Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison

IRP Poverty Dispatch

Poverty-related issues in the news, from the Institute for Research on Poverty

Environmental Hazards and Poor Communities

A leader in the war on poverty opens a new front: pollution, By Kendra Pierre-Louis, August 24, 2018, New York Times: “The air in the Shiloh Baptist Church was thick with the heat of human bodies. The crowd, a mix of black and white faces, filled the pews in what was ostensibly the black side of town, straining the capacity of this good-sized church. On the dais stood the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, draped in a black robe, a black vest and a cream stole emblazoned with the credo ‘Jesus was a poor man.’ Al Gore, the former vice president, sat behind him. Dr. Barber’s message to the community members in the church last week would have been largely recognizable to civil rights leaders of generations past, addressing issues of poverty and racism. But he and Mr. Gore were here in Greensboro to focus on another concern that many in the audience believed was just as insidious: pollution from North Carolina’s coal-powered electrical plants…”

Bail Reform – California

California Gov. Jerry Brown signs overhaul of bail system, saying now ‘rich and poor alike are treated fairly’, By Jazmine Ulloa, August 28, 2018, Los Angeles Times: “California Gov. Jerry Brown has championed legislation and ballot measures downgrading drug crimes, expanding chances of early release for prisoners and easing punishment for juvenile offenders. On Tuesday, he ushered in one of the most sweeping criminal justice reforms of his administration, signing a bill abolishing the state’s current money bail system, and replacing it with one that grants judges greater power to decide who should remain incarcerated ahead of trial…”

Neglected Tropical Diseases in the Southern US

In rural Africa, lessons for the U.S. South about eradicating poverty-related diseases, By Lyndsey Gilpin, August 30, 2018, Montgomery Advertiser: “It’s been a decade since Dr. Adamu Keana Sallau saw the last case of guinea worm in Nigeria. But he talks about the medical breakthrough as if it happened yesterday. In the early 1990s, Sallau began traveling to remote villages throughout his home country to research nearly 700,000 cases of guinea worm, a neglected tropical disease transmitted when villagers drank stagnant water contaminated with the worm’s larvae…”

Job Corps Program

$1.7 Billion federal job training program is ‘failing the students’, By Glenn Thrush, August 26, 2018, New York Times: “The North Texas Job Corps Center squats behind a chain-link fence here in a suburb north of Dallas, accessible only through a gate manned 24 hours a day by guards hired to keep out intruders — and to keep in the center’s 436 students. ‘It’s a little bit like prison,’ said Donnell Strange, 17, who joined the electrical apprenticeship program about six months ago after struggling in school back home in Mansfield, near Dallas. This is not what the founders of a flagship federal program with a $1.7 billion annual budget — an iconic Great Society program meant to prepare impoverished young people for the work force — had in mind…”

Dayton Daily News Series on the Achievement Gap

The Path Forward: Urgent turnaround needed as state takeover looms, By Josh Sweigart, August 26, 2018, Dayton Daily News: “The threat of a state takeover of Dayton Public Schools creates urgency to address long-unchecked problems in a district where race, poverty and a culture of failure have dragged like an anchor, erecting barriers children struggle to overcome. A Dayton Daily News investigation found a wide achievement gap between black and white students, racial disparities in discipline, chronic absenteeism, a large number of classes taught by substitutes and students who face staggering obstacles at home…”

Medicaid Work Requirements

  • Thousands could lose Medicaid coverage as states enforce work requirements, By Stephanie Ebbs, August 17, 2018, ABC News: “Thousands of Americans — many low-income — are at risk of losing Medicaid health care insurance coverage as states implement work requirements pushed and approved by the Trump administration…”
  • Kentucky governor loses another round in Medicaid fight, By Bruce Schreiner (AP), ABC News: “Kentucky’s Republican governor lost another round Monday in a legal fight over his efforts to revamp the state’s Medicaid program to require poor people to get a job to keep their benefits…”
  • Oklahoma officials say challenges ahead for Medicaid work requirement, By Meg Wingerter, August 22, 2018, The Oklahoman: “Matilda Williams doesn’t rely on Soonercare for her insurance, but she still decided to make the hourlong drive from Seminole on Tuesday to state her opposition to proposed work requirements. Williams, 70, was one of a handful of members of the public who attended a forum held by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority on Tuesday afternoon at Variety Care’s Lafayette clinic…”

Kids Count Report – New Jersey

  • New Jersey kids better off than most in U.S., but poverty rates vary widely by county, By Nina Feldman, August 22, 2018, WHYY: “Overall, children in New Jersey are better off than other kids around the country. About 15 percent of kids in the Garden State live in poverty, while the national average is 21 percent. That’s according to the annual Kids Count report released Tuesday that rates each county in the categories of family economics, health, education, and child safety…”
  • Percentage of uninsured kids in New Jersey reaches all-time low, By Stephanie Noda, August 22, 2018, North Jersey Record: “The rate of uninsured children in New Jersey is at an ‘all-time low,’ according a new report from a children’s advocacy group.  The 2018 New Jersey Kids Count County Rankings, which is produced by the Advocates for Children of New Jersey, reported a 32 percent drop in the number of children without health insurance between 2012 and 2016, from nearly 103,000 to just over 70,000…”

Minimum Wage – Minnesota

Minnesota sets new minimum wage for 2019, By Don Davis, August 23, 2018, Twin Cities Pioneer Press: “The 219,000 Minnesotans paid minimum wage will get a raise Jan. 1. State officials announced Thursday that employees of large businesses will be paid at least $9.86 an hour, up from $9.65 that is required today. Those who work for smaller businesses will be paid a minimum of $8.04, compared to the current $7.87…”

Health Care for Foster Children

Foster parents often struggle to find doctors to treat the kids in their care, By Phil Galewitz, August 22, 2018, National Public Radio: “Sherri and Thomas Croom have been foster parents to 27 children — from newborns to teenagers — during the past decade. That has meant visits to dozens of doctors and dentists for issues ranging from a tonsillectomy to depression. While foster parenting has innumerable challenges, health care coverage for the children isn’t one of them. Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor, picks up the tab for nearly all children in foster care and often continues to cover them if they are adopted, regardless of their parents’ income. And as a result of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, foster kids who have Medicaid when they reach 18 can keep the coverage until they turn 26…”

School Funding

Why school spending is so unequal, By Mike Maciag, August 2018, Governing: “The Hopatcong School District, serving a solidly middle-class borough of Sussex County, N.J., has a lot of money to work with. It spent approximately $40,000 per student in fiscal 2016 — more than any other school district in the country with at least 1,000 students. A few other New Jersey districts of similar size were spending less than a third of that. Such vast differences in education spending are common across districts, and come as debates over teacher pay and demands for more overall state support have garnered a lot of attention this year…”

Hurricane Recovery – Houston, TX

Year after Harvey, poor having toughest time recovering, By Juan A. Lozano (AP), August 23, 2018, Houston Chronicle: “Shirley Paley’s life before Hurricane Harvey was already a struggle: The 61-year-old former postal worker was raising her 17-year-old autistic grandson while dealing with a workplace injury that left her legally blind, on disability and in need of three cornea transplants. Harvey’s torrential rainfall flooded Paley’s modest home near Kashmere Gardens, one of Houston’s historically African-American neighborhoods, forcing her to live out of her SUV for more than a month and triggering severe depression and anxiety in her 12-year-old granddaughter that led to several suicide attempts. Still unable to move back home and desperate to speed up the repair process, Paley has accumulated thousands of dollars in debt from high-interest payday and car title loans…”

Youth Unemployment

Youth unemployment hits a 50-year low, but there’s a catch, By Aimee Picchi, August 17, 2018, CBS News: “There’s a good news/bad news situation with youth unemployment. More young Americans — defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as people between the ages of 16 to 24 — are working this summer, pushing the unemployment rate for the group to a 52-year low. But there’s a catch: the labor force participation rate for young Americans remains below its 1989 peak…”

Medicaid Programs

  • A judge blocked a Medicaid work requirement. The White House is undeterred., By Robert Pear, August 11, 2018, New York Times: “Trump administration officials, whose push to impose work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries was dealt a blow by a federal judge in June, say they have found a way around the ruling and will continue to allow states to put the restrictions in place…”
  • Trump’s Medicaid work requirements face new legal challenge, By Zachary Tracer and John Tozzi, August 14, 2018, Bloomberg: “Advocacy groups are mounting a new challenge to the Trump administration’s effort to limit health benefits for the poor by letting states impose work requirements. The suit, filed in federal district court for the District of Columbia Tuesday, seeks to block the U.S. Health and Human Services Department from allowing Arkansas to kick people off Medicaid if they’re not employed or looking for work…”
  • Diabetes: Medicaid expansion making meds more accessible, By Pauline Bartolone, August 13, 2018, Union Leader: “Low-income people with diabetes are better able to afford their medications and manage their disease in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a new study suggests. The Health Affairs study, released last Monday, found a roughly 40 percent increase in the number of prescriptions filled for diabetes drugs in Medicaid programs of the 30 states (including Washington, D.C.) that expanded eligibility in 2014 and 2015, compared with prior years. By contrast, states that didn’t embrace the Medicaid expansion saw no notable increase…”
  • Ohio firing pharmacy middlemen that cost taxpayers millions, By Lucas Sullivan and Catherine Candisky, August 14, 2018, Columbus Dispatch: “The Ohio Department of Medicaid is changing the way it pays for prescription drugs, giving the boot to all pharmacy middlemen because they are using ‘spread pricing,’ a practice that has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions. Medicaid officials directed the state’s five managed care plans Tuesday to terminate contracts with pharmacy benefit managers using the secretive pricing method and move to a more transparent pass-through pricing model effective Jan. 1…”

Bail Reform – California

Proposal to radically overhaul California’s bail system advances in Legislature, By Jazmine Ulloa, August 16, 2018, Los Angeles Times: “California could soon end money bail, but some of the criminal justice groups who worked toward that goal aren’t celebrating. A closely-watched bill to overhaul the state’s bail system advanced out of a key fiscal committee on Thursday with broad changes that would virtually eliminate the payment of money as a condition for release from jail. That should have been a roaring victory for legislators and supporters who have long decried a system that they say unfairly punishes the poor. But the amendments also hand over more control to local courts and probation offices to decide who should remain incarcerated, a move former sponsors of the legislation contend could lead to indefinite detention…”

Food Deserts and Food Swamps – Dallas, TX

On top of food deserts, Dallas’ Hispanic and black populations also flooded with food swamps, By Obed Manuel, August 16, 2018, Dallas Morning News: “Maria Amaya gazes at the Texas wildflowers growing in the butterfly-shaped garden at Edwin J. Kiest Elementary, fearless of the hefty mason bees buzzing by her. The scorching Texas sun shines down on her this morning. Beads of sweat roll down her forehead. Even when school’s out, Amaya and her six-year-old daughter, Sophia, work this community garden three to four days a week, tending to the herbs, Texas wildflowers and vegetables the school grows. When it’s time to harvest, Amaya takes home a small share to prepare healthy meals for her husband and three kids, something that helps her stretch the family’s single-income budget. But Amaya said she knows that she’s one of the lucky parents with the time to do this at the predominantly Hispanic school in east Dallas, an area that, on top of being identified as a food desert, is littered with what researchers have recently coined food swamps — areas where fast food options and convenience stores outnumber healthy food options…”

Disability in the US

1 in 4 U.S. adults has a disability, CDC says, By Ashley Welch, August 16, 2018, CBS News: “New government research finds 61 million U.S. adults – about 1 in 4 Americans – have a disability that impacts a major part of their life. According to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common disability type, mobility, affects 1 in 7 adults. With age, disability becomes more common, affecting approximately 2 in 5 adults age 65 and older…”

Immigrants and Public Benefit Programs

  • How Trump’s plan for immigrants on welfare could hurt a million New Yorkers, By Liz Robbins, August 13, 2018, New York Times: “Buying fresh vegetables for children, heating an apartment, using Medicaid to manage diabetes. Those are all legal means of support provided by the government for low-income residents of the United States. But a new rule in the works from the Trump administration would make it difficult, if not impossible, for immigrants who use those benefits to obtain green cards…”
  • As Trump considers penalties, Seattle-area immigrants turn down public benefits they’re entitled to claim, By Nina Shapiro, August 12, 2018, Seattle Times: “A hotel housekeeper with a working adult son, Hudith received food stamps that weren’t worth a lot — about $50 a month. But she was nervous. Though she was entitled to food stamps as a legal permanent resident from Mexico, and her three children were all born in the U.S., she heard from a friend that getting the benefit could be counted against her if she applied for citizenship. And she was planning to do just that. So she disenrolled…”

SNAP Job Training Programs and Work Requirements

  • This program is helping Kentucky’s food stamp recipients find jobs, By Tami Luhby, August 16, 2018, CNN: “Marsha Moses was more interested in working with blood than burgers. The Corbin, Kentucky, mother of two found herself on the job market after her husband was laid off last year and the family’s finances spiraled downward. She was concerned that she’d be forced to work in a fast food restaurant since she only had a high school degree and hadn’t been employed in several years. Then she found Paths 2 Promise, which provides food stamp recipients with job training and support…”
  • Georgia experiments with food stamp work training program, By Susanna Capelouto, August 13, 2018, Marketplace: “At a body shop in Atlanta, Leigh Anne Hatfield just finished taking apart the front of an SUV. ‘This is a brand new Toyota Highlander. Got smacked in the front,’ she said. Hatfield  said she loves her job here at the body shop. It’s her first job since she become a certified welder. A few month ago she was so poor, she had to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP or food stamps…”
  • Michigan will require people to work for food assistance, By Marc Daalder, August 16, 2018, Detroit Free Press: “The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is sending more than 67,000 letters this week to people on food assistance who will soon be required to start working. The work requirements, which were already reimplemented in 14 counties, will snap back into place on Oct. 1 for the rest of the state…”

Legal Representation in Evictions – Newark, NJ

Renters getting evicted will soon get free lawyers in N.J. city, By Karen Yi and Delaney Dryfoos, August 11, 2018, NJ.com: “Newark has taken the first step to codify into law its intent to provide low-income tenants facing eviction with free legal help. Citing the lack of affordable housing opportunities and ‘frivolous’ eviction actions, the city plans to create a nonprofit that connects eligible tenants with legal representation in landlord-tenant court…”