Category Archives: Human Services

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.

How Far Do SNAP Benefits Fall Short of Covering the Cost of a Meal?

Source: Elaine Waxman, Craig Gundersen, Megan Thompson, Urban Institute, February 22, 2018

From the abstract:
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) aims to reduce hunger and food insecurity by supplementing the purchasing power of low-income families. This analysis explores the adequacy of SNAP benefits by comparing the maximum SNAP benefit per meal with the average cost of a low-cost meal in the U.S., adjusting for geographic variations in food prices across counties in the 48 contiguous states and Washington, DC. We find that average cost of a low-income meal is $2.36, 27 percent higher than the SNAP maximum benefit per meal of $1.86, which takes into account the maximum benefit available to households of varying sizes. The SNAP per meal benefit does not cover the cost of a low-income meal in 99 percent of US continental counties and the District of Columbia.

Related:
Interactive map showing this data at the county level

State of the Union

Source: Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, Pathways, Special Issue, 2018

From the summary:
The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality is pleased to present its fifth annual report examining the state of the union. In this year’s report, we provide a comprehensive assessment of gender inequality in eleven domains ranging from education to health, employment, earnings, poverty, sexual harassment, networks, and more. The report concludes with a discussion of the most promising sciencebased policies for reducing gender inequality at home and in the labor market.

Articles include:
Gender Identification
Aliya Saperstein
The traditional gender binary just doesn’t work. When respondents of a national survey were asked about their femininity and masculinity, 7 percent considered themselves equally feminine and masculine, and another 4 percent responded in ways that did not “match” their sex at birth (i.e., females who saw themselves as more masculine than feminine, or males who saw themselves as more feminine than masculine).

Education
Erin M. Fahle and Sean F. Reardon
Despite common beliefs to the contrary, male students do not consistently outperform female students in mathematics. It’s only in high school that the male advantage in mathematics surfaces. What’s going on?

Health
Mark Duggan and Valerie Scimeca
For women and men alike, life expectancy has stagnated for the last several years, primarily due to increases in drug poisoning deaths and in the suicide rate. The male-female life expectancy gap, which favors females, fell from 7.6 years in 1970 to 4.8 years in 2010, a reduction of more than one-third.

Employment
Melissa S. Kearney and Katharine G. Abraham
After rising steadily for many decades, the overall female employment rate has been falling since 2000. Why has it fallen? Are there straightforward policy fixes that could increase women’s employment?

Earnings
Emmanuel Saez
When gender differences in labor force participation, fringe benefits, and self-employment income are taken into account, women earn only 57 cents for each dollar earned by men.

Poverty
H. Luke Shaefer, Marybeth Mattingly, and Kathryn Edin
Are women more likely than men to be in deep poverty, official poverty, and near poverty? Yes, yes, and yes.

Safety Net
Linda M. Burton, Marybeth Mattingly, Juan Pedroza, and Whitney Welsh
Why do women use safety net programs more than men? A hint: It’s not just because they’re more likely to be eligible for them.

Occupational Segregation
Kim A. Weeden, Mary Newhart, and Dafna Gelbgiser
Nearly half of the women in the labor force would have to move to a different occupation to eliminate all occupational segregation by gender. This is a classic case of stalled change: If recent rates of change are extrapolated, it would take 330 years to reach full integration.

Discrimination
David S. Pedulla
A new science of gender discrimination is being built with audit studies and other experiments. A key result: Gender discrimination is more likely to emerge when the applicant’s commitment to work can be called into question or when an applicant is behaving in a gender-nonconforming way.

Workplace Sexual Harassment
Amy Blackstone, Heather McLaughlin, and Christopher Uggen
The workplace is rife with sexual harassment. By age 25 to 26, one in three women and one in seven men experience behavior at work that they define as sexual harassment.

Social Networks
Adina D. Sterling
Although men used to have more social ties than men, now the gender gap has reversed and women have the larger networks. But women still have fewer coworker ties than men … and coworker ties matter a lot.

Policy
Marianne Cooper and Shelley J. Correll
What are the most promising science-based policies for reducing gender inequality at home and in the labor market?

Inequality and Competition in State Redistributive Systems: Evidence From Welfare and Health

Source: NakHyeok Choi, Milena I. Neshkova, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, Published March 5, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
When determining their redistributive budgets, states must strike a subtle balance—to provide for their needy residents without becoming a “welfare magnet” and attracting poor individuals from neighboring states. We examine the competing incentives that state politicians face in federal systems and their effects on program accessibility and redistributive spending across U.S. states between 2005 and 2011. Comparing two redistributive programs under state control—Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)—we find strong evidence of interstate competition in the case of cash assistance programs, but less evidence in the case of health care. Yet our data show that states do not alter their policies in response to rising inequality, that is, when the median voter becomes poorer than the average voter. Moreover, the Great Recession had a greater impact on TANF than Medicaid. We attribute these differential effects to different funding mechanisms used by the federal government to finance the two state-administered programs.