Category Archives: Human Services

Child Care Assistance Spending and Participation in 2012 – A Record Low

Source: Hannah Matthews and Stephanie Schmit, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), February 2014

Child care subsidies help make quality child care affordable for low-income parents, allowing them to attend work or school to support their families while ensuring their children’s healthy development. Access to quality child care is also proven to strengthen families’ economic security. The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is the primary source of federal funding for child care subsidies for low-income working families and to improve child care quality. States contribute in the form of matching funds and maintenance-of-effort (MOE). In addition, states use funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant to deliver child care assistance. States can spend TANF funds directly on child care or transfer up to 30 percent of their funds to CCDBG or a combination of CCDBG and the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). TANF also has a state MOE requirement. This brief provides analysis of national trends for spending and participation in CCDBG and TANF child care in 2012, based on the most recent state data available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Top 10 Legislative Issues to Watch in 2014 / Plus six trending issues that could be big this year

Source: Ryan Holeywell, Liz Farmer, Mike Maciag, J.B. Wogan, Chris Kardish, Governing, Vol. 27 no. 4, January 2014

For states throughout the country this year, there’s a common theme: a climate of uncertainty coupled with a sense of genuine opportunity. Amid worries about the federal government’s failure to boost funding for infrastructure, many states are taking steps to produce that funding on their own. Congress seems to have stalled—again—in its efforts to reform the immigration system, but states are enacting bills designed to grant new rights to some of their undocumented residents. And after a period in which higher education programs faced dramatic cuts, states are putting money back into those programs—some of them more efficiently than in the past. Here are 10 big issues states will look to tackle in 2014, and six smaller ones they’ll also address. …

Medicaid … Income Tax Revision … Minimum Wage Laws … Public Pensions … Immigration … Safety Net … Higher Education … Employee Compensation … Transportation Funding … Drones …

Trending: 6 More Issues That Could Be Big

Abortion … Fracking … GMOs … Privacy … Social Impact Bonds … Autonomous Vehicles …

Waging War on Poverty: Historical Trends in Poverty Using the Supplemental Poverty Measure

Source: Liana Fox, Irwin Garfinkel, Neeraj Kaushal, Jane Waldfogel, Christopher Wimer, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. 19789, January 2014

From the abstract:
Using data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey and the March Current Population Survey, we calculate historical poverty estimates based on the new Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) from 1967 to 2012. During this period, poverty as officially measured has stagnated. However, the official poverty measure (OPM) does not account for the effect of near-cash transfers on the financial resources available to families, an important omission since such transfers have become an increasingly important part of government anti-poverty policy. Applying the SPM, which does count such transfers, we find that historical trends in poverty have been more favorable than the OPM suggests and that government policies have played an important and growing role in reducing poverty — a role that is not evident when the OPM is used to assess poverty. We also find that government programs have played a particularly important role in alleviating child poverty and deep poverty, especially during economic downturns.

Exhaustion Of Food Budgets At Month’s End And Hospital Admissions For Hypoglycemia

Source: Hilary K. Seligman, Ann F. Bolger, David Guzman, Andrea López and Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, Health Affairs, Vol. 33 no. 1, January 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
One in seven US households cannot reliably afford food. Food budgets are more frequently exhausted at the end of a month than at other points in time. We postulated that this monthly pattern influenced health outcomes, such as risk for hypoglycemia among people with diabetes. Using administrative data on inpatient admissions in California for 2000–08, we found that admissions for hypoglycemia were more common in the low-income than the high-income population (270 versus 210 admissions per 1,000,000). Risk for hypoglycemia admission increased 27 percent in the last week of the month compared to the first week in the low-income population, but we observed no similar temporal variation in the high-income population. These findings suggest that exhaustion of food budgets might be an important driver of health inequities. Policy solutions to improve stable access to nutrition in low-income populations and raise awareness of the health risks of food insecurity might be warranted.

What the EBT misuse data really tells us

Source: Robert W. Glover, Bangor Daily News, Research Shows blog, January 8, 2014

Roughly three weeks ago, I wrote about Governor LePage’s allegations of fraud and abuse in the state’s EBT (electronic benefit transfer) system–the primary means by which 7700 needy families in the state access cash and food benefits. At the time, I said, “…we lack any systematic evidence that such ‘misuse’ is widespread.” Despite any appearances to the contrary, that remains true today.

At the time the Governor first announced his intentions to pursue EBT reform this legislative session, he promised data which would support his allegations that the system is “unchecked” and has “no accountability.” Yesterday, he produced that data. It’s available here.

The data provided above is a three-page spreadsheet of instances in which EBT cards were used in bars, pubs, or strip clubs–3701 instances of inappropriate use between January 1, 2011 and November 15, 2013. These were likely cash transactions conducted through onsite ATMs. However, there are no dollar figures attached to these instances of misuse. Absent such information, we can only weight this alleged misuse against overall transactions. During this period, there were approximately 1.725 million EBT transactions. As Steve Mistler of the Portland Press Herald points out, “…that means the inappropriate transactions accounted for about two-tenths of 1 percent of all EBT use during that period.” …

So with what we’ve discovered so far, what can we say about the supposedly “broken” EBT system in Maine?

1) It is not broken. …
2) Enforcement of existing regulations would combat the alleged misuse identified here. …
3) The way to fight potential misuse is through enforcement of existing laws, not further restrictions that will create obstacles to pathways out of poverty for needy Maine families….

See also:
Why LePage’s and Fredette’s proposed welfare reforms are bad policy
Source: Robert W. Glover, Bangor Daily News, Research Shows blog, December 18, 2013

…The benefits are relatively small. For TANF, the maximum monthly amount for a family of three in Maine is approximately $485, 32% of the federal poverty level (a figure which has not risen in 12 years). In 2013, in the state of Maine, the average individual benefit for food supplements worked out to a little over $4 per day. Enough to subsist on, and perhaps avoid homelessness, but not much more. National data suggests that families receiving assistance allocated their money accordingly, with those on assistance operating on extremely tight budgets relative to those that are not.

So who accesses these benefits? According to a 2010 study that surveyed over 6000 Maine families that had received TANF benefits, 92% of respondents were women acting as head of household. Often these women have young children; the median age of a child receiving TANF benefits is two years old. Most are eager to work and stay on TANF assistance for a short time, the average length of assistance being 18 months. TANF recipients had worked an average of 3 jobs over the past 5 years, and 97% had work experience. However, wages are often quite low with the average wage of a TANF recipient being $8.36 an hour.

These families are often forced into TANF by one or a combination of factors: housing costs (more than 81% respondents would likely be unable to pay rent without TANF benefits), domestic violence (nearly 25% of TANF recipients reported applying in an effort to escape an abusive relationship), access to child care (28% of respondents cited lack of access to affordable child care as a reason for seeking assistance), limited mobility (46% of respondents did not own a vehicle and 80% had difficulty getting transportation when they needed it), or disability (67% of all TANF households had at least one family member with a disability)….

Maine Struggles with Welfare Misuse at ATMs
Source: J.B. Wogan, Governing, January 14, 2014

As states work to comply with new federal welfare rules that restrict recipients from withdrawing cash benefits from liquor stores, reports released by Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services show some doing just that….

Does the U.S. Need Another War on Poverty?

Source: New York Times, Room for Debate, January 5, 2014

In his State of the Union address on Jan. 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced his “war on poverty,” when the national poverty rate was 19 percent. His project created Medicare, Medicaid, a permanent food stamp program, Head Start, Volunteers in Service to America and the Job Corps.

Fifty years later, much has changed, but much remains the same — the national poverty rate still hovers around 15 percent. Does America need another war on poverty? …

Debaters include:

Why We Need One
Martha J. Bailey, co-author, “Legacies of the War on Poverty”

Poverty is still with us, and not every program worked. But decades of research has taught us how much directed policy accomplishes.

Not a War, an Equitable Economy
Angela Blackwell, PolicyLink

Persistent racial gaps and the widening gulf between the rich and everyone else threaten our nation’s economic vitality. Inequality hinders growth, inclusion accelerates it.

Focus on Intergenerational Mobility

Scott Winship, Manhattan Institute

We need a war on immobility — a bipartisan crusade to identify and address the barriers that leave 70 percent of poor children below the middle class as adults.

For Latinos, It’s an Economic Imperative
Gustavo Torres, CASA de Maryland

There is much to learn from South Americans and their war against poverty. Brazil, for example, has moved 40 million people out of poverty in the last 10 years.

It All Comes Down to Personal Responsibility
Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution

If Johnson’s vision of more self-sufficiency among the poor is to be achieved, reducing nonmarital births and rewarding effective inner-city school teachers would be a good start.

A New War With a Clear Emphasis

Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children’s Zone

We should once again declare a war on poverty, focusing first on three things: education, the minimum wage and tax credits for the working poor.

The effect of welfare sanctions on TANF exits and employment

Source: Chi-Fang Wu, Maria Cancian, Geoffrey Wallace, Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 36, January 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Using longitudinal administrative data for Wisconsin, this article accounts for the length of time on welfare and the length of sanctioning to better understand the effect of work-related financial sanctions on cash welfare (TANF) participants’ program exits and subsequent employment. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) remains an important, if less generous, part of the safety net for families with children. Our findings highlight the importance of considering the time on welfare, duration of sanctions, and post-welfare employment and earnings outcomes. The results indicate that being sanctioned increases the likelihood of transition off TANF cash assistance and this effect increases with the duration of the sanction. In addition to measuring the effects of welfare sanctions on individual participants, the article also estimates the effects of agency sanction policies, using measures of the risk of sanctions at the agency level. Agency policy effects were of interest both because they addressed the potential effects of changes in the threat of sanctions—even on those not directly subject to them—and because the agency effects were not subject to the same concerns about unobserved individual heterogeneity between sanctioned and non-sanctioned participants. We found that an increase in an agency’s use of sanctions resulted in increased exits to no job, to jobs paying less than cash benefits, and to jobs paying more than available cash benefits. Our results have important implications for understanding the consequences of financial sanctions for public program participants.

• We estimate effects of being sanctioned and the effects of agency sanction policy.
• Importance of accounting for time on welfare, time sanctioned, level of sanctions
• Sanctions increase the likelihood of transition off TANF cash assistance.
• A higher agency sanction results reduced time on welfare.
• Effect of sanctions on W–2 exits increase with the duration of the sanction spell.

Local Government Corrections Expenditures, FY 2005-2011

Source: Tracey Kyckelhahn, NCJ 243527, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 5, 2013

From the summary:
Presents data on local government corrections expenditures from fiscal years 2005 to 2011. This report examines trends in local government spending to build and operate correctional institutions and spending for other corrections functions such as probation. It compares trends in local government spending on corrections with trends in local spending on police protection, judicial-legal services, public welfare, education, health and hospitals, and highways. It also compares state and local expenditures on correctional institutions. Data are from the Census Bureau’s State and Local Government Finance Survey, which collects information on state and local expenditures and revenues.

– In fiscal year 2011, local governments spent $26.4 billion on corrections. Between 2005 and 2011, the annual expenditures by local governments varied between $25.8 billion and $28.4 billion.
– Corrections expenditures represented 1.6% of total local government expenditures between 2005 and 2011.
– Education was the largest component of local government expenditures, varying between 36.0% and 38.4% from 2005 to 2011.
– Local governments spent more than 80% of total corrections expenditures on correctional institutions, such as jails, between 2005 and 2011.
– Between 2005 and 2011, local governments annually spent over a third (34.4% to 37.0%) of all funds spent by state and local governments on correctional institutions.
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