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University of Wisconsin–Madison
Poverty-related issues in the news, from the Institute for Research on Poverty

Category: Politics

Voting Rights and Registration

  • Automatic voter registration goes beyond the DMV, By J.B. Wogan, April 17, 2018, Governing: “New Jersey on Tuesday became the 12th state, plus the District of Columbia, to enact an automatic voter registration law, which is intended to increase participation in elections. While automatic voter registration (AVR) is itself a new trend — first adopted in Oregon in 2015 — New Jersey’s law represents a new twist: It allows the practice to extend beyond the DMV…”
  • This New Jersey law is blocking African Americans from voting in shocking numbers, By Samantha Melamed, April 12, 2018, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Thirty years in prison can teach you patience. That’s a good thing for Ronald Pierce, who was paroled last year, as he’s likely in for a long fight.  Pierce, a 59-year-old North Jersey man, accepts that he’s on parole and will be for the rest of his life. But one thing he can’t accept: He’s also being denied the right to vote…”
  • New York Governor to restore voting rights to parolees, By Rebecca Beitsch, April 18, 2018, Stateline: “New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans Wednesday to restore voting rights to 35,000 people in his state on parole. State law currently prohibits people from voting if they are serving parole for a felony conviction…”

School Choice

  • Battle over private school choice playing out at Texas polls, By Julie Chang, March 15, 2018, Austin American-Statesman: “The battle over whether public money should be spent on private school tuition played out at polls across the state this month and will continue in runoff contests on May 22. Public school teachers, who launched a noteworthy get-out-the-vote campaign, and supporters of so-called private school choice ended the March 2 Texas House primaries in a draw…”
  • Black students have longer commutes under school choice, By J. Brian Charles, March 15, 2018, Governing: “Black children often travel farther to school and face longer commute times than their white and Latino classmates, according to a new report from the Urban Institute. In cities including Denver, New York City and Washington, D.C., black children are more likely to leave their own neighborhood in search of a high-quality school, according to the study, which examined urban school districts that operate school choice programs…”
  • Inside the virtual schools lobby: ‘I trust parents’, By Anya Kamenetz, February 13, 2018, National Public Radio: “A free day at the aquarium! For Marcey Morse, a mother of two, it sounded pretty good. It was the fall of 2016, and Morse had received an email offering tickets, along with a warning about her children’s education. At that time, Morse’s two kids were enrolled in an online, or ‘virtual,’ school called the Georgia Cyber Academy, run by a company called K12 Inc. About 275,000 students around the country attend these online public charter schools, run by for-profit companies, at taxpayers’ expense…”

Welfare Reform – Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s unprecedented welfare reform could inspire conservative changes elsewhere, By J. B. Wogan, February 27, 2018, Governing: “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is poised to sign a sweeping package of bills aimed at reducing welfare rolls by expanding work requirements and adding other restrictions. The proposals include several changes that no other state has tried and would require approval from the federal government…”

Welfare Reform – Wisconsin

Assembly Republicans pass full slate of Gov. Scott Walker’s welfare limits, By Jason Stein, February 15, 2018, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “The Wisconsin Assembly on Thursday approved Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed welfare limits and sought federal help to cover more of the nearly $90 million in costs from the proposals…”

Welfare Reform – Wisconsin, Maine

  • Scott Walker calls special session on bills making changes to welfare programs, By Molly Beck, January 18, 2018, Wisconsin State Journal: “Gov. Scott Walker called on lawmakers Thursday to take up a slate of bills that would make sweeping changes to the state’s welfare programs — including requiring parents to work in order to receive food stamps and requiring residents in subsidized housing to be screened for drug use…”
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker pushes welfare overhaul to include work requirement for parents on food stamps, By Jason Stein, January 18, 2018, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “With unemployment low and a tough election looming, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called Thursday for a special legislative session to overhaul the state’s welfare programs. The GOP governor is pushing for a series of welfare bills, including requiring able-bodied parents of children on food stamps to work or get training to receive more than three months of benefits and increasing the existing work requirement for all able-bodied adults from 20 hours a week to 30…”
  • LePage says Trump administration again blocks ban on food stamps for junk food, By Eric Russell, January 19, 2018, Portland Press Herald: “For the second time in less than two years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has denied a request by Maine Gov. Paul LePage to ban food stamp recipients from using their benefits to buy sugary drinks and candy. His spokeswoman, Julie Rabinowitz, said Friday that the administration would ‘revise our waiver request and resubmit it,’ but she did not offer a timeline…”

Welfare Reform – Kansas

Brownback cut welfare in Kansas. Is Congress about to follow?, By Jonathan Shorman, January 14, 2018, Wichita Eagle: “Welfare restrictions and work requirements have knocked tens of thousands of Kansans off assistance over the past few years. Many get kicked out for not working, but only a small percentage leave because they have a job, the latest federal data reveals. Republicans in Congress have said they want to tackle welfare reform. Some, including Rep. Ron Estes of Wichita, say Washington, D.C. should look to Kansas as an example, but it’s unclear whether program cuts in Kansas left recipients better off…”

Minimum Wage

After nine years of no change, is the federal minimum wage irrelevant?, By Jana Kasperkevic, January 15, 2018, Marketplace: “If President Donald Trump does not increase the federal minimum wage within the next two years, it will be more than ten years since its last increase — the longest that the federal minimum wage has remained unchanged since it was enacted. With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25, states and cities across the U.S. have increased their local minimum wages instead — some going as far as more than doubling the amount to $15 an hour…”

State Children’s Health Insurance Program

The CHIP program is beloved. Why is its funding in danger?, By Abby Goodnough and Robert Pear, December 5, 2017, New York Times: “Laquita Gardner, a sales manager at a furniture rental store here, was happy to get a raise recently except for one problem. It lifted her income just enough to disqualify her and her two young sons from Medicaid, the free health insurance program for the poor. She was relieved to find another option was available for the boys: the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, that covers nearly nine million children whose parents earn too much for Medicaid, but not enough to afford other coverage…”

State Children’s Health Insurance Program

Payday Lending – Ohio

Curbs on payday loans a tough sell to Ohio lawmakers, By Jim Siegel, October 17, 2017, Columbus Dispatch: “When Ohio lawmakers pass a law that doesn’t come close to working as planned, they often fix it. Not so much with payday lending regulations approved nine years ago. Short-term lenders in Ohio today are charging the highest rates in the nation, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. A Republican lawmaker who wants to change that says he’s getting pushback from GOP colleagues who control the legislature…”

Minimum Wage – St. Louis, MO

St. Louis gave minimum-wage workers a raise. On Monday, it was taken away, By Melissa Etehad, August 28, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “Ontario Pope has long struggled to stretch his McDonald’s paycheck to cover the basics and provide for his four young children. But even after more than nine years with the fast-food chain, the 31-year-old St. Louis man said he still lived with relatives or in motels, the fear of becoming homeless never far from his thoughts.  Pope was hopeful when the city passed an ordinance in May that raised the minimum wage from the state’s $7.70 to $10…”

State Medicaid Programs

  • In Florida, Medicaid is a matter of life and death, By Noreen Marcus, August 14, 2017, U.S. News & World Report: “The first thing Kristina Iavarone wants to buy when her son gets Medicaid is an asthma inhaler. He and his sibling lost their health insurance six months ago due to family finances. ‘They’ve been off health care for six months and six months is long enough,’ says Iavarone, a waitress in Tampa. Fortunately her son, 16, hasn’t had to go to the emergency room.  Since the teenaged Iavarones should be able to qualify for Florida KidCare, the state’s main Medicaid program for residents under 19, they shouldn’t have to wait much longer…”
  • Climbing cost of decades-old drugs threatens to break Medicaid bank, By Sydney Lupkin, August 14, 2017, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Skyrocketing price tags for new drugs to treat rare diseases have stoked outrage nationwide. But hundreds of old, commonly used drugs cost the Medicaid program billions of extra dollars in 2016 vs. 2015, a Kaiser Health News data analysis shows. Eighty of the drugs — some generic and some still carrying brand names — proved more than two decades old…”
  • With changes approved, Nebraska will continue Medicaid program that pays premiums for some, By Martha Stoddard, August 15, 2017, Omaha World-Herald: “Federal officials have approved changes that will allow Nebraska to continue a program in which Medicaid helps pay private health insurance premiums for some people…”
  • New life for Medicaid after GOP’s health care debacle, By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar (AP), August 14, 2017, Washington Post: “It may not equal Social Security and Medicare as a ‘third rail’ program that politicians touch at their own risk, yet Medicaid seems to have gotten stronger after the Republican failure to pass health care legislation…”

Reform of Safety-Net Programs

  • GOP challenge: Reforming widely accepted ‘safety net’ programs, By Mark Turnbull, July 19, 2017, Christian Science Monitor: “The failure of Senate Republicans to close ranks on health-care reform this week put on display an old challenge: How conservatives can reform social safety-net programs when there’s a growing acceptance of them – even among Republican voters…”
  • Small tweaks to existing policies could make a huge difference for poor families, By Karen Weese, July 20, 2017, Washington Post: “It wasn’t much — just five bucks apiece — but both boys’ eyes sparkled when Carol Moore told them they could spend it on anything they wanted. ‘Meet me back here in 10 minutes,’ Moore told the boys, whom she’d met a few months ago when they came to her church’s homeless shelter. As the boys set out into the aisles of Walmart, she called after them: ‘Just get something you really want, okay?’ Ten minutes later, they came back and held out their treasure. It was deodorant…”

Drug Testing and Medicaid – Wisconsin

Wisconsin submits request to drug test Medicaid applicants, By Scott Bauer (AP), June 7, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Wisconsin submitted a federal request Wednesday to become the first state in the country to drug test applicants for Medicaid health benefits. Republican Gov. Scott Walker expects President Donald Trump’s administration to approve the waiver, which would also impose new requirements on able-bodied, childless adults receiving Medicaid in the state. The request comes as Walker, a one-time GOP presidential candidate, prepares for a likely re-election bid…”

Drug Testing and Medicaid – Wisconsin

Wisconsin seeks to mandate drug tests for Medicaid recipients, By Astead W. Herndon, April 25, 2017, Boston Globe: “Low-income residents seeking government help in Wisconsin often slog through a frustrating, outdated bureaucracy at a run-down state building in Milwaukee, enduring a process that generates complaints about the difficulties of signing up for food assistance, unemployment benefits, and Medicaid. Now, in a first-in-the-nation experiment, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker plans to raise the bar higher for people seeking Medicaid, with an expansive program of mandatory drug screening, testing, and treatment as a condition of receiving benefits…”

State SNAP programs

Republicans hope Trump amenable to food stamp restrictions, By Marina Villeneuve (AP), April 8, 2017, Denver Post: “Maine resident Zak McCutcheon says he likes soda but acknowledges he’d drink less of it if his governor convinced Republican President Donald Trump to put restrictions on the approximately $200 a month he receives in food stamps. He thinks it may even make recipients healthier and less overweight.  ‘If I was more restricted to what I could buy, I would become more of a veggie eater,’ said McCutcheon, who recently perused grapes and packages of pre-chopped vegetables at an Augusta food bank with his pregnant girlfriend.  But another one of Maine’s 180,000 food stamp recipients, Samantha Watson, said she believes a ban from using food stamps on soda and candy won’t make low-income people any healthier. It would take more than that to change eating habits, she said, since food stamps cover only a fraction of the monthly grocery bill for herself and her 3-year-old daughter…”

Drug Testing and Public Assistance Programs

  • Want Medicaid coverage? A drug test should come first, Wisconsin governor says, By Paige Winfield Cunningham, April 2, 2017, Washington Post: “Now that House Republicans have squandered their shot at reordering Medicaid, governors who want conservative changes in the health program for ­low-income Americans must get special permission from the Trump administration. Near the front of the line is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican who not only supports work requirements and premium payments but also a new additional condition: to make applicants undergo a drug test if they’re suspected of substance abuse…”
  • In need of public assistance? You might need $40 and a drug test to get it., By Michael Auslen, March 13, 2017, Miami Herald: “Welfare recipients with a history of drug convictions could have to pass a drug test before receiving benefits under legislation pushed by two Tampa Bay lawmakers, a narrow rewrite of a much-maligned 2011 state law that federal judges threw out as unconstitutional…”
  • Few Maine welfare recipients tested for drugs despite state law, By Maria Villeneuve (AP), Portland Press Herald: “Republican Gov. Paul LePage has long contended that drug-testing welfare recipients will help protect taxpayers’ dollars, but only a handful have submitted to tests under the current law. His administration blames Democrats for the scant results…”

State and Local Minimum Wages – Iowa

GOP’s minimum wage rollback headed to Branstad’s desk, By William Petroski, March 27, 2017, Des Moines Register: “The Iowa Senate gave final approval Monday to a bill that freezes the state’s minimum wage at $7.25 an hour, although Democrats angrily denounced the bill, accusing Republicans of failing to support poor Iowans. House File 295 rolls back minimum wage increases already approved in four counties, including Polk, Johnson, Linn and Wapello. In addition, Lee County supervisors have been in the process of approving a minimum wage hike…”

States and Medicaid Coverage

  • The adults a Medicaid work requirement would leave behind, By Abby Goodnough, February 25, 2017, New York Times: “On a frigid morning here, Nancy Godinez was piling bread and other staples into her car outside a food pantry. She had lost her job as a custodian, her unemployment checks had run out, and her job search had proved fruitless.  One thing she still had was health insurance, acquired three years ago after Arkansas’ Republican-controlled legislature agreed to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The coverage, she said, has allowed her to get regular checkups and treatment for tendinitis in her foot.  But unless she finds a new job, Ms. Godinez, 55, could be at risk of losing her insurance, too…”
  • Obamacare 101: What’s going to happen to 70 million Americans who rely on Medicaid?, By Noam N. Levey, March 2, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “It’s the program that everyone confuses with Medicare.  But Medicaid, the half-century-old government health plan for the poor, is actually bigger than its more famous cousin, covering some 70 million Americans at any one time.  Expanding Medicaid was a central pillar of the Affordable Care Act, helping to bring health coverage to more than 20 million previously uninsured people…”
  • Who are the 700,000 Ohioans receiving health insurance under Medicaid expansion?, By Rich Exner, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Who are the 700,000 Ohioans who have received health insurance under Medicaid expansion? And has the insurance really made a difference?  A state report conducted for the Ohio General Assembly provides a snapshot, based on questioning of new Medicaid recipients added as a result of Obamacare…”
  • Texas brings ‘disadvantages’ to debate of federal Medicaid spending caps, study warns, By Robert T. Garrett, February 28, 2017, Dallas Morning News: “For years, Texas GOP leaders have said they’d gladly give up open-ended flows of federal Medicaid money for a set ‘block grant’ that lets them run the health insurance program for the poor the way they want.  They may get their wish.  As part of repealing and replacing Obamacare, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republican House leaders such as Rep. Kevin Brady of The Woodlands have proposed that states choose between Medicaid block grants and per capita caps. President Donald Trump and Senate Republican leaders have called for similar changes…”

Medicaid Expansion – Maine

Mainers to vote on whether to expand access to Medicaid under ACA, By Scott Thistle, February 21, 2017, Portland Press Herald: “Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap confirmed Tuesday that a campaign asking voters to approve an expansion of the state’s Medicaid system under the federal Affordable Care Act has submitted enough valid signatures to place the question on the November ballot…”