Healthy Food Programs for SNAP Recipients

  • New program buoys purchases of fresh food with food stamps, By Rachel Alexander, November 9, 2017, Spokesman-Review: “Brandaleen Harper used to have trouble affording produce for herself and her son, Gabriel. Harper works part time in child care and said her food stamps often don’t stretch far enough to cover everything she’d like to buy. But a new program through the Spokane Regional Health District and the Washington State Department of Health is making it easier for people using food stamps to buy fruits and vegetables…”
  • Assembly approves giving Wisconsin food stamp users a discount on produce, healthy groceries, By Patrick Marley, November 7, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Some people who use food stamps would get a break on buying produce and other healthy groceries, under a bill the state Assembly overwhelmingly approved Tuesday…”

Seattle Times Series on Homelessness

Project Homeless, homepage, Seattle Times: “The Seattle Times is launching Project Homeless, a community-funded initiative to explore the causes of homelessness, explain what the region is doing about the crisis and spotlight potential solutions. Today, we examine one of the obstacles to moving people into stable housing…”

Homelessness on the West Coast

Homelessness soars on West Coast as cities struggle to cope, Associated Press, November 6, 2017, CNBC: “In a park in the middle of a leafy, bohemian neighborhood where homes list for close to $1 million, a tractor’s massive claw scooped up the refuse of the homeless — mattresses, tents, wooden frames, a wicker chair, an outdoor propane heater. Workers in masks and steel-shanked boots plucked used needles and mounds of waste from the underbrush. Just a day before, this corner of Ravenna Park was an illegal home for the down and out, one of 400 such encampments that have popped up in Seattle’s parks, under bridges, on freeway medians and along busy sidewalks. Now, as police and social workers approached, some of the dispossessed scurried away, vanishing into a metropolis that is struggling to cope with an enormous wave of homelessness. That struggle is not Seattle’s alone…”

High-Poverty Schools

  • Rich school districts will benefit more than poor ones from Washington’s budget, new analysis suggests, By Neal Morton, October 31, 2017, Seattle Times: “In the days after the Washington Legislature approved a new state budget in June, school-finance experts began reading the fine print. They soon started warning that while lawmakers may have increased state spending on schools, some richer districts would get a bigger boost than many poorer ones…”
  • Report: Virginia’s high-poverty schools don’t have same opportunities for students, By Justin Mattingly, October 30, 2017, Richmond Times-Dispatch: “There are ‘striking deficiencies’ in educational opportunities for students in high-poverty Virginia schools, a new report has found. Students in high-poverty schools, or schools where at least 75 percent receive free and reduced-price lunch, have less access to core subjects like math and science, lower levels of state and local funding for instructors, who are less experienced in these schools, according to a report from The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, a research organization based in Richmond that focuses on economics and policy…”

The Columbian Series on Eviction – Clark Co, WA

  • Getting evicted: A 1-2 punch, By Patty Hastings, October 22, 2017, The Columbian: “Charmaine Crossley and Kate Dunphy talk in hushed voices on the top floor of the Clark County Courthouse, plotting what to say to keep Crossley and her family from being evicted. Dunphy, the deputy director of the Tenants Union of Washington State, advises Crossley on how best to defend herself if the judge denies her request for more time…”
  • A day in eviction court can be hard to navigate, By Patty Hastings, October 22, 2017, The Columbian: “A man in the third row of benches is dozing, his soft snores occasionally jolting him awake. Fluorescent lights buzz overhead. It seems dull, but lives change in this courtroom, where every Friday a Clark County Superior Court judge hears the unlawful-detainer docket. The vast majority of renters facing unlawful-detainer lawsuits, or evictions, lose their cases. They are ordered to pay back rent, late fees and the landlord’s attorney costs. Once the order is recorded and they vacate, future landlords will be less willing to rent to them…”
  • Evictions: Tools are available to help, but organizations struggle to keep up, By Patty Hastings, October 23, 2017, The Columbian: “More than 1,100 eviction notices were filed in Clark County last year, and the same number are expected this year. Several agencies around Clark County operate rental-assistance programs that, in many cases, prevent evictions from happening. However, the programs are costly and can’t help everyone…”
  • Advocates, landlords at odds over some tenant protections, By Patty Hastings, October 23, 2017, The Columbian: “A law in Washington that became effective in June 2016 allows tenants to seek an order of limited dissemination, which basically stops screening agencies from showing a prior eviction or using that past to calculate a rental score…”

Paid Family Leave – Washington

Paid family and medical leave fast tracked through Legislature, By Jim Camden, July 3, 2017, Spokesman-Review: “Late Friday night, with great emotion but relatively little fanfare, the Legislature moved Washington into the forefront among states that provide financial help to parents after childbirth or when a family member is seriously ill or dying. In strong bipartisan votes, the House and Senate moved quickly to approve a state-regulated program for paid family and medical leave…”

Minimum Wage – Seattle, WA

Latest study: Seattle’s wage law lifted restaurant pay without shrinking jobs, By Janet I. Tu, June 20, 2017, Seattle Times: “Seattle’s minimum-wage law has led to higher pay for restaurant workers without affecting the overall number of jobs in the industry, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley. Indeed, employment in food service from 2015 to 2016 was not affected, ‘even among the limited-service restaurants, many of them franchisees, for whom the policy was most binding,’ according to the study, led by Berkeley economics professor Michael Reich…”

Section 8 Housing – Seattle, WA

Section 8 tenants flee Seattle’s high rents, compete for housing in smaller cities, By Vernal Coleman, November 18, 2016, Seattle Times: “On a recent Saturday morning, Elmika James settled into a couch inside the subsidized, three-bedroom apartment she fears she could soon lose and began searching for a new home.  She scoured housing websites on her phone, looking over listings friendly to participants in the federal Housing Choice voucher program, otherwise known as Section 8.  Many of the listings were old, the apartments advertised already rented. Others were scams. Some property managers have told her flatly they did not accept the vouchers at all.  James, a 43-year-old UPS package handler and mother of five, said rejection has become part of her daily routine. And she’s not alone…”

Minimum Wage Increase – Seattle, WA

Why raising the minimum wage in Seattle did little to help workers, according to a new study, By Max Ehrenfreund, July 29, 2016, Washington Post: “Things seem to be going pretty well since Seattle bumped the hourly minimum wage for large businesses up to $11 last year, from the statewide minimum of $9.47 an hour. Low-wage workers are getting more time on the job and making more money. Fewer businesses are closing, and more new ones are opening. The technology and construction sectors are booming. Even the weather cooperated for a change. The spring was unusually dry in Seattle, which was good for the city’s fishing fleet.  Yet the actual benefits to workers might have been minimal, according to a group of economists whom the city commissioned to study the minimum wage and who presented their initial findings last week…”

Homelessness in Seattle, WA

  • Seattle may try San Francisco’s ‘radical hospitality’ for homeless, By Daniel Beekman, June 11, 2016, Seattle Times: “Denise and Michael were relaxing on a sunny Friday afternoon.  She sat on their bed in pajamas, folding laundry, while he roughhoused with their friend’s pit bull. Soul standards were blaring from a boombox.  There was something homey about the scene, even though the couple were homeless. Denise and Michael were inside San Francisco’s Navigation Center, an experimental shelter where guests come and go as they please and where pets, partners and possessions are welcome…”
  • Houston’s solution to the homeless crisis: Housing — and lots of it, By Daniel Beekman, June 13, 2016, Seattle Times: “Anthony Humphrey slept on the pavement outside a downtown Houston drop-in center. Except when a Gulf Coast rainstorm slammed the city — then he took cover under a storefront awning or below Interstate 45.  He had no driver’s license, no Social Security card, almost no hope. That was in 2014. This month, Humphrey will celebrate a year in his apartment…”

Minimum Wage

  • $12 vs. $15 minimum-wage debate continues between economists, experts, politicians, By Olivera Perkins, January 7, 2016, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Go to any minimum wage rally in the past few years, and there is one number dominating the event: $15. It’s scrawled on the bouncing placards held by rally goers. Emblazoned on their banners. Laced through their chants.  But many economists and other think tank experts, even those supporting a substantial hike to the federal minimum wage, are questioning if $15 is too high. For many of them, $12 is more realistic or probable, especially if it is phased-in by 2020…”
  • Some businesses say Nebraska’s $9 minimum wage will be a burden, but others just shrug, By Janice Podsada, January 6, 2016, Omaha World-Herald: “The sometimes rough-and-tumble job of refereeing ’25 to 75 large dogs at serious play’ now pays $9 an hour at an Omaha doggie day care facility, but that’s just to start. If new employees work out, ‘they’ll see their pay raised to $10 an hour after a few weeks,’ said Renee Johnson, owner of ComeSitStay, a dog day care and overnight boarding facility at 180th and Harrison Streets. On Jan. 1, Nebraska’s minimum wage leapt to $9 an hour for nontipped workers from $8 in 2015, a 12.5 percent increase…”
  • Push begins to increase Oregon minimum wage, By Ed Russo, January 8, 2016, Register-Guard: “With the Legislature preparing to convene, activists say they are launching a signature-gathering drive to increase Oregon’s minimum wage within two years to $13.50 an hour.  The Portland-based Raise the Wage Coalition said Thursday that it will ‘hit the streets in communities across the state’ to collect the 89,000 signatures required to put Initiative Petition 58 on the November ballot.  If approved by voters, the measure would raise the statewide minimum hourly wage to $13.50 by 2018…”
  • Oregon, Washington slide as leaders in minimum wage, By Jeff Mapes, January 7, 2016, Oregon Public Broadcasting: “After a decade of mandating the highest minimum wages in the country, Washington and Oregon are now dropping back in the pack. Six other states jumped past Washington and Oregon – which had been ranked No. 1 and No. 2 since 2005 – at the start of the new year, thanks largely to efforts in several legislatures around the country to raise the wage floor for workers…”

Court Fines and the Poor – Washington

Poor offenders must be asked if they can afford to pay fines, state Supreme Court says, By Mike Carter, March 12, 2015, Seattle Times: “The state Supreme Court, citing the burden imposed on poor defendants by uncollectable court fees and fines, has reiterated that judges must ask about a defendant’s ability to pay so-called ‘legal financial obligations’ (LFO), and not impose them if they can’t be paid.  The justices found the state’s LFO system ‘carries problematic consequences’ for poor offenders, can impede their ability to re-enter society and can contribute to recidivism.   The high court sent two cases back to Pierce County for resentencing based on findings that sentencing judges, at the prosecutor’s request, imposed costs, fees and fines of more than $3,300 in one instance and $2,200 in another without first determining whether either man could pay…”

Foster Care – Spokane, WA

  • Fixing foster care: ‘Where do I belong?’, By Jody Lawrence-Turner, October 19, 2014, Spokane Spokesman-Review: “Alkala Michener’s green eyes pool with tears as she recalls the night she lost her family: She was 7 years old, dressed in a Cinderella pink nightie, her lace-rimmed socks soaked and muddied as she ran away with her big brothers. A social worker found the children wet and desperate to find their dad, running along a stretch of a north Spokane highway. The siblings were split up. Alkala went to a Newman Lake foster home and wouldn’t see her brothers again until they knocked on her door eight years later. ‘For years, I had the impression (my family) didn’t want me,’ she said. Her story is all too common in Spokane County, where children are pulled from their families at three times the rate of those in King County…”
  • Fixing Foster Care: Fostering stability, By Jody Lawrence-Turner, October 20, 2014, Spokane Spokesman-Review: “As Diana Stegner lay in a hospital bed, alone, homeless and suicidal, she acknowledged her newborn son would be better off with someone else. Within hours Michelle Trotz cradled baby William as she welcomed him into her home. Trotz and her husband, David, first became foster parents four years ago. They wanted to help babies who needed them. Their home is among more than 500 across Spokane County licensed to care for children taken from their parents. Communities need foster homes because ‘we live in a broken society,’ said Linda Rogers, a former foster care recruiter who got the Trotzes involved. Foster parents are the backbone — some say heroes — of a system tasked with the toughest of jobs: caring for the children of broken homes…”
  • Spokane area agencies prioritize fixing family relationships, rather than traditional foster care routes, By Jody Lawrence-Turner, October 21, 2014, Spokane Spokesman-Review: “Sometimes children are best left in ‘bad’ homes. Evidence is pouring in that keeping families together – even those deemed dysfunctional – is less harmful than pulling them apart. It’s a U-turn in thinking and practice for child advocates, as new programs emerge with the aim of keeping children in their homes while fixing families…”

State Minimum Wage Increases

  • NJ’s minimum wage rising in January by 13 cents, By Michael Symons, September 30, 2014, Vineland Daily Journal‎: “New Jersey’s minimum wage will increase by 13 cents an hour, starting in January. The 1.59 percent increase, from $8.25 an hour to $8.38, is required under a constitutional amendment approved by 61 percent of voters last November that raised the mimimum wage by $1 and provided for automatic yearly increases to keep pace with inflation. It amounts to less than $20 a month for a minimum-wage worker putting in 35 hours a week, or almost $240 over the course of the year…”
  • Minimum wage to rise to $8.10 for Ohio workers in 2015, up 15 cents, By Robert Higgs, September 30, 2014, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Ohio’s minimum wage will increase to $8.10 an hour for non-tipped employees beginning Jan. 1, an increase of 15 cents triggered by inflation. The current rate of $7.95 has been in effect since the beginning of this year…”
  • Washington’s minimum wage going up again to $9.47, tops in the U.S., By Brad Shannon, September 30, 3014, Tacoma News Tribune: “Washington’s minimum wage will go up by 15 cents to $9.47 an hour, affecting more than 67,000 workers, the state Department of Labor and Industries announced Tuesday. That keeps the state rate highest in the country on a statewide basis, although some jurisdictions such as Seattle and SeaTac have adopted laws to set higher rates. Oregon’s rate, which is the second highest, goes up 15 cents to $9.25 next year, Labor & Industries said in a news release…”

ACA and Medicaid Coverage

  • Progress, challenges as Medicaid rolls swell in state, By Lisa Stiffler, April 17, 2014, Seattle Times: “Washington state has blown past its targets for signing up new Medicaid participants under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The program’s ranks have grown roughly 25 percent in the past six months, helping fulfill one of the act’s key goals to provide health care to nearly all Americans. By the end of March, more than 285,000 adults who are newly eligible to participate in Medicaid had signed up for coverage. That’s twice the number officials had hoped to reach by then, and a target they hadn’t expected to hit for three more years. But with enrollment success comes the challenge of serving more people in a $10 billion program that’s already stretched thin in places…”
  • Health law push brings thousands into Colo. Medicaid who were already eligible, By Eric Whitney, April 16, 2014, Washington Post: “The big marketing push to get people enrolled in health coverage between October and March resulted in 3 million people signing up for Medicaid. Hundreds of thousands of those people were already eligible and could have signed up even before the Affordable Care Act made it much more generous. They came ‘out of the woodwork’ to get enrolled, analysts say, thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and publicity around its new marketplaces. In Colorado, nearly 23,000 such people are now getting Medicaid. Their numbers grew Colorado’s Medicaid rolls by 3 percent over last year…”

Basic Food Employment and Training Program – Washington

Off food stamps and employed — with taxpayers’ help, By Kyung M. Song, May 28, 2013, Seattle Times: “Dede O’Loughlin’s mother dropped out of high school and got by on food stamps. Then O’Loughlin herself became that mother to her three sons. O’Loughlin, a 40-year-old single parent from North Seattle, wanted to break the pattern for her children. And thanks to that very food-stamp program, she likely will. O’Loughlin is among thousands of Washington residents who, since 2005, have gone from collecting public assistance to collecting paychecks — a switch footed by taxpayers. She took advantage of help offered by Basic Food, the state’s food-stamp program, to target a career and train for it. For O’Loughlin, that job was as family-service coordinator at Seattle Children’s, a position that pays roughly double the minimum wage. Now Congress may replicate the state’s Basic Food Employment & Training program elsewhere around the nation…”

Dental Assistance Programs

  • Dental clinic offers affordable relief for Medicaid users, uninsured, By Pia Hallenberg, January 3, 2013, The Spokesman-Review: “The quiet at the Riverstone Family Dental Clinic on a recent Monday morning was like the quiet before a storm. At least that’s what the people behind the IDEA Clinic, located at Riverstone Family Health Center at the Northeast Community Center, were hoping. ‘There will be more patients this afternoon,’ said Dr. John Wesley, IDEA Clinic director. ‘But, yes, we need to get some cheeks in the seats.’ IDEA stands for Inland Dental Expanded Access Clinic, a clinic for uninsured or underinsured patients staffed by volunteer dentists, and it opens this month. Wesley has been there since November, and the clinic is so new it still smells more like paint than dental office…”
  • Ohio clinic tackles Appalachian dental needs, underscoring a top unmet health need in state, By Misti Crane, January 2, 2013, Toledo Blade: “Ohio — Some of the adult patients at the Southeastern Ohio Dental Clinic didn’t see a dentist once during childhood. Children as young as 5 have had to have all their baby teeth pulled. Patients in their 20s sometimes need dentures.Often they only go to the clinic because the pain won’t relent and keeps them from sleeping or working. The Marietta clinic is run by the Washington County Health Department and is a rarity in Appalachia: a dentist’s office that cares for Medicaid patients and those with no insurance who pay on a sliding scale according to income.For most of them, that means about $30 an appointment, office manager Karita Miller said. It is considered a shining example of good in a region that is home to many without the money and resources to take care of their teeth.These problems aren’t unique to one region of the state.Dental care is the top unmet health need in Ohio. The problems are amplified in Appalachia, where children have an almost 60 percent higher rate of tooth decay and about half of working-age adults don’t have dental insurance…”
  • Children’s Hospital assists families with low-cost health insurance, January 2, 2013, Crestview News Bulletin: “Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart is helping families enroll their children in low-cost health insurance through Florida KidCare. Sacred Heart will provide personal assistance to parents, grandparents and guardians in understanding their options and assisting them to enroll in the Florida KidCare program. A community health worker is available to help families in Okaloosa and Walton counties. Florida ranks third in the U.S. for the number of uninsured children, with more than 500,000 young lives without coverage…”

Kids Living in Poverty in U.S.

  •  More Tri-City kids living in poverty, new report shows, By Michelle Dupler of the Tri-City Herald, December 13, 2012, The Bellingham Herald: “New U.S. Census Bureau numbers show that more than one-third of Franklin County children lived in poverty in 2011 — and that’s up from about one-fourth in the previous year. The census bureau, as part of its Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates program, released a new set of poverty estimates Wednesday showing that 832 counties nationwide — or 26 percent — saw an increase in poverty from 2007-11 that couldn’t be explained away by the statistical margin of error…”
  • In many Maine schools, one-fifth of students in poverty, By North Cairn, December 13, 2012, Morning Sentinel: “About one in five students in many schools in Maine are living in poverty, according to statistics released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. That figure holds true across the country, the report found. Last year — the period from which the report’s data was taken — there were 53.8 million school-age children in more than 13,500 school districts. Nearly half lived in communities with school district poverty rates greater than 20 percent…”
  • Sarasota poverty rate drops, but it’s still high, By Zac Anderson, December 12, 2012, Herald Tribune: “After moving dramatically in the wrong direction for three straight years, two leading economic indicators — poverty and household income — began to level off across Florida in 2011 and even improved in Sarasota County, according to new U.S. census data. The data is further evidence that Florida’s economy hit bottom around 2010 and is slowly improving. But poverty is still at, or near, record highs across much of the state in a recovery that has been uneven…”

States and Medicaid Expansion

  • Montana could add 50K to Medicaid if program is expanded, By Mike Dennison, August 21, 2012, The Missoulian: “If Montana expands Medicaid as allowed under federal health care reform, about 50,000 low-income Montanans will be added to the program starting in 2014 – and the cost and benefits are difficult to predict, experts told a legislative panel Monday. The cost to the state could range anywhere from $30 million to $118 million a year by 2020, the experts said. But they also said covering 50,000 people who currently don’t have health insurance will have positive impacts for the state, such as reducing the amount of ‘uncompensated care’ now paid for by hospitals, and bringing hundreds of millions of federal dollars into the state…”
  • State officials seek to greatly expand Medicaid, By Marissa Harshman, August 19, 2012, The Columbian: “The outlook for Washington’s medically uninsured population may be a bit rosier by 2014, particularly for the more than 300,000 low-income people who may find themselves eligible for the state’s Medicaid rolls. But the desired expansion comes with a hefty price tag for the federal government, potential risk for the state and new concern for health care providers already stretched to care for current Medicaid patients. The Medicaid program currently serves about 1.2 million people in Washington. In the last several years, as the state’s purse strings tightened, the medical program for low-income residents has faced cuts to provider reimbursement rates and services. Still, the state is moving forward with its implementation of federal health care reform and expansion of Medicaid enrollment, adding about 330,000 more Washingtonians to the program, with the expectation that the federal government will pay the lion’s share of the cost to cover new enrollees…”
  • GOP govs: Not enough Medicaid ‘flexibility’, By J.K. Wall, August 20, 2012, Indianapolis Business Journal: “The Obama administration is giving states like Indiana a little flexibility in how to expand their Medicaid programs-but nothing like what state officials hoped for after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the health reform law in late June. The law calls for all states to expand eligibility for their Medicaid programs to include adults earnings as much as 138 percent of the federal poverty limit. Indiana’s current limit for adults is just 24 percent of the federal poverty limit. But the Supreme Court, in its June 28 ruling upholding the law, said the states can opt out of the expansion without losing all federal funding for their Medicaid programs…”

States and Medicaid Expansion – Ohio, Washington

  • State’s poorest could be left without health insurance if Medicaid expansion is rejected, By Catherine Candisky, July 30, 2012, Columbus Dispatch: “If Gov. John Kasich decides against expanding the state’s Medicaid program, more than 600,000 of the poorest Ohioans could remain without health insurance while those with slightly higher incomes would qualify for subsidies and tax credits to buy private coverage. The potential gap was created last month when the U.S. Supreme Court, while upholding most of the federal health-care law, tossed a requirement that states expand Medicaid or face federal sanctions. The health-care overhaul was designed to cover about half of uninsured Americans through Medicaid by expanding eligibility to those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level – largely childless adults with incomes under $15,000 a year. The rest would be required to purchase private coverage starting in 2014 – a mandate upheld by a majority of the justices – with subsidies and tax credits for those earning 100 to 400 percent of the poverty level…”
  • Medicaid debate likely to be big one in Olympia, By Brad Shannon, July 30, 2012, Tacoma News Tribune: “How far to expand Medicaid coverage for poor people under the new federal health-reform law is turning into a major question in many states. In Washington, it is shaping up as a major question for the Legislature next year. Majority Democrats and Republicans are sharply split, and their differences came into sharp focus last week during a legislative work session on health reform at the Capitol. At issue was how far the state should go in providing taxpayer-paid health care for poor people who, if uninsured, drive up costs for everyone else by going to hospital emergency rooms. Medicaid now serves nearly 1.1 million Washingtonians, and upward of 1 million more could enroll in January 2014 under the federal Affordable Care Act. Most of those costs would be paid by the federal government; the state’s share would top out at 10 percent in 2020…”