Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Homeland Insecurity"


"I've discovered that if I don't die within the next two years, I won't be able to afford to live." HERE

Saturday, February 27, 2010

45 Little Hoovers

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports on state-level budget cuts:

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.
The full report is HERE.

Foreign Views of the US?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Food or Shoes?


From Colorlines (h/t Poverty Law)

Since she was 16, Eva Hern├índez 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. . . . .

Read the rest.

UPDATE:

1 in 14


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.


Thursday, February 04, 2010

One in Eight

From Feeding America: they help supply food banks (warehouses stocked with food) which, in turn, deliver it to local soup kitchens (where you eat on site) or food pantries (where you can get bags of groceries to take home, if you have a home):

A landmark study released today from Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, reports that more than 37 million people, one in eight Americans -- including 14 million children and nearly 3 million seniors -- receive emergency food each year through the nation’s network of food banks and the agencies they serve. The findings represent a staggering 46 percent increase since the organization’s previously released study in 2006.

Hunger in America 2010 is the first research study to capture the significant connection between the recent economic downturn and an increased need for emergency food assistance. The number of children and adults in need of food as a result of experiencing food insecurity has significantly increased.

More than one in three client households are experiencing very low food security—or hunger—a 54 percent increase in the number of households compared to four years ago.

An estimated 5.7 million people receive emergency food assistance each week from a food pantry, soup kitchen, or other agency served by one of Feeding America’s more than 200 food banks. This is a 27 percent increase over numbers reported in Hunger in America 2006, which reported that 4.5 million people were served each week.

"Clearly, the economic recession, resulting in dramatically increasing unemployment nationwide, has driven unprecedented, sharp increases in the need for emergency food assistance and enrollment in federal nutrition programs,” said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America. “Hunger in America 2010 exposes the absolutely tragic reality of just how many people in our nation don’t have enough to eat. Millions our clients are families with children finding themselves in need of food assistance for the very first time.”

Many of the people served by Feeding America food banks report they are struggling with unemployment, difficult choices between food and other basic necessities along with the pressures of skyrocketing healthcare costs. While 36 percent of client households have at least one adult working, Hunger in America 2010 reports a 68 percent increase over four years ago in the number of adults seeking emergency food assistance who have been unemployed for under a year. More than 46 percent of clients served report having to choose between paying for utilities or heating fuel and food; 39 percent said they had to choose between paying for rent or a mortgage and food; 34 percent report having to choose between paying for medical bills and food; and 35 percent must choose between transportation and food.

“It is morally reprehensible that we live in the wealthiest nation in the world where one in six people are struggling to make choices between food and other basic necessities,” said Escarra. “These are choices that no one should have to make, but particularly households with children. Insufficient nutrition has adverse effects on the physical, behavioral and mental health, and academic performance of children. It is critical that we ensure that no child goes to bed hungry in America as they truly are our engine of economic growth and future vitality.”

The methodology incorporated into the 2010 study includes data collected from February through June 2009. Feeding America collected quantitative feedback from 61,000 face-to-face in-depth interviews with people seeking emergency food assistance and more than 37,000 agency surveys, making this the largest, most comprehensive study ever conducted on domestic hunger. The results are based on surveys conducted at food pantries, soup kitchens, and other emergency feeding programs.

This report is based on independent research conducted on behalf of Feeding America by Mathematica Policy Research, a widely respected nonpartisan social policy research firm based in Princeton, New Jersey. Mathematica is nationally recognized as a leader in the field of human services research. Feeding America contracted with Mathematica to work with 185 network member participants who voluntarily agreed to collect data in their communities.

USDA reported in November 2009 that an estimated 49 million people, including 17 million children, are at risk of hunger. Hunger in America 2010 reinforces the dramatically increasing need for food assistance in the United States, with 70 percent of food pantries and soup kitchens and 73 percent of emergency shelters reporting that they are facing one or more problems that threaten their ability to continue operating. Problems relating to funds and food supplies were the two most commonly cited threats.

“While we have reached many more people over the past four years, the need of hungry Americans far outpaces our current level of service,” stated Escarra. “We will continue to partner with federal and state governments, corporate and individual donors and other hunger-relief organizations to bring more food and funds into the charitable distribution system and connect people with federal benefits until every man, woman and child has access to adequate food and nutrition.”

Among other key comparative findings in the report:

  • 50 percent increase in the number of children served annually.
  • 66 percent increase in the number of Hispanics served annually.
  • 26 percent increase in the number of African-Americans served annually.
  • 64 percent increase in the number of households with seniors facing very low food security—or hunger.
  • 59 percent increase in the number of client households reporting they have to choose between paying their rent or mortgage and food.
  • 40 percent increase in the number of client households with at least one adult working.
  • 60 percent increase in the number of clients who report that someone in their household does not have access to health insurance.
  • 60 percent increase in the number of client households that have an unpaid medical or hospital bill.
  • 64 percent increase in the number of client households receiving SNAP benefits.


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Birth of the Bureau of the Budget Blogging

Well, actually, it's the development of the B.O.B. (now O.M.B.), but where's the alliteration in that? Still, important stuff, and more fun than you may think.

UPDATE: Our friends at The Monkey Cage also point us toward this very, very cool NYT graphic. Go look, and, at the very least, hit the "Hide Mandatory Spending" button.