States and Tax Revenues

For states, a glimmer of hope on deficits, By Michael Cooper, May 17, 2011, New York Times: “From stronger-than-expected tax collections in deficit-ridden California to projected surpluses in struggling states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, a growing number of recession-weary states are finally announcing a bit of good budget news for the first time since the downturn began. But it would probably be premature to pop the Champagne, or even the prosecco – or to otherwise declare the fiscal crisis that has hammered states to be over. ‘If the question is ‘Are we out of the woods?,’ I think the answer is probably no,’ said Donald J. Boyd, a senior fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, which closely tracks state tax collections. ‘We’re closer to the edge. But there are still so many things that states and localities need to worry about…'”

Cash Assistance Time Limits – Oregon

Budget cuts could give Oregon the shortest time line in the nation for cash assistance program, By Michelle Cole, April 27, 2011, The Oregonian: “Oregon lawmakers are considering budget cuts that would kick families off welfare cash assistance after 18 months. If approved, the proposal, which is also included in the governor’s budget, would leave Oregon with the shortest time limit in the nation. Currently, families may receive government cash assistance for as long as five years. Shortening to an 18-month, lifetime limit would save Oregon $11.6 million over two years. State officials estimate the change could affect 7,500 families. Neither Democrats nor Republicans like the idea but they say there’s no way to protect Oregon’s social safety net completely in light of the state’s $3.5 billion budget hole and the end to federal stimulus dollars…”

Increased Need for Assistance – Virginia

In southwest Va., as more need help, aid organization has less to give, By Eli Saslow, April 16, 2011, Washington Post: “The destitute people who line up outside her office are asking for more help than ever. The organization where she works has less than ever to give. It falls on Denise Hancock to navigate the chasm in between, so she rubs her forehead, opens her office door and calls out into the waiting room. ‘Come on in,’ she says. The first client this morning at the Pulaski Community Action office is a young woman with tangled hair and smudged eyeliner, a single mother of two who lost her job at Shoney’s restaurant. ‘You’re my last resort,’ she says, handing over a piece of paper stamped, ‘Urgent: Termination Notice.’ It is an electric bill for $510.15 with full payment due immediately. ‘Can you help me?’ she asks. Hancock purses her lips, already knowing what will come next. She punches numbers into a calculator and then begins the same conversation she will have 14 more times on this day alone. ‘I’m really sorry,’ she says. ‘All we can afford to give right now is $35…'”

Job Subsidy Program – San Francisco, CA

S.F. doubles hiring subsidy to cut welfare rolls, By John Coté, April 12, 2011, San Francisco Chronicle: “San Francisco, facing a looming $306 million budget deficit, is willing to pay private companies to hire people off the city’s welfare rolls. On Monday, the city doubled its subsidy to $5,000 per employee because so few companies were taking advantage of the current local economic stimulus program…”

Unemployment Benefits – Missouri

Senate offers deal on Missouri jobless benefits, By Virginia Young, April 8, 2011, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “A logjam holding up extended unemployment benefits broke Thursday when Senate Republicans crafted a compromise that aims to cut other federal stimulus spending to send Washington a message about the deficit. Under the deal, senators agreed to extend benefits temporarily for longtime jobless Missourians by 20 weeks, at an estimated cost to the federal government of $105 million. As a tradeoff, the Senate intends to eliminate $250 million in already approved stimulus projects, such as grants and loans to make homes more energy-efficient and to improve municipal wastewater treatment systems. Senators also added a new provision, sought by business groups. Missouri employers would pay for 20 weeks instead of 26 weeks of unemployment benefits for future workers. Supporters said that change would help Missouri employers by offsetting higher taxes they will owe next year to pay back $800 million in federal loans that have kept the state’s unemployment fund afloat. Michigan recently took a similar step…”

Extended Unemployment Benefits – Missouri

Mo. to drop extended benefits for unemployed, By David A. Lieb (AP), March 31, 2011, ABC News: “Thousands of people in Missouri who have been unemployed for more than a year soon will lose their jobless benefits, marking a significant victory for Republican fiscal hawks who are crusading against government spending. When eligibility ends Saturday, Missouri will become the only state to voluntarily quit a federal stimulus program that offers extended benefits. Michigan, Arkansas and Florida also recently took steps to cut back on money going to the unemployed, although they targeted state benefits instead…”

State Budgets and Health Insurance Coverage

  • Feeling budget pinch, states cut insurance, By Kevin Sack, March 1, 2011, New York Times: “Ken Kewley woke up Tuesday without health insurance for the first time in nearly nine years. So did most of the 41,467 other Pennsylvanians who had been covered by adultBasic, a state-subsidized insurance program for the working poor that Gov. Tom Corbett shut down on Monday in one of the largest disenrollments in recent memory. Mr. Corbett, a Republican elected in November, has said the program he inherited is not sustainable with Pennsylvania facing a $4 billion budget shortfall. He blames his predecessor, Edward G. Rendell, a Democrat, for not keeping the plan solvent. His administration notified beneficiaries in late January that their coverage would expire Feb. 28…”
  • Medicaid funding busts state budgets, By Tami Luhby, February 28, 2011, “The Obama administration is giving states more flexibility in implementing the health care reform law, but that won’t help governors plug one of their biggest immediate budget problems: Runaway Medicaid costs. Several dozen governors are pleading with the president to let them drop enrollees in their costly Medicaid programs. They say this flexibility is critical in closing an estimated $125 billion budget gap for fiscal 2012, which starts July 1 in most states. Medicaid rolls have ballooned because of the distressed economy. Enrollment has surged to nearly 62 million people, or one in five Americans, according to the government. And it’s projected to expand another 6.1% during the current fiscal year…”
  • Republicans shift focus to Medicaid complaints, By N.C. Aizenman, March 1, 2011, Washington Post: “A day after President Obama said he would support amending the health-care law so states can opt out of key provisions sooner, Republicans sought to shift the rhetorical battle back to an issue that would be largely unaffected by the president’s proposal: the impact of the law’s Medicaid requirements on state budgets. Testifying at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday, two Republican governors returned to themes that had dominated the discussion at the National Governors Association’s semiannual meeting over the weekend. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert complained that by prohibiting states from limiting who is eligible for Medicaid, the law has locked them into unsustainable spending at a time of fiscal crisis…”
  • Governors seek help on Medicaid costs, By Robert Pear, March 1, 2011, New York Times: “Governors told Congress on Tuesday that President Obama had not gone far enough in proposing to let states opt out of major provisions of the new health care law in 2014, and they said they needed more immediate relief from the growing financial burden of Medicaid. ‘It sounds good, but it provides very, very little actual help,’ Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, a Republican, said of Mr. Obama’s proposal. The most important provisions of the federal law, including a big expansion of Medicaid eligibility and a requirement that most Americans carry health insurance, take effect in 2014. The federal government will initially pay the entire cost of coverage for the people who are newly eligible for Medicaid, but after several years, states will be required to pay some of the cost. Gov. Gary R. Herbert of Utah, a Republican, said Medicaid had been a large and growing part of his state’s budget even before the federal law was passed…”

Tax Cuts and the Working Poor

For working poor, tax tweak cuts pay, By Brian J. O’Connor, January 31, 2011, Detroit News: “If you haven’t seen the new 2 percent payroll tax cut reflected in your paycheck yet, look closely at your pay stub. But if you don’t make a lot of money, you might not want to look too closely. Today is the deadline for employers to adjust their payroll systems and lower the rate on Social Security payroll taxes to 4.2 percent from 6.2 percent. They’ll also have until March 31 to adjust checks to give back any excess amount withheld so far this year. Sam Morgan, a tow truck driver, said he would be glad to see anything extra in his next paycheck. ‘I would like a tax cut,’ the 25-year-old Madison Heights man said. ‘I can always use more money in my paycheck.’ But for taxpayers making less than $20,000 a year, the new tax cut will turn out to be a tax hike. Workers making $15,000 a year, for example, will pay $100 more in taxes during 2011 than in 2010. And if they file a joint return, they will pay $500 more…”

States and Prisoner Re-entry Programs

States help ex-inmates find jobs, By Steven Greenhouse, January 24, 2011, New York Times: “Faced with yawning budget gaps and high unemployment, California, Michigan, New York and several other states are attacking both problems with a surprising strategy: helping ex-convicts find jobs to keep them from ending up back in prison. The approach is backed by prisoner advocates as well as liberal and conservative government officials, who say it pays off in cold, hard numbers. Michigan, for example, spends $35,000 a year to keep someone in prison – more than the cost of educating a University of Michigan student. Through vigorous job placement programs and prudent use of parole, state officials say they have cut the prison population by 7,500, or about 15 percent, over the last four years, yielding more than $200 million in annual savings. Michigan spends $56 million a year on various re-entry programs, including substance abuse treatment and job training…”

State Unemployment Funds

States will soon have to start paying interest on their massive unemployment borrowing, By Olga Pierce, January 14, 2011, ProPublica: “Sometimes it’s time to pay the piper. And sometimes that piper is the federal government. And sometimes the piper wants more than $1 billion. Soon. Because of the high jobless rate and past fiscal irresponsibility, 30 states have collectively had to borrow more than $40 billion from the federal government just to keep unemployment insurance checks in the mail. A provision in the stimulus bill made those loans interest-free for an extended grace period. But no more. Efforts to include an extension of the grace period in Obama’s tax cut extension enacted at the end of last year failed, and the first batch of 14 states will have to start paying interest before the end of this year. Given that state budgets need to be hammered out in advance, that means state legislatures will soon face tough choices as they come back in session…”

Opinions: Poverty Measurement

  • Poverty and recovery, Editorial, January 19, 2011, New York Times: “In 2008, the first year of the Great Recession, the number of Americans living in poverty rose by 1.7 million to nearly 47.5 million. While hugely painful, that rise wasn’t surprising given the unraveling economy. What is surprising is that recent census data show that those poverty numbers held steady in 2009, even though job loss worsened significantly that year. Clearly, the sheer scale of poverty – 15.7 percent of the country’s population – is unacceptable. But to keep millions more Americans from falling into poverty during a deep recession is a genuine accomplishment that holds a vital lesson: the safety net, fortified by stimulus, staved off an even more damaging crisis…”
  • Where does the poverty line truly lie?, By Andrew Chambers, January 19, 2011, The Guardian: “Thailand is a development success story. The country is on target to meet or exceed all its millennium development goals (MDGs), and absolute poverty ($1 a day) is now less than 2%. However, do these statistics accurately measure what poverty is, and what is the next step in poverty reduction for middle-income countries like Thailand? How to define and measure poverty, therefore, is not just a dry academic debate, as these decisions greatly affect what policies are pursued…”

Homelessness and Housing – Rhode Island

State details its efforts to house the homeless, By Paul Davis, January 11, 2011, Providence Journal: “Five years ago, the state’s top officials put together a 10-year plan to end homelessness. Their promise? Build more affordable housing and help those living in shelters move into apartments by helping pay the rent. ‘We envision a Rhode Island where no one is homeless,’ said social service directors, state officials, academics and religious leaders. In an 18-page plan submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, they envisioned a state where everyone had housing, services and ‘hope for the future.’ Five years later, the state’s homeless shelters are full, and advocates don’t expect those numbers to decrease anytime soon. Since 2007, the number of Rhode Islanders in shelters and transitional housing has increased from 3,015 to 3,514 last year, a nearly 17-percent increase, said Eric Hirsch, a Providence College professor who tracks the state’s homeless population More than half of those sleeping on cots and air mattresses in 2010 were homeless for the first time. Many lost apartments through foreclosures. Others lost jobs…”

TANF Emergency Fund and Jobs Programs

  • Latest unemployed: Stimulus-subsidized workers, By Tami Luhby, October 1, 2010, “Tens of thousands of low-income workers lost their jobs Thursday as a stimulus-subsidized employment program came to an end. About a quarter of a million people in 37 states were placed in short-term jobs thanks to a $5 billion boost to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. States used about $1 billion to provide subsidized employment, with the remaining funds going to cash grants, food programs, housing assistance and other aid. About half the jobs were summer employment for youth and the rest were for disadvantaged parents. Each state configured its initiative differently. Some covered all the workers’ wages for a few months, while others paid for a portion of their salary. With the program expiring, many of the adults have been told not to report to work anymore. And it won’t be easy for them to find a new position at time when the unemployment rate continues to hover at 9.6%…”
  • Stimulus aid ends for jobs program, By Richard Wolf, October 1, 2010, USA Today: “Cepeda White is a poster child for the $814 billion economic stimulus package passed by Congress and signed by President Obama last year. Today, he nearly became one of its first casualties. That’s because federal subsidies ran out for a $5 billion program funded by the stimulus law that has provided 235,000 jobs in 36 states for low-income parents and young adults. The program, ending in some states and on life support in others, paid White’s $10-an-hour salary at the Nice Twice Thrift Shop here. For months, Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, have tried to get the program extended. They ran into opposition from Republicans, including House Republican Whip Eric Cantor, who complained that the program funded direct welfare and emergency payments as well as subsidized jobs…”
  • Despite latest poverty figures, Senate lets worthy jobs program lapse, Editorial, October 1, 2010, Washington Post: “The Census Bureau reported this week that more than one in four children in the District of Columbia lives in poverty. That includes 36 percent of African American children — compared with 3 percent for non-Hispanic white children. And the District was not alone in receiving grim news. The overall national child poverty rate is nearly 21 percent. Poverty rose last year in 31 states and fell in none. In some ways, the District is better off than most jurisdictions: The only places where median household income rose in 2009 were the District (2.8 percent) and North Dakota (5.1 percent). Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to be poor as adults. They lag behind early in intellectual development, tend to attend lower-quality schools and are more likely to drop out of high school. It’s not surprising that poverty would rise during an economic downturn. But the current recession — marked by increased levels of long-term unemployment and homelessness — could have a particularly brutal and long-lasting effect on the children hit by it…”

TANF Emergency Fund – California

Stimulus-subsidized jobs in jeopardy, By Alexandra Zavis and Rong-Gong Lin II, September 29, 2010, Los Angeles Times: “Michael Beightol has 12 years of retail experience, but that was no help when he was looking for a job earlier this year. ‘I must have put in 1,000 applications or more, and no one was hiring because of the economy,’ said the 34-year-old Covina resident, who is raising an 8-year-old daughter on his own. His luck changed when Los Angeles County offered to pay his salary at Americal Contractors Corp., a small, veteran-owned painting firm in Pomona that is teaching him a new career as an estimator. ‘I’m so happy that they had this program, because I feel like I am being a productive part of society instead of sitting at home doing nothing,’ Beightol said. Using funding from last year’s $787-billion stimulus bill, California counties have put to work more than 35,000 people by subsidizing their employment for up to a year, according to figures from July. Many of those jobs are now in jeopardy unless Congress extends the funding beyond Thursday, the end of the fiscal year…”

TANF Emergency Fund and Jobs Programs

Job loss looms as part of stimulus act expires, By Michael Cooper, September 25, 2010, New York Times: “Tens of thousands of people will lose their jobs within weeks unless Congress extends one of the more effective job-creating programs in the $787 billion stimulus act: a $1 billion New Deal-style program that directly paid the salaries of unemployed people so they could get jobs in government, at nonprofit organizations and at many small businesses. In rural Perry County, Tenn., the program helped pay for roughly 400 new jobs in the public and private sectors. But in a county of 7,600 people, those jobs had a big impact: they reduced Perry County’s unemployment rate to less than 14 percent this August, from the Depression-like levels of more than 25 percent that it hit last year after its biggest employer, an auto parts factory, moved to Mexico. If the stimulus program ends on schedule next week, Perry County officials said, an estimated 300 people there will lose their jobs – the equivalent of another factory closing…”

Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009

  • Poverty rise stirs debate over aid programs, By Corey Dade, September 16, 2010, National Public Radio: “The recession drove the number of poor Americans in 2009 to its highest total in half a century, yet several measures indicate the impact could well have been worse. While the Census Bureau’s report Thursday on the economic conditions of U.S. households found that 3.8 million more people lived in poverty last year than in 2008, the agency and advocates for the poor say millions of others were sustained with the help of government programs. Advocates cite federal stimulus initiatives aimed at low-income earners and the extension of unemployment benefits, which alone are credited with helping keep 3.3 million people out of poverty…”
  • Poverty rate hits 15-year high, U.S. figures show, By Alfred Lubrano, September 17, 2010, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Driven by the relentless recession, the U.S. poverty rate soared to 14.3 percent in 2009, its highest level in 15 years, new government figures show. The rate was up from 13.2 percent in 2008, according to a report the Census Bureau released Thursday. Locally the picture was less dire, with poverty rising slightly to 11.1 percent in Pennsylvania and to 9.3 percent in New Jersey…”
  • ‘The new poor’: Poverty reaches historic levels, By Tony Pugh, September 16, 2010, Miami Herald: “The withering recession pushed the number of Americans who are living in poverty to a 51-year high in 2009 and left a record 50.7 million people without health insurance, the Census Bureau said Thursday. The 43.6 million Americans who were poor last year — up from 39.8 million the year before — were the most since poverty estimates were first published in 1959. The national poverty rate of 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008, was the highest since 1994. The bureau also found that median income — the amount at which half of U.S. households earn more or less — had fallen 4.2 percent by 2009 since the recession began in 2007…”
  • 1 in 7 in U.S. lives below poverty line, By Don Lee and Alana Semuels, September 17, 2010, Los Angeles Times: “The recession and longer-term economic troubles have pushed the nation’s poverty rate to levels not seen in more than a decade, wiping out gains in the long-running War on Poverty and adding more financial strain to the lives of millions of Americans. New Census Bureau data, released Thursday, also showed that the face of the poor has changed. Those falling below the poverty line today are more likely to be full-time workers who cannot earn enough to meet their needs or middle-class workers driven into the ranks of the poor by lost jobs or shrinking incomes. The higher poverty level – 14.3%, or an increase of nearly 4 million people last year – means higher costs for government programs such as food stamps and unemployment compensation and potentially heavier tax burdens for the country as a whole…”
  • The new poor and the almost-poor: Will poverty rate climb more?, By Patrik Jonsson, September 16, 2010, Christian Science Monitor: “Call them the newly poor. They are the 4.8 million people in America who last year joined the ranks of people living in poverty – defined as having less than $22,000 in annual income for a family of four. They are people, probably, much like Reginald O’Neal and his family. Mr. O’Neal and several family members were at the Dekalb County welfare department here on Thursday, trying to get help to turn the electricity back on at their house. ‘If you were to see our house, you’d think we were middle class,’ says the 20-something Atlantan. ‘But that would be missing the point: Lately, we’re poor…'”
  • US adds 3.8 million more to ranks of the poor as poverty rate jumps, By Ron Scherer, September 16, 2010, Christian Science Monitor: “The deepest recession in modern times has sharply increased the ranks of the poor during the past year, with 1 in 7 people in America officially counted as living in poverty. The news from a US Census Bureau report released Thursday underscores how deeply the Great Recession has affected the nation’s standard of living. The key findings of report, which compared income, poverty rate, and health-care insurance coverage in 2009 with 2008 numbers, include the following…”
  • Despite recession, seniors see income gains, By Dennis Cauchon and Richard Wolf, September 17, 2010, USA Today: “Senior citizens are enjoying some of the biggest income gains in decades at a time when every other age group is losing ground in the recession, the Census Bureau reported Thursday. The 31 million households headed by people 65 and older saw their median income rise by a healthy 5.8% in 2009 after inflation and 7.1% since the recession began in December 2007. Every other age group has suffered income losses of at least 4% during the recession, the data show…”
  • Not quite poor, but struggling: Do seniors need their own poverty index?, By Matt O’Brien, September 16, 2010, Contra Costa Times: “The proportion of America’s seniors living in poverty dropped last year to just under 9 percent, a hopeful statistic in an otherwise dismal report on poverty released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. Local senior advocates, however, say the numbers mask some of the financial struggles older residents face living in the Bay Area, where the cost of living is high…”
  • Poverty rise reflects toll of recession, By Bill Bush and Rita Price, September 17, 2010, Columbus Dispatch: “They didn’t earn much, but for most of their marriage, the Bowens had enough. ‘We could afford to go out and eat once in a while, do the stuff that families do,’ Carolyn Bowen said. ‘Now, we can’t even go for ice cream.’ The math no longer works: Ron Bowen lost a job that paid $20 an hour and, after eight months of unemployment, finally found another – cleaning offices for $9.50 an hour. The Bowens and their children have joined 43.6million other Americans – about one in seven – who live in an uncertain place where groceries are bought with government-issued benefit cards and bills might not be paid. A U.S. Census Bureau report released yesterday put the nation’s official poverty rate at 14.3 percent last year, up from 13.2 percent in 2008. It hasn’t been higher since 1994, but is still 8.1 percentage points lower than in 1959, the first year for which estimates are available…”
  • A descent into poverty for millions, By Warren Wolfe and Jeremy Olson, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “Ramsey County human services planner Jim Anderson didn’t need Thursday’s census report to know that poverty has climbed sharply since the economy collapsed in 2008. Last month he turned away 59 adults with 126 children seeking emergency shelter for families. In a report that confirmed what experts like Anderson have sensed, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday that the nation’s poverty rate shot to 14.3 percent last year, the highest in 16 years, and that one in five American children were living below the poverty line. Household incomes also stagnated, and the number of people without health insurance reached an all-time high of 51 million. The report suggested that in Minnesota, too, poverty is on the rise…”
  • Poverty in Hawaii highest since ’97, By Mary Vorsino, September 17, 2010, Honolulu Star-Advertiser: “Thousands more Hawaii residents fell into poverty last year, driving up the rate here to its highest level since 1997, Census Bureau figures released yesterday show. The poverty rate in Hawaii rose to 12.5 percent in 2009 — with more than 156,000 people living below the poverty line — the third consecutive year the state saw growing numbers of impoverished people. In 2007, 7.5 percent of the state’s population was below the poverty line. In 2008, the number rose to 9.9 percent — or 125,000 people…”
  • Michigan’s poverty rate hits 14%, highest level in 16 years, By Mike Wilkinson and Catherine Jun, September 17, 2010, Detroit News: “Michigan’s poverty rate last year reached a 16-year high as the full effects of the recession continued to sweep across the country, according to a report issued Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The state’s poverty rate in 2009 rose to 14 percent, up from 13 percent in 2008. That’s 1.4 million people in poverty. In 2000, the rate was 9.9 percent. Data further showed the Midwest — plagued by job losses in manufacturing — was hit the hardest in median income, falling to its lowest point since 1994. But the region didn’t suffer alone. Nationally, the number of poor climbed to the highest level since the 1960s, leaving one in seven Americans in poverty, the report said…”
  • Poverty at a 51-year high in the U.S., By Renée C. Lee, September 17, 2010, Houston Chronicle: “More than 43 million Americans lived in poverty last year, the largest number in 51 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The figure pushes the national poverty rate to 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008, statistics released Thursday show. In Texas, there were about 4.3 million people living in poverty in 2009, increasing the state’s poverty rate to 17.3 percent, up from 15.9 percent the prior year. County numbers won’t be available until later this month, but local social service agencies say they expect them to reflect what’s happening at the national and state level…”
  • Texas seeks answers to rising poverty rate, By Robert T. Garrett and Kim Horner, September 17, 2010, Dallas Morning News: “The government announced Thursday that nearly 4.3 million Texans lived in poverty last year, a whopping 11 percent increase. Larry James and Jill Cumnock absorbed the news many months ago. They run charities that feed and tend a swelling group of poor North Texans, and they say demand has gone up by at least 25 percent, and in some cases has doubled, since the economy took a dive in 2008. ‘The need is going up, that’s for sure,’ said James, president and chief executive of Central Dallas Ministries. He said his nonprofit is on track to feed, house and assist as many as 48,000 people this year – up from 43,000 last year and 34,000 two years ago…”
  • One-time working men now the ‘fresh face of poverty’, By Rick Montgomery, September 16, 2010, Kansas City Star: “The nation’s poverty rate rose sharply last year and the ranks of the uninsured swelled by 10 percent, according to new government figures. Just further evidence, in cold numbers, of how the second year of the Great Recession sent working men such as Matt Stephens spiraling. He and hundreds of others lined up this week for free lunches at the Wilhelmina Gill Multi-Service Center in Kansas City, Kan. Stephens, 45, spent a year in college after high school, then attended trade school, drove a truck for pay and also worked in his family’s insulation business…”

TANF Emergency Funds and Jobs Program – Illinois

Jobs hang in balance, By Gerry Smith, September 6, 2010, Chicago Tribune: “Moises Vasquez was laid off in March from a chicken processing plant, but he was not unemployed for long. One month later he found a job at a granite and marble recycling company in Schiller Park. But his new employer, Earth Stone Products of Illinois, does not pay his wages. Uncle Sam does. Vasquez, 27, is one of about 25,000 people employed through Put Illinois to Work, a subsidized jobs program that helps unemployed workers gain new skills with $200 million from the federal stimulus package. Since the program was announced in April, Put Illinois to Work has become the nation’s largest year-round subsidized employment program. In June, state officials stopped accepting applications because there were not enough jobs for the 60,000 people who applied. But in coming weeks, Vasquez and other workers supported by the program could be unemployed again unless Congress extends the fund that supports Put Illinois to Work. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Contingency Fund expires Sept. 30. An extension of the federal fund has been packaged in larger bills that passed the House twice but stalled in the Senate after Republicans and some Democrats said the legislation would increase the deficit…”

Home Weatherization Program – West Virginia

‘Successful weatherization’ effort?, By Alison Knezevich, September 4, 2010, Charleston Gazette: “In April 2009, West Virginia received nearly $38 million in federal stimulus funds to make the homes of needy residents more energy-efficient. Eighteen months later, many are wondering why that weatherization aid never reached them. Karen Hoffman, 55, got a letter last June saying she had been approved for repairs at her mobile home in Cross Lanes. ‘No one has ever been here,’ Hoffman said. Peggy Coleman of Cedar Grove said a weatherization crew replaced her 33-year-old furnace late last year. The crew was supposed to return to install an air conditioner. ‘They just never came back,’ the 79-year-old widow said. Weatherization is meant to help cut the energy bills of low-income, disabled and elderly people. Crews can install insulation, seal ducts, and tune up or replace heating and cooling systems. The U.S. Department of Energy says families can save an average of $437 a year. The federal stimulus package pumped $5 billion into the program, but across the nation, states have failed to meet goals set when the stimulus was rolled out. They’ve blamed complex federal regulations and other challenges…”

Economic Stimulus and Eviction Rate – Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee County evictions fell with stimulus, study shows, By Georgia Pabst, August 30, 2010, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “With a 2-year-old and a baby on the way, Jenny Furne said she started to worry that she and her growing family would be homeless. She said she moved to Milwaukee last year from another state to escape from a domestic violence situation and found a job in sales. But after she lost her job and couldn’t find another one, she fell a month behind in the rent on her north side apartment. Although she signed up for W-2, the state’s welfare-to-work program, she initially received a partial payment of $300, not enough to cover her rent of $510 a month. ‘Two weeks before having my baby, I got an eviction notice,’ said Furne, 24. ‘I was freaking out because I didn’t know if I would have a home to come back to with the baby.’ She went to Community Advocates and explained her predicament. Using federal stimulus money designed to stem evictions and prevent homelessness, the agency paid the $510 rent owed, buying Furne the time she needed to get her W-2 check and get on track. Furne isn’t the only one who has been helped from the brink of homelessness. According to a Harvard University study that looked at local eviction records, the influx of federal stimulus money to help stem homelessness coincided with 836 fewer evictions filed in Milwaukee County from August 2009 to March 2010, compared with the same period the previous year…”

Recession and Enrollment in Anti-Poverty Programs

  • Record number in government anti-poverty program, By Richard Wolf, August 30, 2010, USA Today: “Government anti-poverty programs that have grown to meet the needs of recession victims now serve a record one in six Americans and are continuing to expand. More than 50 million Americans are on Medicaid, the federal-state program aimed principally at the poor, a survey of state data by USA TODAY shows. That’s up at least 17% since the recession began in December 2007. ‘Virtually every Medicaid director in the country would say that their current enrollment is the highest on record,’ says Vernon Smith of Health Management Associates, which surveys states for Kaiser Family Foundation. The program has grown even before the new health care law adds about 16 million people, beginning in 2014. That has strained doctors. ‘Private physicians are already indicating that they’re at their limit,’ says Dan Hawkins of the National Association of Community Health Centers. More than 40 million people get food stamps, an increase of nearly 50% during the economic downturn, according to government data through May. The program has grown steadily for three years. Caseloads have risen as more people become eligible. The economic stimulus law signed by President Obama last year also boosted benefits…”
  • As unemployed lose benefits, more seek welfare benefits, By James Osborne, August 30, 2010, Philadelphia Inquirer: “One morning in July, Lisa Carstarphen climbed out of her husband’s car and walked into the beige brick building that houses the offices of Camden County’s social services, wondering how at age 46 she ended up there. Two years ago, she was laid off from her $35,000-a-year job at Comcast. Now, with her unemployment benefits exhausted, she was broke. She stepped through the building’s glass doors into a crowded, fluorescent-lit room to wait her turn to sign up for welfare. As a child, she had accompanied her mother to the welfare office and swore she would never end up the same way. But here she was, surrounded by dejected faces, just as in her youth. Memories of nondescript jars of peanut butter and big blocks of government cheese came rushing back, and Carstarphen struggled to keep it together. ‘It was like going back in time. But I had no choice. My refrigerator was bare,’ she said. ‘For someone who has worked their whole life, it’s awful to ask for a handout. When my husband picked me up later, I busted out in tears.’ For the first two years of the recession, welfare caseloads followed the same steady decline of the decade and a half after President Bill Clinton’s transformation of welfare from a social-assistance program into what is essentially a job-training program for low-income families. But over the last six months, caseloads have begun to creep up, the product, experts say, of the continued sluggishness of the job market. Unemployed workers who have run out of unemployment benefits, like Carstarphen, are being pushed into the system…”