Sunday, February 28, 2010
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Cuts Affect Wide Range of Services
States began cutting their budgets last spring, as the recession brought sharply weakened revenues. The cuts have intensified as the economy has worsened. Even as the need for state-funded services rose, states cut funding for services by 4 percent for fiscal year 2009 and an additional 4.8 percent for 2010, according to preliminary estimates by the National Association of State Budget Officers. These cuts are affecting important services. At least 45 states plus the District of Columbia have reduced services since the recession began. Service cuts with particular ramifications for vulnerable populations have occurred in the following areas:
- Public health programs: At least 29 states have implemented cuts that will restrict low-income children’s or families’ eligibility for health insurance or reduce their access to health care services. For example, Rhode Island eliminated health coverage for 1,000 low-income parents; Minnesota is cancelling a health insurance program for 29,500 low-income adults; Tennessee has frozen enrollment in its state children’s health insurance program (CHIP); and California is increasing the costs borne by families of nearly 1 million children that participate in its CHIP program.Washington is increasing premiums by an average of 70 percent for a health plan serving low-income residents.
- Programs for the elderly and disabled: At least 24 states plus the District of Columbia are cutting medical, rehabilitative, home care, or other services needed by low-income people who are elderly or have disabilities, or are significantly increasing the cost of these services. For example,Ohio made deep cuts to community mental health services and Arizona eliminated temporary health insurance for people with serious medical problems.
- K-12 education: At least 29 states and the District of Columbia are cutting aid to K-12 schools and various education programs. California, Michigan, and Mississippi have made significant cuts to school aid. Hawaii is furloughing teachers for 17 days this year. A cut in funding means that as many as 10,000 children in Illinois may lose eligibility for early childhood education, and Massachusetts is reducing funding for a number of early care programs.
- Higher education: At least 39 states have cut assistance to public colleges and universities, resulting in reductions in faculty and staff in addition to tuition increases. The University of California is increasing tuition by 32 percent. Tuition at all 11 public universities in Florida increased by 15 percent for the 2009-2010 school year. Students in Washington and other states face significant tuition increases as well, costing families hundreds of dollars per year. Michigan and New Mexico have made deep cuts to need-based financial aid programs.
- State workforces: At least 42 states and the District of Columbia have made cuts affecting state government employees. At least 26 states have instituted hiring freezes, 14 states and the District of Columbia have announced layoffs, 26 have reduced state worker wages, and several have delayed scheduled pay increases (including cost of living adjustments). In total, state and local governments have eliminated a total of 151,000 jobs since August 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additional workers have lost pay and benefits.
Friday, February 19, 2010
From Colorlines (h/t Poverty Law)
Since she was 16, Eva Hernández has worked a string of low-wage jobs. She’s prepared chicken at KFC, run the register at Dunkin Donuts, packed and sealed boxes at a produce company, and held other similar jobs in Hartford, Connecticut, where she was born and raised. These jobs haven’t paid enough for Eva, now 28, to support herself and her two young daughters. So for almost three years in the last decade, she’s relied on welfare to supplement her income. Most of the time, though, she’s simply found another low-wage job, a task that in this economy is proving almost impossible.
In March 2009, in the midst of the worst job crisis in at least a generation, Eva opened the last welfare check she will ever receive. She is one of a growing number of people in the United States who can’t find work in this recession but don’t qualify for government cash assistance, no matter how poor they are or how bad the economy gets.
Without the help of welfare, Eva doesn’t have enough money left at the end of each month to feed her daughters full meals. It is the first time in her life, she said, that she hasn’t had enough money for food.
Now, with no other source of income, Eva breaks the law, selling her food stamps to pay for the rent, phone bill, detergent and tampons.On the first day of each month, when her food stamps arrive, she walks to the convenience store up the street, buys food for her family with her food stamp card and uses it to pay off the debt she accumulated the previous month after she ran out of money. She then trades in the remaining balance for cash. Although the bodega is more expensive than larger chain grocery stores nearby, she’s locked into shopping here because places like Wal-Mart won’t let her keep a tab—or exchange her food stamps for desperately needed cash. . . . .
From the NYT:
Here and in swaths of many cities, evictions from rental properties are so common that they are part of the texture of life. New research is showing that eviction is a particular burden on low-income black women, often single mothers, who have an easier time renting apartments than their male counterparts, but are vulnerable to losing them because their wages or public benefits have not kept up with the cost of housing.And evictions, in turn, can easily throw families into cascades of turmoil and debt.“Just as incarceration has become typical in the lives of poor black men, eviction has become typical in the lives of poor black women,” said Matthew Desmond, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin whose research on trends in Milwaukee since 2002 provides a rare portrait of gender patterns in inner-city rentals.The study found that one of every 25 renter-occupied households in the city is evicted each year. In black neighborhoods, the rate is one in 14. These figures include only court-ordered evictions; the true toll, experts say, is greater because far more tenants, under threat of eviction, move in with relatives, into more run-down apartments or, sometimes, into homeless shelters.