Category Archives: Human Services

House Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill Would Increase Food Insecurity and Hardship

Source: Ed Bolen, Lexin Cai, Stacy Dean, Brynne Keith-Jennings, Catlin Nchako, Dottie Rosenbaum, Elizabeth Wolkomir, May 10, 2018

From the summary:
The nutrition provisions of the farm bill[1] that the House Agriculture Committee (the Committee) passed on April 18, if enacted, would increase food insecurity and hardship. The proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) would end or cut benefits for a substantial number of low-income people.

SNAP is the country’s most effective anti-hunger program, helping 1 in 8 Americans afford a basic diet, with most SNAP participants being children, seniors, or people with disabilities. Despite providing modest benefits — averaging about $1.40 per person per meal — the program combats food insecurity, alleviates poverty, and has long-term positive impacts on health as well as on children’s educational attainment. The Committee’s proposal would reduce SNAP’s effectiveness and put large numbers of families and individuals at increased risk of hardship.

The Poverty Reduction of Social Security and Means-Tested Transfers

Source: Bruce D. Meyer, Derek Wu, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. 24567, May 2018
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From the abstract:
Many studies examine the anti-poverty effects of social insurance and means-tested transfers, relying solely on survey data with substantial errors. We improve on past work by linking administrative data from Social Security and five large means-tested transfers (SSI, SNAP, Public Assistance, the EITC, and housing assistance) to 2008-2013 Survey of Income and Program Participation data. Using the linked data, we find that Social Security cuts the poverty rate by a third – more than twice the combined effect of the five means-tested transfers. Among means-tested transfers, the EITC and SNAP are most effective. All programs except for the EITC sharply reduce deep poverty (below 50% of the poverty line), while the impact of the EITC is more pronounced at 150% of the poverty line. For the elderly, Social Security single-handedly slashes poverty by 75%, more than 20 times the combined effect of the means-tested transfers. While single parent families benefit more from the EITC, SNAP, and housing assistance, they are still relatively underserved by the safety net, with the six programs together reducing their poverty rate by only 38%. SSI, Public Assistance, and housing assistance have the highest share of benefits going to the pre-transfer poor, while the EITC has the lowest. Finally, the survey data alone provide fairly accurate estimates for the overall population at the poverty line, although they understate the effects of Social Security, SNAP, and Public Assistance. However, there are more striking differences at other income cutoffs and for specific family types. For example, the survey data yield 1) effects of SNAP and Public Assistance on near poverty that are two-thirds and one-half what the administrative data generate and 2) poverty reduction effects of SSI, Social Security, and Public Assistance that are 34-44% of what the administrative data produce for single parent families.

Related:
New evidence shows that our anti-poverty programs, especially Social Security, work well
Source: Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, May 7, 2018

Few U.S. government efforts are consistently more vilified than anti-poverty programs. They’re dismissed as ineffective and ridiculed as giveaways to undeserving recipients. A new paper puts the lie to these assertions by showing that the nation’s most important anti-poverty efforts all succeed in serving their goals — in the case of Social Security, spectacularly. The authors, Bruce D. Meyer and Derek Wu of the University of Chicago, used administrative statistics from six major programs to demonstrate that five of the six “sharply reduce deep poverty” (that is, income below 50% of the federal poverty line) and the sixth has a “pronounced” impact among the working poor…..

I Work with Mark Janus. Here’s How He Benefits from a Strong Union.

Source: Donnie Killen, Labor Notes, May 11, 2018

Like everyone else in the labor movement, I’m nervously awaiting the Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which would weaken public sector unions by letting workers receive the benefits of representation without contributing toward the cost.

But I’ve got a unique vantage point: I work in the same building as the plaintiff, Mark Janus.

We’re both child support specialists for the state of Illinois, where we do accounting on child support cases. I do this work because it’s fulfilling to help kids and single parents get the resources they need to support themselves.

What convinced Mr. Janus to join this destructive lawsuit? Your guess is as good as mine. I do know it’s much bigger than him. He’s the public face, but this case is backed by a network of billionaires and corporate front groups like the National Right-to-Work Foundation.

But the truth is, even Mark Janus himself benefits from union representation. Here are a few of the ways:

1. Without our union, Mr. Janus’s job would probably have been outsourced by now. ….
2. Mr. Janus has received $17,000 in union-negotiated raises. ….
3. The public—including the parents and kids Mr. Janus serves—has access to resources like childcare that our union has fought to defend. ….
4. Our union blocked the employer from doubling the cost of Mr. Janus’s health benefits. ….
5. We make sure Mr. Janus’s office is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. ….
6. Thanks to our union, Mr. Janus will retire with a pension. ….
7. Mr. Janus can get sick and still have a job when he comes back. ….
8. Our union ensured that Mr. Janus could be fairly hired, regardless of his politics. ….

States waste hundreds of thousands on drug testing for welfare, but have little to show for it

Source: Amanda Michelle Gomez, Josh Israel, ThinkProgress, May 7, 2018

We got the questionnaires used to screen people for tests, and they are deeply flawed. …. In 2017, states spent more than $490,000 to drug-test 2,541 people who had applied for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, which yielded just 301 positive tests. ….

Why America Needs More Social Housing

Source: Peter Dreier, American Prospect, April 16, 2018

The quest to provide what has come to be called “affordable housing” in America is hobbled by one fundamental reality. Too much housing is in the market sector and too little is in a social sector permanently protected from rising prices. The result is that supply and demand relentlessly bids up market prices. Government is required to provide deeper and deeper subsidies to keep rents within the bounds of incomes, so fewer and fewer people get any kind of help. This is true whether the form of public subsidy is tax breaks, direct subsidies, vouchers, or deals with developers to set aside some percent of units as affordable. In most cities, the median rent far exceeds what median incomes can afford. In cities with hot housing markets, homeownership is even further beyond reach for those who do not already own homes, exacerbating competition for scarce apartments.

The idea of having a permanent sector of social housing, protected in perpetuity from market pressures, has a bad reputation in the United States, in part because of misleading stereotypes about public housing. But other forms of social housing are being depleted as well, including middle-income projects built with tax breaks, such as Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village in Manhattan, which were sold to the highest bidder and converted to market housing; and government-subsidized buildings from the 1960s through the 1980s, built under federal housing programs but allowed to be converted to market-rate apartments once their original mortgages were paid off or the 20-year subsidy contract expired.

Government policymakers have made almost no provision to protect the stunted social sector that exists, much less add to it. There are some exceptions to this dismal pattern, such as land trusts that preserve a social housing sector in perpetuity, in cities like Burlington, Vermont. But for the most part, the place to look for models is abroad. And no place does it better than Vienna….

Related:
Income Limits
Source: Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2018

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sets income limits that determine eligibility for assisted housing programs including the Public Housing, Section 8 project-based, Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Section 202 housing for the elderly, and Section 811 housing for persons with disabilities programs. HUD develops income limits based on Median Family Income estimates and Fair Market Rent area definitions for each metropolitan area, parts of some metropolitan areas, and each non-metropolitan county.

The Mental Health Workforce: A Primer

Source: Elayne J. Heisler, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R43255, April 20, 2018

Congress has held hearings and some Members have introduced legislation addressing the interrelated topics of the quality of mental health care, access to mental health care, and the cost of mental health care. The mental health workforce is a key component of each of these topics. The quality of mental health care depends partially on the skills of the people providing the care. Access to mental health care relies on, among other things, the number of appropriately skilled providers available to provide care. The cost of mental health care depends in part on the wages of the people providing care. Thus an understanding of the mental health workforce may be helpful in crafting policy and conducting oversight. This report aims to provide such an understanding as a foundation for further discussion of mental health policy.

No consensus exists on which provider types make up the mental health workforce. This report focuses on the five provider types identified by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as mental health providers: clinical social workers, clinical psychologists, marriage and family therapists, psychiatrists, and advanced practice psychiatric nurses. The HRSA definition of the mental health workforce is limited to highly trained (e.g., graduate degree) professionals; however, this workforce may be defined more broadly elsewhere. For example, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) definition of the mental health workforce includes mental health counselors and paraprofessionals (e.g., case managers).

An understanding of typical licensure requirements and scopes of practice may help policymakers determine how to focus policy initiatives aimed at increasing the quality of the mental health workforce. Most of the regulation of the mental health workforce occurs at the state level because states are responsible for licensing providers and defining their scope of practice. Although state licensure requirements vary widely across provider types, the scopes of practice converge into provider types that generally can prescribe medication (psychiatrists and advanced practice psychiatric nurses) and provider types that generally cannot prescribe medication (clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, and marriage and family therapists). The mental health provider types can all provide psychosocial interventions (e.g., talk therapy). Administration and interpretation of psychological tests is generally the province of clinical psychologists. …..

Amazon Gets Tax Breaks While its Employees Rely on Food Stamps, New Data Shows

Source: Claire Brown, The Intercept, April 19, 2018

Later this year, Amazon will begin accepting grocery orders from customers using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the federal anti-poverty program formerly known as food stamps. As the nation’s largest e-commerce grocer, Amazon stands to profit more than any other retailer when the $70 billion program goes online after an initial eight-state pilot. But this new revenue will effectively function as a double subsidy for the company: In Arizona, new data suggests that one in three of the company’s own employees depend on SNAP to put food on the table. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, the figure appears to be around one in 10. Overall, of five states that responded to a public records request for a list of their top employers of SNAP recipients, Amazon cracked the top 20 in four.