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

Tag: Mississippi

Safety Net Programs and Work Requirements

  • Mississippi Medicaid adds back beneficiary protections in work requirement proposal, By Anna Wolfe, July 6, 2018, Mississippi Clarion Ledger: “In an attempt to avoid pushback states have received on Medicaid work requirements, Mississippi reinstated beneficiary protections into its waiver proposal. A Medicaid waiver is a state request to the federal government to deviate from various program requirements. Mississippi is one of several states that has asked the Trump administration for permission to impose work requirements on low-income, able-bodied caretakers otherwise eligible for Medicaid…”
  • As Arkansas ushers in new Trump-era Medicaid rules, thousands fear losing benefits, Reuters, July 10, 2018, CNBC: “Gregory Tyrone Bryant left his last stable job at a meatpacking factory to fight a cocaine addiction eight years ago. When he returned to the workforce a year later, his options were limited: mostly temporary jobs without healthcare benefits. Since 2014, he’s relied on medical coverage offered under Arkansas’ expanded Medicaid program for low-income households…”
  • Food stamp work requirements would force states to provide job training. Many aren’t ready., By Teresa Wiltz, July 10, 2018, Stateline: “The House version of the food-stamp-to-work program Congress is considering this week would require recipients to enroll in job training programs if they can’t find work — but in many states, those programs won’t be fully available for at least another decade. This will have a big impact on the people who depend on food stamps, some 42 million in 2017. The average beneficiary receives about $125 a month, and a family of four must have an annual income of about $25,000 or less to qualify. Many are already working…”
  • Declaring war on poverty ‘largely over,’ White House urges work requirements for aid, By Jim Tankersley and Margot Sanger-Katz, July 12, 2018, New York Times: “President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers declared on Thursday that America’s long-running war on poverty ‘is largely over and a success,’ as it made the case for imposing new work requirements on Americans who benefit from federal safety net programs. The report contends that millions of Americans have become overly reliant on government help — and less self-sufficient — and provided data intended to support the administration’s goal of tying public benefit programs more closely to work…”

Criminal Justice System

  • Justice reforms take hold, the inmate population plummets, and Philadelphia closes a notorious jail, By Tom Jackman, April 23, 2018, Washington Post: “The American criminal justice system’s gradual realization that too many people are in jail needlessly just got a large, visible boost from the city of Philadelphia. The city announced last week that it would close its notorious 91-year-old House of Correction jail because reforms begun two years ago have dropped the city’s jail population by 33 percent, without causing any increase in crime or chaos…”
  • Efforts to regulate bail companies have some unlikely allies: bail agents, By Jazmine Ulloa, April 24, 2018, Los Angeles Times: “In recent years, the seriousness and number of official complaints related to the bail industry in California have significantly increased while bail agents and bounty hunters face limited oversight, putting vulnerable communities at risk of fraud, embezzlement and other forms of victimization. This year, as Gov. Jerry Brown has pledged to work with lawmakers in a push to overhaul how courts assign defendants bail and to better regulate bail agencies, even some who profit from the court practice admit it’s time for regulation. These bail and bail-recovery agents could become unlikely allies, saying they advocate for change because they’ve seen the system abuse the poor…”
  • Mississippi defendants spend months in jail awaiting trial, By Jeff Amy (AP), April 24, 2018, Houston Chronicle: “Jerry Sanders has been sitting in a jail cell on a relatively minor charge of methamphetamine possession for more than a year — longer than the sentence he could get if he’s convicted. And with no money to post bail or hire his own lawyer, he may be sitting there for weeks or months more…”

Child Welfare System – Mississippi

Mississippi fights to keep control of Its beleaguered child welfare system, By Emily Palmer and Campbell Robertson, January 17, 2016, New York Times: “In 2003, a tiny girl weighing little more than 20 pounds arrived at an emergency shelter here on the gulf coast, after being shuttled between five foster homes and youth shelters in three months. ‘Who’s the baby?’ Terry Latham, the director of the shelter, recalled asking. ‘I’m no baby,’ the girl shouted, her ribs visible in her emaciated body. ‘I’m 4.’  The girl, identified as Olivia Y., who suffered from profound malnourishment and possibly sexual abuse, would become one of 13 children whose experiences formed a class-action lawsuit in 2004 against the state’s Division of Family and Children’s Services for ‘failing in its duty’ to protect its own children.  More than a decade later, after a 2008 settlement and an admission by the state in July that it had never complied with the requirements, Mississippi is now trying to avoid becoming the first state to have its child welfare system put in receivership and an outside group hired to run it…”

Washington Post Series: Lost Opportunity in the Deep South

  • An opportunity gamed away, By Chico Harlan, July 11, 2015, Washington Post: “Her one-story house was slumping inch by inch, day by day, into the wet ground of the Mississippi Delta. Rot climbed up the wooden beams and mildew crept across the ceiling. Soft spots spread across the damp and buckling plywood floor. Holes opened up that led straight to the soil…”
  • Graduating, but to what?, By Chico Harlan, October 17, 2015, Washington Post: “The day of his high school graduation, like so many of the days before, began with chaos. Ruleville Central had pledged to lock its front doors an hour before the ceremony to prevent a crowd overflow, and Jadareous Davis was still at his grandmother’s home six miles up the road, time slipping away. Davis scanned through his mental checklist. Shoes? His older brother hadn’t yet swung by to drop off a pair. Bow tie? Maybe he could borrow one from a neighbor. Pants? Davis wasn’t even sure whether the dress code mandated black or brown, and he called a friend for help…”
  • A grim bargain, By Chico Harlan, December 1, 2015, Washington Post: “People here were so accustomed to the rural quiet, even the distant noises tipped off that something big was coming to the most impoverished corner of Alabama. First they heard chain saws buzzing through the forest, and then they heard trucks jangling along rutted roads, hauling away the timber. Next they heard pavers blazing new asphalt past a cow pasture. And finally they heard the rumblings of a different kind, the first rumors of what was planned for the clearing…”
  • A lonely road, By Chico Harlan, December 28, 2015, Washington Post: “She set off on the latest day of job hunting wearing tiny star-shaped earrings that belonged to her 18-month-old daughter and frayed $6 shoes from Walmart that were the more comfortable of her two pairs. In her backpack she had stashed a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch, hand sanitizer for the bus and pocket change for printing résumés at the public library. She carried a spiral notebook with a handwritten list of job openings that she’d titled her ‘Plan of Action for the Week.’   It had been 20 months since Lauren Scott lost her apartment and six months since she lost her car and 10 weeks since she washed up at a homeless shelter in this suburb south of Atlanta with no money and no job. Her daughter, Za’Niyah, had already lived in seven places, and Scott feared that her child would soon grow old enough to permanently remember the chaos…”

Medicaid Expansion – Mississippi

Health advocates decry lack of Miss. Medicaid expansion, By Emily Wagster Pettus, October 7, 2014, Jackson Clarion-Ledger: “Groups supporting low-income Mississippi residents said Tuesday that elected officials are ignoring 300,000 people and refusing billions of federal dollars by choosing not to expand Medicaid in one of the poorest states in the nation. If the state were to extend Medicaid, as allowed under the health overhaul that President Barack Obama signed into law, many low-wage workers could receive coverage that would enable them to afford doctors’ visits, prescriptions and medical supplies, said Roy Mitchell of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program…”

Affordable Care Act

  • ‘Family glitch’ in health law could be painful, By Kelly Kennedy, September 23, 2013, USA Today: “A “family glitch” in the 2010 health care law threatens to cost some families thousands of dollars in health insurance costs and leave up to 500,000 children without coverage, insurance and health care analysts say. That’s unless Congress fixes the problem, which seems unlikely given the House’s latest move Friday to strip funding from the Affordable Care Act…”
  • Affordable Care Act to replace high-cost state insurance plan, By Nancy Hicks, September 24, 2013, Lincoln Journal Star: “A state-subsidized health insurance program for Nebraskans who can’t get insurance through private companies because of medical issues will end in January when the federal Affordable Care Act begins. For the more than 3,100 Nebraskans who get insurance through that plan, the federal program will provide better coverage with less expensive premiums for most people, said Sherry Wupper, a member of the Comprehensive Health Insurance Pool board…”

Health Insurance Coverage – Mississippi

Wide swath of Mississippi could remain uninsured, By Julie Appleby and Jay Hancock, June 29, 2013, Washington Post: “Tens of thousands of uninsured residents in the poorest and most rural parts of Mississippi may be unable to get subsidies to buy health coverage when a new online marketplace opens this fall because private insurers are avoiding a wide swath of the state. No insurer is offering plans through the federal health law’s marketplace in 36 of the state’s 82 counties, including some of the poorest parts of the Delta region, said Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. As a result, 54,000 people who may qualify for subsidized coverage would be unable to get it, estimates the Center for Mississippi Health Policy, a nonpartisan research group…”

States and Medicaid Expansion – Mississippi

Mississippi, one of the poorest and sickest states, says no thanks to extra Medicaid dollars, Associated Press, October 16, 2012, Washington Post: “Mississippi has long been one of the sickest and poorest states in America, with some of the highest rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease and more than 1 in 7 residents without insurance. And so you might think Mississippi would jump at the prospect of billions of federal dollars to expand Medicaid. You’d be wrong. Leaders of the deeply conservative state say that even if Mississippi receives boatloads of cash under President Barack Obama’s health care law, it can’t afford the corresponding share of state money it will have to put up to add hundreds of thousands of people to the government health insurance program for the poor…”

Food Insecurity – Mississippi

Program aims to reduce hunger in Mississippi, By Emily Wagster Pettus, June 22, 2012, Businessweek: “Mississippi has the highest obesity rate in the nation, yet it also has the highest percentage of households unable to afford enough food for a healthy lifestyle. It seems like a contradiction, but state Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith says the two problems are intertwined with poverty. “You think hunger-obesity — where’s the connection here? It’s because much of these people do not have access to healthy foods,” Hyde-Smith said Thursday during the announcement of a hunger-fighting effort. The nonprofit National Urban League and meat processor Tyson Foods Inc. are starting a yearlong program to alleviate hunger for about 19,000 people in three Mississippi counties — Hinds County, which is home to the capital city of Jackson, and Warren and Adams counties, which border the Mississippi River. . .”

2011 Kids Count Data Book – Southern States

Poverty and Obesity – Mississippi

Tackling obesity amid poverty in a Mississippi county, By Debbie Elliott, August 9, 2011, National Public Radio: “The average life expectancy for men in Holmes County, Miss., is 65 years. That’s a full decade shorter than the U.S. average. So what’s killing people there? Researchers say it’s no coincidence that Holmes County is also one of Mississippi’s poorest, and most obese. Forty-two percent of the county’s residents are considered obese. Calvin Head, the county’s former transportation director, doesn’t have to see the statistics on paper. He saw the problem first hand: The school buses were overcrowded, but there were not more students…”

States and Minimum Wage Workers

  • Texas leads nation in minimum wage workers, By Steve Clark, March 28, 2011, Brownsville Herald: “If there’s anything faintly resembling good news in a just-released report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s that Texas’ share of hourly workers at or below minimum wage among U.S. states fell from 14.3 percent in 2009 to 9.5 percent in 2010. This just barely qualifies as a positive, however, since the number of Texas hourly workers at or below the prevailing federal minimum wage still increased by 76,000 over 2009. At 9.5 percent, Texas ties with Mississippi in terms of U.S. states with the highest proportion of hourly-paid workers earning at or below federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour. Texas and Mississippi take top honors, therefore, in terms of having the lowest paid workers among all 50 states and the District of Columbia. To be fair, low wages are partly a function of lower cost of living. In Cameron County and the Rio Grande Valley, low wages and low cost of living – by some measures – go hand in hand, and are both a blessing and a curse in the view of economic development officials…”
  • Lone Star State ties Mississippi in low pay count, By Patrick Danner, March 28, 2011, Houston Chronicle: “Texas tied with Mississippi for states having the highest percentage of hourly paid workers earning the minimum wage or less. Some 550,000 Texans, or 9.5 percent of hourly paid workers, made the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour or less last year. That’s up 76,000 workers, or 16 percent, from 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported…”

State Medicaid Plan – Mississippi

New statewide Medicaid plan wins praise, By Gary Pettus, January 14, 2011, Jackson Clarion-Ledger: “A Medicaid patient for nearly three years, Dorathy Shirley can tick off a list of complaints that reads like a medical dictionary. Asthma, back pain, bleeding ulcers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, degenerative joint disease, diabetes, glaucoma, high blood pressure and so on. ‘I’m always in pain,’ said Shirley, 62, of Jackson. Aggravating her distress are her out-of-pocket payments for medications normally too numerous to be covered by Medicaid, including three that bleed her of more than $100 a month, each. But on Jan. 1 relief arrived with the debut of a new statewide plan meant to improve the health of thousands of Mississippi’s most vulnerable Medicaid patients while saving the state money. The state Division of Medicaid calls it the Mississippi Coordinated Access Network, or MississippiCAN, but Shirley calls it a ‘blessing’ because it pays for more of her medicine. ‘I believe it will be a good thing,’ she said, ‘and it keeps you kind of motivated.’ Under this managed-care system, the motivation is furnished by an offer of gifts or other rewards to eligible recipients already on Medicaid, the federal-state medical coverage program for low-income residents and others. The rewards are reserved for those who undergo certain health screenings, lead healthier lives and/or see their primary-care doctor soon after signing on…”

State Medicaid Programs – Mississippi, Montana

  • Health care squeeze forcing some Mississippi kids out, By Molly Parker, November 30, 2010, Jackson Clarion-Ledger: “Parents across Mississippi say they are frustrated with state Medicaid officials as programs are downsized and benefits canceled. ‘People are really being turned down right and left right now and it’s frightening,’ said Eric Weber, an assistant professor in the Public Policy Leadership Department at the University of Mississippi and the parent of a disabled child. ‘People who were getting covered last year are not getting covered this year.’ Gov. Haley Barbour’s tough financial stand toward Medicaid speaks volumes about the legacy he may leave when his term expires in January 2012…”
  • Medicaid spending ups state budget, By Mike Dennison, November 26, 2010, Billings Gazette: “Year after year, the big kahuna in state spending is human services – and Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s proposed budget makes no exception here, with substantial increases in Medicaid, the state-federal program that pays medical bills for the poor. The governor also proposes full extension of funding for the Healthy Montana Kids program, with its goal of expanding government-funded health insurance to another 15,000 to 20,000 children in low- and middle-income families. These and many other programs all add up to a proposed $3.7 billion in spending (including federal funds) on public health and human-service programs for the next two years, or more than 40 percent of the entire state-authorized budget…”

Hurricane Katrina Recovery at 5-Year Anniversary

  • A tale of two recoveries, By Michael A. Fletcher, August 27, 2010, Washington Post: “The massive government effort to repair the damage from Hurricane Katrina is fostering a stark divide as the state governments in Louisiana and Mississippi structured the rebuilding programs in ways that often offered the most help to the most affluent residents. The result, advocates say, has been an uneven recovery, with whites and middle-class people more likely than blacks and low-income people to have rebuilt their lives in the five years since the horrific storm…”
  • On Katrina anniversary, recovery takes hold, By Campbell Robertson, August 27, 2010, New York Times: “This city, not that long ago, appeared to be lost. Only five years have passed since corpses were floating through the streets, since hundreds of thousands of survivors sat in hotel rooms and shelters and the homes of relatives, learning from news footage that they were among the ranks of the homeless. For most of the last year, in many parts of the city, the waters finally seemed to be receding. In November, a federal judge ruled that much of the flooding after Hurricane Katrina was a result of the negligence of the Army Corps of Engineers, vindicating New Orleanians, who had hammered this gospel for four years. In January, the federal government cleared the way for nearly half a billion dollars in reimbursement for the city’s main public hospital, an acceleration of funds that led to the announcement this week that nearly two billion more would be coming in a lump-sum settlement for city schools…”
  • Billions in Katrina relief funds still unspent, By Geoff Pender, August 27, 2010, Miami Herald: “More than a quarter of the $20 billion in Housing and Urban Development relief funds earmarked for Gulf states after Katrina remains unspent five years after the storm, a fact noticed by at least one congressional leader eager to spend it elsewhere. In June, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, ordered data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development into how much remains unspent from the more than $20 billion in Community Development Block Grant hurricane relief funds earmarked for Gulf states after the 2005 storms. The answer: about $5.4 billion, including $3 billion of the $13 billion earmarked for Louisiana and $2 billion of the $5.5 billion for Mississippi…”
  • New Orleans five years after Katrina: Chins up, hopes high, August 26, 2010, The Economist: “It is still obvious to any visitor-especially one who ventures out of the French Quarter, with its restaurants and night clubs, into the unstarred districts of the city. Something awful happened here in the not-too-distant past. The signs are everywhere: empty lots overgrown by weeds, ramshackle, leaning houses, derelict public buildings still awaiting restoration. Some houses feature ‘Katrina tattoos’ sprayed by rescuers as they completed house-by-house searches in 2005. Nobody at home. And yet New Orleans has undoubtedly recovered its essence. The old neighbourhoods are almost intact, and the city’s irrepressible people have mostly returned. Experts estimate that perhaps 360,000 people now live in a city that was home to around 100,000 more on the day disaster struck. Those who left were probably disproportionately black and poor. Yet the city’s large black majority, still there and mostly still poor, has ensured that the extravagant culture of New Orleans has survived the flood unharmed…”
  • Disasters widen the rich-poor gap, By John Mutter, August 25, 2010, “As the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, recovery in New Orleans is patchy. The hurricane flushed out many of the poorer people. For those who remained, almost without exception, the poorer neighbourhoods have experienced the slowest repopulation and recovery of basic amenities such as schools, shops and petrol stations. The poorest district of New Orleans – the Lower Ninth Ward – has about 24% of its former residents, whereas the wealthy Central Business District has seen 157% repopulation. Low-income black workers were seven times more likely to lose their pre-Katrina jobs than higher-income white workers. And low-income people have found it more difficult to attain basic living conditions, including good access to health care – in 2008 there were 38% fewer hospital beds available in New Orleans than before the storm…”

High School Graduation Rates – Mississippi

  • Graduation rates drop in Miss., By Marquita Brown, July 12, 2010, Jackson Clarion-Ledger: “To encourage her son to stay in school, Kimberly Smith would use herself as an example. She only had a sixth-grade education. At times the family had no electricity, no food and sometimes no place to stay. ‘This is why you need to go to school,’ Smith would tell her son, Carlos. ‘You want to live like this the rest of your life? Or you want to do something about it?’ Carlos graduated this year as Wingfield High School salutatorian with numerous scholarships, including national awards, and will attend Jackson State University in the fall. Kimberly Smith represents an element education leaders say is needed to improve state graduation and dropout rates – parental involvement. Mississippi’s graduation rate for the Class of 2009 dipped to 71.4 percent from 72 percent, according to numbers released from the state Department of Education on Thursday. The drop was greater in Jackson Public Schools…”
  • Dropouts: Budget strains hit weakest, Editorial, July 12, 2010, Jackson Clarion-Ledger: “In a competitive world, the lack of a high school diploma is an almost unsurmountable barrier to success. Yet, Mississippi still struggles with its high school graduation and dropout rates. The state Department of Education reports that graduation rates dropped slightly last year – from 72 percent to 71.4 percent. The state’s dropout rate increased slightly – from 16 percent to 16.7 percent. The negative trend, while slight, comes at a time when the state has been emphasizing high school dropout prevention. Worse, it could show a more vulnerable area as funding for education is being cut, putting a strain on districts seeking to provide help for students who are at-risk…”

Gulf Oil Spill and Low-Wage Workers

Don’t ignore low-income spill victims, advocates urge BP, By Deborah Barfield Berry, June 26, 2010, USA Today: “Vicky Townley is waiting to hear whether BP will compensate her for tip income she says she’s lost because of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. ‘Things are so slow we’re basically living from paycheck to paycheck, which is not very much,’ said Townley, a bartender in Gulf Shores, Ala., who filed her lost-wages claim three weeks ago. Before the spill, she said, she earned $60 a day in tips during the summer months, which helped in the long slog to rebound from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. ‘Things were just starting to pick up,’ she said. ‘Then the recession, then the oil. What next?’ Gulf Coast groups representing low-income workers say they want to make sure BP’s claims process doesn’t overlook workers like Townley in the rush to compensate fishermen and other high-priority spill victims…”

Access to Health Care – Mississippi

  • The Mississippi Delta’s healthcare blues, By Noam N. Levey, June 3, 2010, Los Angeles Times: ” This crumbling Delta town, set amid cotton fields, abandoned railroad tracks and cypress-studded bayous, is a hard place. So hard that the plaintive sound of a local musician drawing a knife blade across the strings of his guitar gave birth to the blues here a century ago. So hard that a Roman Catholic nun named Anne Brooks has struggled for the last 27 years to keep a medical clinic open for the poor. ‘It’s a pretty hand-to-mouth existence,’ said Brooks, 71, a physician with a wry sensibility and a profane streak. Brooks earned a medical degree at age 44 before coming to the Mississippi Delta to open the Tutwiler Clinic with the blessing of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. She sees the nation’s new healthcare law as a potentially happy turn in a long, hard journey. The measure provides hundreds of billions of dollars to help states expand medical insurance for the poor and pay doctors like Brooks, nearly half of whose patients have no coverage. But there’s a good chance this story will end with another difficult twist in the road for Brooks and for Tutwiler…”
  • Miss. looks to Iran for rural health care model, By Sheila Byrd (AP), June 2, 2010, Washington Post: “Scratch-poor towns in the Mississippi Delta once shared more in common with rural Iran – scarce medical supplies, inaccessible health care and high infant mortality rates – than with most of the U.S. Then things in Iran got better. Since the 1980s, rural Iranians have been able to seek treatment at health houses, informal sites set up in small communities as the first stop for medical care, rather than an emergency room. They’re staffed by citizens, not doctors, and the focus is on preventive care. Infant deaths have dropped from 200 per 1,000 births to 26. With the Delta’s rate 10 times worse than Iran’s, a group of volunteers is traveling to Iran this month to get a crash course in how health houses work…”

Poor States and HPV Vaccinations

Poorer girls not getting HPV vaccine for cervical cancer, By Liz Szabo, March 18, 2010, USA Today: “A cervical cancer vaccine is not getting to many of the girls who need it the most, a new study shows. Mississippi and Arkansas, two of the nation’s poorest states, also have the highest death rates from cervical cancer – a result of poor access to basic screenings and health care for a large number of women, says Peter Bach of New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Yet in Mississippi, where the vaccine could perhaps save the greatest number of lives, only 16% of teen girls in 2008 received the shot, called Gardasil, according to Bach’s paper in Saturday’s The Lancet. About 22% of Arkansas girls ages 13 to 17 got the vaccine, which costs $390 for three shots…”

Welfare-to-Work Program – Mississippi

Miss. leading work program, By Gary Pettus, March 7, 2010, Jackson Clarion Ledger: “Instead of depending forever on food stamps, Jessica Eubanks has deserted the unemployment line for a full-time job in a pediatrician’s office. In the meantime, the state of Mississippi – the best in the nation at moving people from welfare to work – temporarily helps her pay for child care and transportation costs.’I just needed a chance,’ said Eubanks, 29, of Florence, a single mother of three. ‘And someone gave it to me.’ Those payments flow out of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families work program, which is helping thousands of Mississippians find jobs and keep them. It’s a result of the government’s effort to make a paycheck more attractive than a welfare check, while still tending to the needs of poor children. ‘I believe some people don’t know how blessed we are to have this program,’ Eubanks said. Administered by the state’s Department of Human Services, Mississippi’s TANF program is ranked No. 1 in the country for work participation rates at 63.2 percent. The national rate is under 30 percent…”