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The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty

July 7, 2015 Comments off

The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty
Source: Institute for Policy Studies

Poor people, especially people of color, face a far greater risk of being fined, arrested, and even incarcerated for minor offenses than other Americans. A broken taillight, an unpaid parking ticket, a minor drug offense, sitting on a sidewalk, or sleeping in a park can all result in jail time. In this report, we seek to understand the multi-faceted, growing phenomenon of the “criminalization of poverty.”

In many ways, this phenomenon is not new: The introduction of public assistance programs gave rise to prejudices against beneficiaries and to systemic efforts to obstruct access to the assistance.

This form of criminalizing poverty — racial profiling or the targeting of poor black and Latina single mothers trying to access public assistance — is a relatively familiar reality. Less well-known known are the new and growing trends which increase this criminalization of being poor that affect or will affect hundreds of millions of Americans. These troubling trends are eliminating their chances to get out of poverty and access resources that make a safe and decent life possible.

Alternative Policies to Agricultural Export Taxes That Are Less Market Distorting

June 11, 2015 Comments off

Alternative Policies to Agricultural Export Taxes That Are Less Market Distorting
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

Many economists believe that export restrictions increase world prices for food commodities, thereby exacerbating food insecurity and poverty among the world’s poorest people. The authors examine alternative policies to a conventional export tax that are less market distorting and less welfare diminishing.

GAO — Broadband: Intended Outcomes and Effectiveness of Efforts to Address Adoption Barriers Are Unclear

June 2, 2015 Comments off

Broadband: Intended Outcomes and Effectiveness of Efforts to Address Adoption Barriers Are Unclear
Source: Government Accountability Office

Home broadband adoption can provide a number of social and economic benefits, according to literature from academic, government, and other research sources and interviews GAO held with researchers, consumer and industry organizations, and government officials. For example, broadband provides access to employment opportunities by providing the means to search and apply for jobs and participate in online job training. It also provides access to a number of government benefits, serves as a conduit for civic participation, and provides a means to connect family members, among other benefits.

Affordability, lack of perceived relevance, and lack of computer skills are the principal barriers to broadband adoption identified by literature and stakeholders GAO interviewed. Efforts to address these barriers include projects to increase broadband adoption that were funded by grants from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP) and outreach and other efforts by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and NTIA. GAO identified three key approaches used to address adoption barriers:

  • Discounts on computer equipment and broadband subscriptions.
  • Outreach efforts to promote broadband availability and benefits.
  • Training to help people develop skills in using computers and broadband.

CRS — State Children’s Health Insurance Program: An Overview (March 20, 2015)

May 29, 2015 Comments off

State Children’s Health Insurance Program: An Overview (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a means-tested program that provides health coverage to targeted low-income children and pregnant women in families that have annual income above Medicaid eligibility levels but have no health insurance. CHIP is jointly financed by the federal government and states, and the states are responsible for administering CHIP. In FY2013, CHIP enrollment totaled 8.4 million individuals and CHIP expenditures totaled $13.2 billion.

Congress is actively discussing the future of the CHIP program because federal funding for CHIP is set to end after FY2015, even though the program is still authorized. With the current fiscal year being the final year federal CHIP funding is provided in statute, Congress’s action or inaction on the CHIP program may affect health insurance options and resulting coverage for targeted low-income children that are eligible for the current CHIP program.

Investing in Work by Reforming the Earned Income Tax Credit

May 29, 2015 Comments off

Investing in Work by Reforming the Earned Income Tax Credit
Source: Tax Policy Center (Brookings Institution/Urban Institute)

The earned income tax credit (EITC) lifts millions of working families out of poverty, but provides little support to workers without children living at home. Scaling back the EITC and implementing a worker credit based on individual earnings and not contingent on having children at home could provide substantial benefits to all low-income workers, ease administration for the IRS, and encourage work for childless individuals and secondary earners. A broadly available $1,500 would cost around $870 billion over 10 years; scaled back options are also available.

Opportunity for All: Fighting Rural Child Poverty

May 26, 2015 Comments off

Opportunity for All: Fighting Rural Child Poverty (PDF)
Source: White House

Small towns and rural communities are home to millions of Americans, are a vibrant part of our nation’s economy, and include some of the most beautiful landmarks in the country. Rural America provides the vast majority of food, energy, and environmental benefits for the rest of the country, is the source of nearly 90 percent of renewable water resources, and is home to important service sector and manufacturing hubs. Despite this critical role in our nation’s economy, too many Americans in rural areas are not sharing in our nation’s economic growth. In 2013, 6.2 million Americans in rural areas lived in poverty, including about 1.5 million children.1 Moreover, in far too many of these communities, high rates of poverty have persisted for generations: over 300 rural counties have had poverty rates of over 20 percent in every Census since 1980.

While the fight to eliminate poverty is far from over, the 2014 Economic Report of the President documented that federal programs designed to reduce poverty and promote opportunity have cut poverty by more than one-third over the past 50 years. This report also shows that poverty in rural areas fell by nearly half between 1967 and 2012, compared to about one-quarter in urban areas.

Federal and State Standards for “Essential Community Providers” under the ACA and Implications for Women’s Health

May 13, 2015 Comments off

Federal and State Standards for “Essential Community Providers” under the ACA and Implications for Women’s Health
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

Millions of previously uninsured Americans have gained access to health coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace plans. The provider networks of the Marketplace plans determine where enrollees can seek medical care. Many of these individuals have received their care for years from safety-net providers, such as community health centers and family planning clinics. Recognizing the important role these providers play in promoting continuity of care as people transition from being uninsured and relying on safety net clinics to private insurance, and to meet the increased demand for medical care in underserved communities, Congress established general requirements to assure that these providers have the opportunity to participate in the health plans that are offered through the Marketplaces. These safety net clinics and hospitals are referred to as Essential Community Providers (ECPs), and the ACA specifically requires that Qualified Health Plans available through the federal or state insurance Marketplaces have a “sufficient number and geographic distribution of ECPs, where available, to ensure reasonable and timely access to a broad range of such providers for low-income, medically underserved individuals in the plan’s service area.”1 Because both the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and state regulators can have the authority to decide how to implement the broad ECP standard, there is considerable variation across the country in both the categories of providers included as ECPs as well as the standards required for inclusion in plan networks. This brief reviews the definition of ECP, examines the federal and state rules that govern the extent to which plans must include these providers in their networks, identifies the variation from state to state, and discusses the particular importance of these rules and providers for women’s access to care.

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