Minimum Wage

  • With buck bump to $9 per hour, Minnesota ushers in top state minimum wage in middle America, By Brian Bakst (AP), July 28, 2015, Star Tribune: “Minnesota will vault past Illinois, Michigan and South Dakota this week to gain the highest minimum wage in the Midwestern region at $9 an hour, which also will rank among the most-generous state wage floors in the country. The dollar-per-hour bump taking effect Saturday for some 288,000 of Minnesota’s lowest-paid workers is the second of a three-stage increase adopted in 2014, when the state had one of the lowest minimum wages in the region. Next August, the wage will rise again to $9.50 and it will go up automatically with inflation in following years…”
  • Proposed raise for fast-food employees divides low-wage workers, By Rachel L. Swarns, July 26, 2015, New York Times: “Rebecca Cornick cheerfully chopped 120 heads of lettuce, wiped tables and rang up some Baconators, fries and chicken club sandwiches. For most of her customers, it was just another afternoon at a Wendy’s restaurant in the East New York section of Brooklyn. Not for Ms. Cornick. She was celebrating. It was Thursday, one day after a state panel recommended that theminimum wage for fast-food workers be raised to $15 an hour, and Ms. Cornick was savoring congratulations from some regulars and the knowledge that soon, very soon, she would have more money to pay her bills…”

Foster Care System – Minnesota

Feds punish state for failing foster care standards, By Brandon Stahl, July 10, 2015, Star Tribune: “More than 200 children have gone through Kate and Tyree Walton’s foster home in Brooklyn Park in the past four years, but for them one child stands out. The girl was 5 in 2012, when the Waltons took her in. Over the next three years, the Waltons watched the girl treated like a yo-yo. Child protection workers sent the girl back to her drug-addicted father, only to pull her from the home and bring her back to the Waltons.  Each time they’ve had her, the girl ‘is more withdrawn,’ Kate Walton said. ‘She’s older, understands what’s going on, and she’s angry.’  What happened to the girl, considered foster care ‘re-entry,’ has happened to more than 8,000 Minnesota children since 2007. That’s too many for the federal Children’s Bureau. Last month, the agency told the state that it was withholding more than $755,000 in child protection funding because Minnesota’s re-entry rates are too high…”

Suburban Poverty – Twin Cities, MN

Poverty nearly doubles in Twin Cities suburbs, By Shannon Prather, June 21, 2015, Star Tribune: “Poor people living in the suburbs of the Twin Cities now significantly outnumber the needy in Minneapolis and St. Paul, an accelerating trend that is presenting many local governments with stark new challenges. Pockets of concentrated poverty have emerged across the metro suburbs, in places such as St. Louis Park, Coon Rapids and Shakopee. Meanwhile, in other suburban communities such as Richfield and Brooklyn Park, poverty that sprang up over the last decade has become a persistent issue. These are the findings of a seminal new Metropolitan Council report that says about 385,000 people live in poverty in the suburbs, compared to about 259,000 in the urban core…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • In wake of federal reform, Minnesota’s Medicaid enrollment surges to 1 million, By Glenn Howatt, May 31, 2015, Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Minnesota’s Medicaid rolls have soared past the 1 million mark for the first time, driven by two years of explosive growth in government insurance programs in the wake of federal health reform.  The enrollment surge — one of the largest in the country and the biggest for the state in 35 years — helped push Minnesota’s uninsured rate down to about 5 percent and has enabled more low-income families to receive regular medical care, doctors say. But it also means that Medicaid and its sister program, MinnesotaCare for the working poor, now rank among the state’s largest health insurers, which could place long-run strains on the state budget. Fully one in five Minnesotans now receive health insurance from public programs, up from one in 10 just five years ago…”
  • Louisiana Legislature OKs potential Medicaid expansion, By Marsha Shuler, June 2, 2015, Baton Rouge Advocate: “The Louisiana Senate gave final approval Monday to a measure that would allow the next governor to expand Medicaid. The Senate voted 31-8 for a House-passed resolution establishing a funding source to cover the state’s contribution for the government health insurance expansion…”

Shelter and Housing for the Homeless

  • Tiny houses in Madison, Wis., offer affordable, cozy alternative to homelessness, By Jenna Ross, March 16, 2015, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “On his day off, Gene Cox rose with the sun, pulled a hood over his gray hair and started a pot of coffee.  Deep sleep was still new to him. His first night here, in late February, Cox awoke every two hours, looked around and realized that he was no longer living in his van — which, in cold months, required routinely waking to turn the key and blast the heat.  Cox now has a house. A tiny one. But all 98 square feet are his…”
  • With extended hours, Minneapolis shelters hope to reduce homelessness, By Marion Renault, March 16, 2015, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “Dave Baker shares a bedroom with more than 60 other people, so he knows how precious a good night’s sleep can be. ‘The guy next to you could be snoring, he could be on the phone,’ said Baker, 48, who has been staying at the Higher Ground Shelter in Minneapolis for 14 months. ‘You may be up at 2, 3, 5 and 11 the night before. Any sleep you get in here is a benefit.’  Baker also knows what it’s like to wake up before the rest of the city, since Twin Cities homeless shelters have historically pushed residents out the door around 7 a.m. because of staff shortages or the need to prepare the space for its daytime use.  Now a $100,000 contract from Hennepin County has permitted two Minneapolis shelters — Catholic Charities’ Higher Ground and Simpson Housing Services — to extend their hours so that residents don’t have to depart at the crack of dawn.

State Minimum Wages

  • Iowa minimum wage trails neighbors, but hike unlikely, By Matthew Patane, January 11, 2015, Des Moines Register: “In South Dakota, a worker earning minimum wage gets paid $8.50 an hour — $1.25 an hour more than in Iowa. In Nebraska, the minimum wage is $8 an hour, and in Illinois, it’s $8.25 — both higher than Iowa’s $7.25 minimum. In fact, except for Wisconsin, Iowa is surrounded by states that offer a higher minimum wage. And the difference can be substantial — adding up to an additional $800 to $2,600 a year for full-time workers earning a higher minimum…”
  • Minnesota restaurant owners want break on tipped workers, By Patrick Condon, January 13, 2015, Minneapolis-St.Paul Star Tribune: “Minnesota restaurateurs, sensing an opportunity with the new Republican House majority and fresh signs of sympathy from DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, plan to push for an exemption to last year’s minimum wage increase that would allow them to pay a lower base wage to tipped employees. ‘This last year has been a test for us,’ said Ed Fong, owner of David Fong’s, a Bloomington Chinese restaurant his parents opened in 1958. ‘With the minimum wage increase, and big increases in food costs — those are my two biggest costs, and I seem to have less and less control of those items.’ When the Legislature boosted the state minimum wage last year, a proposal to add the so-called ‘tipped employee tier’ nearly became part of the package. The idea had bipartisan support, but failed by one vote in the DFL-controlled House. Then Dayton, who strongly backed the minimum wage law, said shortly after signing it that he saw the logic behind an exemption for restaurants…”
  • Minimum wage increase in Colorado still leaves some workers short, By Greg Ruland, January 10, 2015, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: “The 23-cent increase in Colorado’s minimum wage provoked mixed reactions from local business owners and county officials, but did little to close the gap between full-time pay and the cost of living in Mesa County. The raise from $8 to $8.23 per hour — or for tipped employees, from $4.98 to $5.21 per hour — took effect Jan. 1. Spokesmen for two area restaurants employing minimum wage workers voiced different points of view about the increase…”

Minimum Wage – Minnesota

Minnesota minimum wage hike takes effect, By Nick Woltman, July 31, 2014, St. Paul Pioneer Press: “Minnesota is seeing its first minimum wage increase in nearly a decade. Starting Friday, most of the state’s lowest-paid workers will receive $8 an hour. It’s the first of three annual increases that will push Minnesota’s wage floor from $6.15 an hour — among the lowest in the country — to $9.50 — one of the highest in the country — by 2016. Beginning in 2018, it will be indexed to inflation.The Legislature passed the wage hike in April, but it didn’t happen easily. A months-long political fight ended with votes more or less along party lines in the state Senate and the House of Representatives…”

ACA and Medicaid Coverage – Minnesota, Virginia

  • Minnesota’s uninsured get public aid at historic levels, By Chris Serres, April 13, 2014, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “On a recent weekday evening, Ibrahim Hassan was pacing the narrow corridor outside a Somali mosque in south Minneapolis, buoyantly shaking hands and waving like a politician at a campaign stop. His mission: To sign up every eligible uninsured person he met for public health coverage through the state’s MNsure website. His mobile ‘office’ consisted of a foldout table, a laptop and a small sign that read, ‘We can help you’ in Somali and ‘Obama Care.’ Though much attention has focused on the March 31 deadline to buy private health insurance — and the consumer frenzy that resulted — federal health reform and the debut of MNsure have also led to a historic surge in the number of Minnesotans enrolling in public programs…”
  • Va. Republicans aren’t blinking in showdown over Medicaid expansion, By Laura Vozzela, April 13, 2014, Washington Post: “Virginia Republicans were supposed to be squirming by now. For months, their opposition to expanding Medi­caid under the Affordable Care Act has put them at odds with some traditional allies in the business world. Hospitals, the state chamber of commerce and corporate leaders have been calling, writing, visiting and buttonholing, pushing what they call ‘the business case’ for expanding coverage to thousands of uninsured under the health-care law, with the federal government promising to pay most of the cost. Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other Democrats who favor expansion have been betting on that pressure to sway Republicans, particularly in rural areas where hospitals are often the largest employer and are ­eager for the financial girding that the coverage expansion would provide…”

State Minimum Wages – Maryland, Minnesota

  • Maryland lawmakers approve higher minimum wage, By Erin Cox and Michael Dresser, April 7, 2014, Baltimore Sun: “Maryland’s minimum wage will rise to $10.10 by July 2018 under a bill granted final passage by state lawmakers Monday. The measure goes to Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley for his promised signature. Raising the wage above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour was O’Malley’s top legislative goal during the final session of his eight years as governor, and in a statement he commended lawmakers ‘for giving so many Maryland families the raise they deserve.’ Maryland became the second state this year pass a hike to $10.10, the mark set by Democrats across the country seeking to address income inequality. Connecticut approved that increase in March…”
  • Minnesota’s minimum wage is going to $9.50 an hour by 2016, By Patrick Condon, April 7, 2014, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “Minnesota’s minimum wage is set to jump from one of the lowest in the nation to one of the highest, promising a better standard of living for more than 350,000 workers but raising bottom-line concerns for some business owners. Democrats who run the Legislature said Monday that by the end of the week the House and Senate will pass a proposal that’s been one of their party’s top legislative priorities this year. Once it becomes law, the minimum wage for businesses with more than half a million dollars in annual gross sales will rise in three successive steps, starting this August, from the current $6.15 an hour to $9.50 by 2016…”

Minnesota High School Graduation Rate

Minnesota graduation rate rose in 2013, By Kim McGuire and Steve Brandt, February 20, 2014, Minneapolis Star Tribune: “The graduation rate for Minnesota students is the highest it’s been in a decade, even though many minority students continue to lag behind their white peers when it comes to getting a diploma on time, new state data show. About 79 percent of all students graduated in 2013, up from 72 percent in 2003. Last year, 85 percent of white students, 56 percent of black students and 58 percent of Hispanic students graduated, according to data released Wednesday by the Minnesota Department of Education. State education leaders said they are encouraged by the new data, which show minority students making big gains from year to year…”

Foster Care – Minnesota

Minnesota faces penalties for failed placements of foster children, By Chris Serres, February 10, 2014, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “Inside the mice-infested house where Thomas Stone spent much of his childhood, there was a closet just big enough to hold a small boy and his pet cat. On many nights, Stone would crawl there to hide from the sounds of his father’s violent rampages. Stone recalls pleading with county social workers to move him to a different home. But each time he was removed to a nurturing foster-care family, he soon would be sent right back to his father’s house in north Minneapolis. ‘If you’ve got lions fighting and biting each other in a cage, you don’t put them back in that cage like there’s no problem,’ says Stone, now 19. ‘Kids need love, and they can’t always find that in their own homes.’ For years, Minnesota officials have boasted of their success at reducing the population of children living in government-funded foster care; among states, Minnesota ranks No. 1 for the share of foster children returned to their biological parents within a year. But some child advocates warn that Minnesota’s aggressive focus on family unification sometimes puts children in harm’s way by returning them to parents with histories of abuse or neglect…”

Section 8 Housing – Minnesota

Cuts in federal rent aid are squeezing Minnesota’s poor, By Chris Serres, January 16, 2014, Minneapolis-St. Paul Start Tribune: “Brittannea Stevenson felt like she had ‘won the lottery’ on the day she qualified for federal rental assistance after a two-year wait. A cashier at a Mankato Wal-Mart, Stevenson imagined finally buying her first car and a new pair of work shoes. She spent 60 grueling days scouring the North Mankato area, by public transit and taxi, for an affordable apartment and a landlord willing to accept her rental voucher, which would cover two-thirds of her rent. But her search ended quite unexpectedly two weeks before Christmas, when her unused voucher was revoked because of budget cuts enacted by Congress last year…”

ACA and Medicaid – Minnesota, Wisconsin

Neighboring states diverge on health care, By Nora G. Hertel and James Nord, December 23, 2013, Chippewa Herald: “People in Wisconsin and Minnesota living just barely above the poverty line are about to see their health care fortunes change — in opposite directions. Lisa Nerenhausen is one of those people. Nerenhausen and her husband, who live in Appleton, will likely lose their Medicaid coverage when the state changes its eligibility standards in response to the Affordable Care Act. ‘It’s stressful for us, who are just above the poverty level, to try to figure this out,’ Nerenhausen said of the transition…”

Drug Testing and Assistance Programs – Minnesota

Drug tests of welfare recipients prove costly, By Chris Serres, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “A new state law designed to prevent drug users from receiving welfare benefits could end up costing taxpayers far more than it saves, while inadvertently denying assistance to poor families simply because they are unable to comply with its complex paperwork. Like a recent wave of drug-testing laws passed in other states, Minnesota’s legislation was touted as a way to encourage greater responsibility among welfare recipients while saving taxpayers money. But many county officials and advocacy groups say the reality is quite different: The law contains a bevy of costly local mandates and complicated rules that apply to just a tiny fraction of the 167,000 Minnesotans receiving welfare and other cash benefits…”

Anti-Poverty Program – Minnesota

Minnesota anti-poverty program stretches its wings to Texas, By Jean Hopfensperger, September 18, 2013, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “The Jeremiah Program, which has helped more than a thousand Minnesota mothers and their children lift themselves out of poverty, is taking its formula nationwide. Thursday, the Minneapolis-based nonprofit will welcome its first clients in Austin, Texas, where it plans to build a campus in collaboration with local partners. This fall, it hopes to buy a parcel of land in Fargo, where it has been working with community groups to build the Minnesota model…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Food stamp cuts could send more to Minn. food shelves, Associated Press, September 16, 2013, Crookston Times: “Officials and advocates for the needy in central Minnesota say cuts to the food stamp program could have harsh effects on many low-income families, while area food shelves and other groups say they expect to see an increase in the number of people they serve. The federal farm bill, which funds food stamps and nutrition programs, will expire at the end of the month if Congress fails to renew it. In July, the House passed a new version of the bill, but it didn’t include foot stamps and the bill is now stalled. An earlier, unsuccessful, House bill included more than $20 billion in cuts, while a Senate version passed in May proposes $4 billion in cuts…”
  • Proposed food stamp cuts put most vulnerable at risk, By Gary Gately, September 17, 2013, Youth Today: “One in five Americans said they lacked enough money at times in the past year to buy the food they or their families needed, a new Gallup poll shows. Little wonder, then, that critics say a Republican bill to slash food stamp spending by $40 billion over the next 10 years would prove devastating to families struggling to put food on the table.“It’s awful; I don’t have enough words to express what a terrible, unprecedented slashing of the safety net this is,” Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, told Youth Today…”

Rapid Rehousing – Minneapolis, MN

Hennepin County increases funding to meet escalating homelessness, By Rochelle Olson, July 21, 2013, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “Nita Wagner was starting to feel more hopeful about her life. She’d been sober for two years, was collecting $800 in monthly child support payments from her toddler’s dad and had settled into a one-bedroom apartment in northeast Minneapolis. But then the payments abruptly stopped, leaving her scrambling to find a way to pay her August rent. ‘For this to be happening and stay straight, this is a challenge,’ said Wagner, who at 37 has drug addiction, prostitution and domestic violence in her past. ‘I won’t cave. I won’t give up, but it sickens me to know we might be going backward.’ Such abrupt and wrenching setbacks are all too familiar to families such as Wagner’s. Now they’re getting extra help from an intensive Hennepin County housing program administered through St. Stephen’s Human Services…”

Section 8 Housing Subsidies

Federal rent subsidies vanish for many low-income Minnesotans, By Randy Furst, April 12, 2013, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “Corinne Lewis, who is disabled and lives in a rental unit in need of repairs, was on a waiting list for six years to get a rental subsidy under a federal housing program. In February, the Woodbury woman was elated to learn that she, her disabled daughter and a granddaughter finally would receive the subsidy under the Section 8 program. She began hunting for an apartment. Then, last month, Lewis got a second letter from the Metropolitan Council’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority. The agency told her the subsidy was on hold because of a reduction in federal funding due to sequestration — the automatic budget cuts that went into effect starting last month…”

Achievement Gap – Minnesota

Teachers facing achievement gap try cross-race connections, By Laura Yuen, March 20, 2013, Minnesota Public Radio: “All the bleak statistics about Minnesota’s achievement gap became personal to fifth-grade teacher Jen Engel, when she realized that gap was playing out in her own classroom. ‘It stares you right in the face. It’s real.’ Engel teaches at Echo Park Elementary School in Burnsville, where about half of the students are racial minorities, many of them struggling academically. The 43-year-old, who is white, has heard about the factors that can contribute to the racial achievement gap, including poverty, unstable living conditions and troubled families. But she says those are no excuses for educators. So Engel is one of several teachers who are learning how to be what educators describe as ‘culturally responsive’ to her students as part of a Twin Cities program offered by St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, whose main campuses are in Winona and Minneapolis…”

State Minimum Wage – Minnesota

  • Minnesota minimum wage hike cheered by workers; employers critical, By Matt Sepic, March 14, 2013, Minnesota Public Radio: “With DFLers in control of state government, a raise for Minnesota’s lowest-paid workers seems more likely than it has been in years. Now, a bill that could give Minnesota the highest state-mandated minimum wage in the country has cleared its final committee in the Minnesota House. Some economists say the effect of a minimum wage hike on the overall economy is negligible, but it is likely to make a large difference in the lives of minimum wage workers and also many of the people who pay them…”
  • Minnesota Poll: Majority supports raising state minimum wage, By Rachel E. Stassen-Berger, March 9, 2013, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune: “A majority of Minnesotans support increasing the state’s minimum wage from the current $6.15 an hour, the Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found, but, like the Legislature, they differ on how much of a raise to give workers. About 41 percent of Minnesotans said they would like to see the current wage floor jump to $9.50 an hour and 28 percent said they would like it to go up to $7.50 an hour. A quarter of Minnesotans said it should remain where it is…”