Cities Hit Hardest by Extreme Poverty

Source: Samuel Stebbins, 24/7 Wall St., April 17, 2018

From the summary:
….Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. compared the percentage point change in concentrated poverty rates in U.S. metro areas between 2010 and 2016 to identify the cities where concentrated poverty is increasing most. The cities on this list span the United States geographically, from the West Coast to the East and from the South to the Midwest…..

Why Young People Are Joining Unions Again

Source: Hannah Finnie, Talk Poverty blog, April 19, 2018

…. Young people are at a tipping point. They are frustrated by a system whose cracks were etched into place by preceding generations, but have only fully metastasized for theirs. They experience suffocating levels of student debt alongside declining wages and income equality while watching companies monopolize entire industries, and sometimes even nationwide elections. Representation—actual representation—feels more like theory than reality.

People are, finally, beginning to take notice of young people’s activism to fix that system. However, many are mistaking the new wave of media coverage dedicated to young people’s political activism for young people’s newfound political activism. It’s not that young people were ever politically dormant; it’s just that their activism has existed in places where older generations aren’t used to looking: on college campuses, like the Know Your IX movement and tuition equity campaigns for undocumented students, and inside activist movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #ByeAnita and #Occupy.

And now, increasingly, unions. ….

Improving Economic Development Incentives

Source: Timothy Bartik, W.E. Upjohn Institute, 2018

From the Pew Charitable Trusts’ summary:
State and local governments commonly use economic development incentives such as tax credits and exemptions to try to boost their economies by encouraging businesses to relocate or expand within their borders. But such incentives can represent major budget commitments, costing these governments tens of billions of dollars every year. To make the best decisions about which policies to pursue, policymakers need reliable, high-quality tools and methods for evaluating their incentives and ensuring that they yield the intended results.

New research by Timothy J. Bartik of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research offers practical guidance. In a recently released report, “Improving Economic Development Incentives,” the institute’s senior economist examines how policy design choices influence the economic impact of incentives and draws some conclusions to help state and local leaders assess and improve their policies.

Older industrial cities are key to addressing rising regional inequality

Source: Alan Berube and Cecile Murray, Brookings Institution, April 23, 2018

The United States is about to enter its 10th year of economic expansion, dating back to the end of the Great Recession in June 2009. Job growth is robust, the unemployment rate is low, and median household income is at an all-time high.

Yet there remains a strong sense, punctuated by the results of the 2016 presidential election, that many parts of the country have been left behind in the rising tide.

Regional inequality is on the rise
The evidence backs this up. Almost four in five urban areas nationwide had household incomes in 2016 at least 5 percent lower than their levels in 1999. Many of the hardest-hit communities were small to mid-sized areas throughout the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast still feeling the effects of long-run industrial decline…..

What Consumers Say About Nursing Homes in Online Reviews

Source: Caitlyn Kellogg, Yujun Zhu, Valeria Cardenas, Katalina Vazquez, Kayla Johari, Anna Rahman, Susan Enguidanos, The Gerontologist, Advance Access, published April 20, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background:
Although patient-centered care is an expressed value of our healthcare system, no studies have examined what consumers say in online reviews about nursing homes (NHs). Insight into themes addressed in these reviews could inform improvement efforts that promote patient-centered NH care.

Research Design and Methods:
We analyzed nursing home (NH) Yelp reviews. From a list of all NHs in California, we drew a purposeful sample of 51 NHs, selecting facilities representing a range of geographical areas and occupancy rates. Two research teams analyzed the reviews using grounded theory to identify codes and tracked how frequently each code was mentioned.

Results:
We evaluated 264 reviews, identifying 24 codes, grouped under five categories: quality of staff care and staffing; physical facility and setting; resident safety and security; clinical care quality; and financial issues. More than half (53.41%) of Yelp reviewers posted comments related to staff attitude and caring and nearly a third (29.2%) posted comments related to staff responsiveness. Yelp reviewers also often posted about NHs’ physical environment. Infrequently mentioned were the quality of health care provided and concerns about resident safety and security.

Discussion and Implications:
Our results are consistent with those from related studies. Yelp reviewers focus on NH aspects that are not evaluated in most other NH rating systems. The federal Nursing Home Compare website, for instance, does not report measures of staff attitudes or the NH’s physical setting. Rather, it reports measures of staffing levels and clinical processes and outcomes. We recommend that NH consumers consult both types of rating systems because they provide complementary information.

Ohio State University – salary information

Source: Ohio State University, Office of Human Resources, 2018

From the press release:
The Ohio State University is breaking new ground for transparency among public universities in Ohio by making all non-student employee salaries available to the public in an online, searchable web-based application. ….

…. In calendar year 2017, 42,670 faculty and staff received $2.5 billion in total earnings – representing a one-year employee headcount increase of 1,855 (4.5 percent) and a 6.4 percent increase over the 2016 $2.35 billion payroll budget. The 2017 median annual base salary stood at $48,173, compared to $47,661 in 2016 – a 1.1 percent increase.

Two types of data are available on the Human Resources website: Users may enter a name, department, title or salary range to search for base salary information in the web-based application. A second option is available to download Excel spreadsheets of total employee earnings for calendar year 2017, which includes bonuses, overtime, deferred compensation, and vacation and sick leave payouts in addition to base salary. The data will be updated throughout the calendar year…..

Georgia Bus Drivers Joined the School Uprising and Paid a Price

Source: Rachel M. Cohen, The Intercept, April 22, 2018
The red-state school uprising is spreading to educators around the country, with teachers in Colorado and Arizona now planning walkouts to demand better treatment from state and county governments. But the widespread public support that has helped carry the teachers to victories so far has been less present for blue-collar workers following in their footsteps. In Georgia, bus drivers who organized their own work stoppage last week were met with public condemnation and immediate firings.

On Thursday, the same day that the votes in favor of a walkout were tallied in Arizona, nearly 400 school bus drivers in DeKalb County, Georgia, stayed home from work, staging a “sickout” to protest their low salaries and meager benefits.  

Whether the school bus drivers can succeed in winning their demands and maintaining broad popular support remains to be seen, but the protest provides an important test case on whether these teacher movements will lead to a broader working-class uprising or stay limited to organizing among a narrower band of white-collar professionals. The bus drivers are not building their case around the idea that their unique talents merit greater monetary reward, but that they simply need and deserve to be treated more fairly…..

…..While the teachers strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona have boasted the vocal support of local school boards and superintendents, the school district leadership in DeKalb County has offered no such solidarity to the school bus drivers. In fact, seven bus drivers were fired on Thursday, identified as “sickout ringleaders.”….

High-performance insights – best practices in health care

Source: Willis Towers Watson, Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey Report, 2017

Key survey findings:
– Confidence is strong
Despite uncertainty about health care legislation, employer confidence in offering health benefits reached its highest level since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Ninety-two percent of employers said they are “very confident” their organization will continue to sponsor health benefits in five years.

– Cost pressures remain
Employers expect health care costs to increase by 5.5%1 in 2018, up from a 4.6% increase in 2017. They plan to step up cost management strategies over the next three years, including evaluation of emerging health care delivery solutions and improved patient navigation and health engagement.

– Creating a cost advantage
Best-performing companies have created a cost advantage of more than $2,000 per employee per year (PEPY) over the national average by adding value through a broad set of activities to control costs and improve workforce health. Their cost advantage over high-cost companies rises to more than $3,500 PEPY.

– Emphasizing clinical conditions
Employers put more emphasis on specific clinical areas – notably diabetes (76%), musculoskeletal (69%) and mental health (65%) – to improve member health and reduce costs.

– Proactive management of pharmacy benefit costs
Employers take more aggressive steps to curb pharmacy costs and utilization (particularly for specialty) by re-examining benefit contract terms and looking beyond PBMs to integrate with the medical plan.

– Prioritizing the employee health experience
Over the next three years, employers plan to improve the employee experience by adding choice, providing decision-support tools, and enhancing enrollment platforms and navigation.

– Health and well-being as a key competitive advantage
Increasingly organizations view their health and well-being programs as a key factor to attract talent, and many organizations plan to broaden their efforts to support employees’ physical, emotional and financial well-being.

When the City Goes Broke: Pensions, Retirees, and Municipal Bankruptcies

Source: Kevin M. Lewis, Congressional Research Service, CRS Legal Sidebar, LSB10116, April 10, 2018

In recent years, a significant number of cities, towns, and other municipalities in the United States have found themselves increasingly unable to pay their debts. In order to offer municipalities relief from many types of debts they cannot repay, Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code authorizes certain municipalities to file for bankruptcy. However, filing for bankruptcy may adversely affect the municipality’s creditors, especially beneficiaries of underfunded municipal retirement plans (who, along with bondholders, often hold “the lion’s share” of a municipality’s financial obligations). Because a number of municipalities face a “dramatic and growing shortfall in public pension funds,” many “firefighters, teachers, police officers, and other public employees” who purportedly have “a right to pension benefits at retirement” face a significant risk that their pensions will ultimately not be fully repaid. The fact that public pensions, unlike their private counterparts, are neither subject to the “vesting and funding rules imposed by” the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 nor “protected by the federal pension guarantee program operated by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation” could, according to some commentators, further exacerbate that risk. Moreover, because courts presiding over municipal bankruptcy cases have generally been “amenable to modifying pension debt in bankruptcy,” retirees’ pension benefits may potentially be significantly curtailed when a municipality declares bankruptcy. Although many Chapter 9 debtors have ultimately opted not to cut pensions “for political or practical reasons,” courts and commentators generally accept that, under certain circumstances, municipalities “have the legal ability to shed pension debt” in bankruptcy if they so choose.

This Sidebar first explains how, under current bankruptcy law, Chapter 9 debtors have significant freedom to modify their outstanding pension obligations through the bankruptcy process. The Sidebar then explores proposals to alter the legal principles governing the adjustment of municipal pensions in bankruptcy….