entirely free to the state. The federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost of services for new enrollees for the first three years, but that eventually would drop to 90 percent…”

Probation Fees and Jail Time

Poor land in jail as companies add huge fees for probation, By Ethan Bronner, July 2, 2012, New York Times: “Three years ago, Gina Ray, who is now 31 and unemployed, was fined $179 for speeding. She failed to show up at court (she says the ticket bore the wrong date), so her license was revoked. When she was next pulled over, she was, of course, driving without a license. By then her fees added up to more than $1,500. Unable to pay, she was handed over to a private probation company and jailed – charged an additional fee for each day behind bars. For that driving offense, Ms. Ray has been locked up three times for a total of 40 days and owes $3,170, much of it to the probation company. Her story, in hardscrabble, rural Alabama, where Krispy Kreme promises that ‘two can dine for $5.99,’ is not about innocence. It is, rather, about the mushrooming of fines and fees levied by money-starved towns across the country and the for-profit businesses that administer the system. The result is that growing numbers of poor people, like Ms. Ray, are ending up jailed and in debt for minor infractions…”

State Medicaid Programs – South Dakota, Alabama

  • No easy cure for struggling Medicaid, By Mary Garrigan, April 6, 2012, Rapid City Journal: “Jennifer Brown and her children are caught in the middle of a Medicaid storm that’s brewing in South Dakota. Five-year-old Jenasis Brown and her younger brother, Roy, are two of the approximately 115,000 South Dakotans who qualify each month for health care through Medicaid or its corollary for kids, the Children’s Health Insurance Program. But qualifying for Medicaid – and finding a doctor or a dentist who will take you as a new patient – can be two very different things, according to Dr. Karla Murphy, president of the South Dakota State Medical Association. At a time when Medicaid enrollments are rising because of a bad economy, the number of doctors and dentists accepting Medicaid patients is declining in South Dakota. One in seven South Dakotans is already a Medicaid recipient and nearly 70 percent of those are children. The Affordable Care Act, new federal health care legislation aimed at reducing the number of uninsured people, is expected to add another 54,000 South Dakotans to Medicaid rolls between 2014 and 2019…”
  • Alabama Medicaid Agency announces late payments to providers, By Casandra Andrews, April 3, 2012, Mobile Press-Register: “As Alabama grapples with covering the rising costs of health care to about a million poor and disabled Medicaid recipients, health care providers across the state were notified last month that some reimbursements for services would be late. Medicaid is a state and federally funded healthcare program for about 1 million lower-income children, families and disabled Alabama residents. For every state dollar spent, the federal government chips in a little more than $2. Late today, the Alabama Medicaid Agency announced that it would be releasing the remaining funds to providers whose payments were delayed because of state cash flow issues at the end of March…”
  • Ala. House panel OKs deep state government cuts, Associated Press, April 4, 2012, Birmingham News: “An Alabama House budget-writing committee has approved a $1.39 billion budget that would cut spending by 30 percent for non-education state agencies, a move that could mean massive layoffs and cuts to programs that help the poor. The spending plan contains $430 million less than the budget for the current fiscal year for non-education state agencies. Officials say it could mean layoffs for hundreds of state employees and cuts to key services such as medicine for Medicaid patients. A Department of Human Resources program that provides assistance to poor children could be eliminated…”