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Granite State Rumblings: Trump’s “Skinny Budget” Is Bad For Working Families

There is a lot happening politically in Washington and in Concord that will impact children and families. Every Child Matters in NH has been focused on advocating for the needs of family and children in both arenas. This week we will take a look at the implications for kids at the federal level. Next week we will focus on New Hampshire legislation and the NH budget.

The Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) have worked in unison to dramatically cut the ranks of uninsured children in New Hampshire and across the country. Because of the options available under the ACA the percentage of uninsured children has dropped from 14.9 percent in 1997 to just 4.8 percent in 2015 — a 68 percent reduction. That is impressive! 

And so are you!

With the hard work and dedication of so many who made phone calls, wrote letters and e-mails, attended town hall meetings, visited with Congressional staff, wrote letters to the editor and took a stand, the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. Thank you!!

Here’s the skinny on the Skinny (Budget).

President Trump has released his “Skinny Budget” for fiscal year 2018, and the news is not good for families. It cuts funds from the programs that are essential to low-income children and families – education, housing, job training, nutrition for women, infants and children (WIC), energy assistance (LIHEAP), legal assistance, eliminates afterschool and summer care through the 21st Century Learning Centers program, and more. All of these cuts are being made to offset an increase in money for the Pentagon (defense spending). 

Click HERE for a more detailed list of Trump’s FY 2018 Budget cuts from our friends at the Coalition on Human Needs.

Why is the President’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, making these cuts to programs that help to warm homes in the winter, educate, feed, and house our children, and eliminate care for children, making it harder for working families to work? 

Watch this video to hear his claims.

So I ask you, why is it okay to tax the single mother of two in Detroit to feed the Pentagon budget but not to feed children and the elderly? When did we become so callous?

Oh! And by the way, high quality afterschool and summer programs DO work. There is a significant body of research demonstrating the positive outcomes associated with participation in quality afterschool programs overall.

  • An evaluation of high-quality afterschool programs (including 21st Century Community Learning Centers) serving 3,000 low-income elementary and middle school students found that regular participation in high-quality afterschool programs by low-income youth resulted in significant gains in math test scores and work habits and reductions in behavioral problems. (Vandell, et.al., 2007)
  • A meta-analysis by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) that examined 75 studies of 68 afterschool programs found that students who participated in an afterschool program exhibited improved behavior and performed better academically than students who did not participate in a program. (Durlak, et.al., 2010) ~Source: afterschoolalliance.org

Should the 21st Century Learning Centers funding be eliminated, the Afterschool Alliance estimates that 5,717 Granite State children would be impacted. Across the country nearly two million children and families would be left without reliable afterschool choices.

Let’s once again raise our voices, send the e-mails and make the calls to tell the Trump Administration that this budget is bad for kids – and bad for their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, friends……..

Join Every Child Matters today to take action in support of afterschool programs. 

Click here to send a brown bag message to Mick Mulvaney!

Granite State Rumblings: Raising Grandchildren & Finding The Perfect Book For A Child This Holiday Season

A few weeks ago Every Child Matters in NH hosted our first Children’s Policy Summit. We took a look at the effect the opiate crisis is having on Granite State children. 

One of the sessions focused on the rising numbers of grandfamilies in our state (grandparents as the primary caregivers of their grandchildren). This is not an issue that is exclusive to New Hampshire. The rise in the number of grandfamilies is also being seen in Maine and throughout the country as well.

Here is an article on this issue that I hope you will find of value and share with grandfamilies you may know.

Grandfamilies: the Health Challenges of Raising Grandchildren

Michael O. Schroeder, U.S.News & World Report

With an opioid abuse epidemic raging, many children of parents addicted to prescription painkillers or heroin, or whose parents have died from overdosing on the powerful drugs, are now being cared for by their grandparents. That’s contributed significantly to a rise in so-called grandfamilies: As of last year, 2.9 million children in the U.S. were living with grandparents who were responsible for their care, according to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ news service Stateline. That’s up from 2.5 million in 2005.

There are many other reasons a grandparent may end up needing to be a full-time caretaker for a grandchild, too. They include parental death from any cause, incarceration, mental illness, physical illness, divorce, homelessness, military deployment or having teenage parents, says Jaia Peterson Lent, deputy executive director at District of Columbia-based Generations United, a national nonprofit that seeks to improve the lives of children and older people, with an emphasis on connecting the generations. “There are also cases where parents need to move elsewhere for employment but do not have resources to bring the children with them,” she says. 

The Loss of a Parent

While some children experience the permanent loss of a parent though death, many others suffer trauma and loss in another way: They’ve lost access to their parents in their day-to-day lives for reasons ranging from imprisonment to addiction, says Susan Neely-Barnes, a professor and interim chair of the department of social work at the University of Memphis. Often, children dealing with the difficult transition face mental health challenges, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. “The grandparents are taking on more responsibility than what we as biological parents have to deal with often,” says Neely-Barnes, who has studied the health-related quality of life impact of grandparents taking on a custodial, or parenting, role.

Grandparents are also often grieving the loss of their own adult child — or the life they’d envisioned for their son or daughter — Lent says, and struggling with having to forgo the traditional grandparent role. “Whenever you envision a grandparent, you get to spoil a child, you get to provide the cookies and the candy, not be the disciplinarian,” she says.

The demands of parenting can take a toll on grandparents’ well-being, according to research on custodial grandparents. Custodial grandparents experience increased stress and depression, compared with non-custodial grandparents, and physical health problems as well, Neely-Barnes says. “For most relative caregivers, kinship care is usually unplanned, it’s in a crisis and it’s by default,” says Joseph Crumbley, a family therapist in private practice specializing in kinship care who is based in Philadelphia, since the birth parents aren’t around or able to take care of their children. That can lead many relative caregivers to feel overwhelmed, Crumbley says. While grandparent caregivers are usually under age 65, they’re still older than typical biological parents, so the physical and mental rigors of parenting can be harder to handle, he adds.

A Healthy Family

The range of stressors ranges from financial difficulty to housing concerns — is there enough space for a child? — and challenging relationship dynamics with parents can add to the strain, Crumbley says. To lessen the burden, experts advise grandparents take the following steps to preserve their health, while improving their ability to care for a child:

Be open in discussing challenges. Some grandparents may be embarrassed to acknowledge that they’re taking care of their children’s children, says Carolyn Graff, chief of nursing at the Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis — such as in circumstances where a grown child is incarcerated or facing other potentially sensitive issues. But by acknowledging it, she says, grandparents can more clearly communicate their needs.

Find support and get answers. You may find family or someone you’re just getting to know who’s also raising a grandchild provides a sympathetic ear and helpful counsel. “There’s a wonderful network of support groups across the country of other grandparents and other relatives that have stepped into this role,” Lent says. Connect online, or for local options to access grandfamily support groups, call Generations United: 202-289-3979. In some states, you can also access kinship navigator programs through which caregivers can connect with advocates, such as a social worker or trained case manager, who provide relatives caring for children with information, resources and referrals to other experts. This can help in navigating an array of areas, from making health care- and education-related decisions to understanding the implications of having legal custody, or not having custody, of a child. Generations United provides a list of kinship navigator programs.

Access financial resources. Grandparents and other family can serve a critical role in caring for kids when parents aren’t able to. But caregivers often neglect their own needs to take care of the child, Lent says. When children come into the care of relatives, along with chronic stress and depression, some relative caregivers experience physical illness that goes unchecked, like high blood pressure, she says. Particularly when money and time are tight, grandparent caregivers are more likely to forgo filling prescriptions or seeing the doctor, says Graff, who’s done research on custodial caregivers. Experts say that makes it all the more important that they access available support and financial resources, as needed.

In some instances, where a child has been removed from a parent’s custody by the state, a relative may consider applying to become a licensed foster parent for the child — though that’s not an option in all states. “It’s an extensive process,” Lent says. But those who are licensed foster parents receive a foster care payment to help with the cost of caring for a child, as well as getting connected with support services, while agreeing to state involvement, like home inspections. In the majority of instances, grandparents caring for grandkids do so outside the formal foster care system. Those in financial need may consider applying for community support or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; though significantly less than foster care payments, this governmental funding is available in all states. “Some states take the relative’s income into consideration,” Lent says, regarding TANF funding. “Most states, however, provide the ‘child-only’ grant, which does not consider the relative’s income.”

Talk to your doctor. Whether you’ve put your health on the back burner or are concerned you can’t afford your own pricey medication given the high cost of caring for a child, Graff recommends telling your health provider about your role as a caregiver. That way you can discuss your constraints and concerns to find workable solutions — from taking a generic medication, where a safe effective alternative to an expensive brand-name drug is available, to making sensible lifestyle changes that fit within a busy schedule to accommodate time-intensive caretaking responsibilities.

Crumbley emphasizes that relative caregivers prioritize their mental and physical health not only for themselves, but to properly care for children. “One of the things that we have to constantly remind relative caregivers is that they’ve got to be OK for the children to be OK,” he says. “We’re starting to see some research that’s suggesting that the more depressed relative caregivers are, the more difficult it is for them to access services and to meet the needs of the children. So we’re definitely seeing a correlation between mental health of the relative caregivers with the quality in care and access of services for the children that are in their care.”

Take a beat for yourself. Whether you contact a professional or organization that provides respite care, or get a hand from a family member or friend, find someone you trust who can care for the child occasionally, so that you can take a break. Just as downtime is good for a child, experts say it’s equally crucial for caregivers. “It can be just a couple of hours,” Lent says. “But that needs to be something that you prioritize and plan for as a caregiver to make sure that you’re preserving your own health.”

GROWING UP GRANITE

Looking for the perfect gift for that special kid? Here are some suggestions from our friends at The Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF).

CLiF maintains a database of books recommended by our advisory board and program staff. Our lists are designed to appeal to young readers of all ages, abilities, and interests.

Our book list is now publicly available, searchable, and contains ISBN codes and Lexile reading measures.

Search the full book list here.

Or, scan below for reading level and interest group and click to find some of our top choices on our Pinterest boards.

We constantly update book lists with new titles, reissues of classics, award winners, popular books at CLiF giveaways, and books we find through initiatives like #weneeddiversebooks. If there’s a title you think we should add, let us know. 

PICTURE AND BOARD BOOKS

Books for reading together, looking at pictures, and reading independently. Board books are specifically for babies and toddlers; most picture books are appropriate for children from newborn through elementary school.

EASY READER

Books designed for children learning to read.

EARLY CHAPTER

Books for children who have started reading independently. Encompasses a wide range of interests and abilities. Many of these are also great read-aloud books.

CHAPTER / MIDDLE GRADE

High interest books for kids who are able readers. Includes several read-aloud classics.

AWARD WINNERS

Every year national organizations and states recognize the best books published in various categories. Here are links to a few major awards, including New Hampshire and Vermont’s student choice awards.

  • Newbery Medal and Honor – Awarded by the American Library Association for excellence in children’s literature, traditionally middle-grade
  • National Book Award for Young People’s Literature – Awarded by the National Book Association for excellence in children’s literature, often middle-grade or young adult
  • Coretta Scott King Book Awards – Awarded by the American Library Association for excellence in writing, illustration, and new talent for African American authors and illustrators
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award – Vermont’s state award for excellence in literature, chosen by students. Traditionally middle-grade
  • Great Stone Face Award – New Hampshire’s state award for excellence in literature, chosen by students. Traditionally middle grade
  • Caldecott Medal and Honor – Awarded by the American Library Association for excellence in illustration
  • Red Clover Award – Vermont’s state award for picture books, chosen by students
  • Ladybug Award –  New Hampshire’s state award for picture books, chosen by students

Happy Reading and Gift Giving!


All of us at Every Child Matters would like to wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with you, for you, and beside you this past year. We could not do our work without the support of each and every one of you.  We will be back with new editions of Granite State Rumblings and Maine Musings in January.

As you think of end of the year giving, we hope that you will consider making a donation to Every Child Matters.

Thank You and Happy New Year!


Granite State Rumblings: The High Cost Of Rent On Low-Income Families

In New Hampshire 61% of renter households with incomes below $20,000 spend more than 50% of their income on rent. But only 1 in 4 qualifying renters receives housing assistance due to limited government funding.

A child born today could wait until s/he is 8 years old before his/her family is able to receive a housing voucher. The New Hampshire Housing 2016 Residential Rental Cost Survey shows that the median monthly gross rent for a 2-bedroom unit in NH ranges from a low of $790/month in Coos County to the high of $1,321/month in Rockingham County.

Our friends at the Coalition on Human Needs posted this blog on their weekly Voices for Human Needs page last week.

THREE IN FOUR EXTREMELY LOW INCOME RENTERS SPEND MORE THAN 50 PERCENT OF INCOME ON RENT

By Lecia Imbery

Housing costs eat up an exorbitant amount of low-income families’ budgets. A new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) shows that three-quarters of extremely low income (ELI) renter households, defined as earning no more than 30 percent of their area’s median income or the federal poverty guideline, whichever is higher, spend more than half of their income on housing costs alone. The Long Wait for a Home spotlights the problems around Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) and public housing waiting lists and how the limited supply of housing assistance affects these extremely low income households.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered “cost burdened.” Those who spend more than 50 percent are considered “severely cost burdened.” CHN’s recent report, The High Cost of Being Poor in the U.S., used Census Bureau data to show that 59 percent of American renter households with incomes less than $20,000 are severely cost burdened. Of the 13 state reports [the Maine and New Hampshire reports we co-authored with CHN can be found here] we produced with state partners, Florida ranked worst in this category, with 66 percent of Floridians who earn less than $20,000 a year spending more than half of their income on rent alone. When rent eats up this much of a family’s budget, little money is left for other necessary expenses.

The vast majority of recipients of Housing Choice Vouchers and public housing are ELI households; in fact, according to NLIHC’s report, 71 percent of the nearly 1.1 million public housing households and 74 percent of the nearly 2.2 million HCV recipient households fall into the extremely low income category. However, this doesn’t mean that the supply is meeting the demand – far from it, in fact. There are 10.4 million ELI renter households in the U.S., but the private and subsidized rental markets make available only 3.2 million affordable homes for them. This results in a national shortage of 7.2 million rental homes. As CHN noted in our report, the number of families with children receiving rental vouchers dropped by 250,000 (a 13 percent decline) since 2004.

This discrepancy between the number of affordable homes available and the number of families in need means that far too many ELI renter households are put on waiting lists for housing assistance, and that wait can stretch into years. Seventy-four percent of households on the average Housing Choice Voucher waiting list and 67 percent of households on the average public housing waiting list were extremely low income. Families with children accounted for 60 percent of households on the average HCV waiting list. HCV waiting lists had a median wait time of 1.5 years for housing assistance, with 25 percent of HCV waiting lists having a wait of 3 years or longer. More than half (53 percent) of HCV waiting lists were closed, meaning they were turning away new applicants. Public housing waiting lists aren’t much better. The median wait time there is 9 months, with 25 percent of public housing waiting lists stretching to more than 1.5 years. Eleven percent of public housing waiting lists were closed.

Rental vouchers limiting the amount low-income families pay for rent make a tremendous difference in child health, educational outcomes, and future earnings, and housing subsidies lifted 2.5 million Americans above the poverty line in 2015. 

That’s why CHN’s report calls on Congress to increase funding for Fiscal Year 2017 to provide millions more low-income Americans in need with access to safe, stable housing. Additional funding over FY16 levels is also needed to ensure existing housing vouchers keep pace with inflation and to expand the supply of vouchers for those left out in the cold. Beyond these immediate needs, CHN also calls on Congress to fully fund President Obama’s request for $11 billion to end family homelessness by 2020 (providing housing for 550,000 families).

The reports from both CHN and ECM and the National Low Income Housing Coalition (a member of CHN) reach the same conclusion – we must expand housing resources for our nation’s lowest income renters.


GROWING UP GRANITE

Please join us on Thursday, November 17th for a Children’s Policy Summit.

What About the Kids? The Invisible Victims of the Opiate Crisis

Join providers, policy advocates, parents & grandparents, and policymakers for an interactive discussion on the opiate crisis and how it impacts New Hampshire’s most vulnerable population: Our Children.

This epidemic is affecting the lives of too many Granite State kids. Learn about the programs and resources that are emerging to support them and brainstorm with us about what still needs to be done.

Every Child Matters in NH is awarding scholarships to grandparents who are caregivers to their grandchildren to attend this event. If you would like to sponsor a grandparent to attend this event, please select “Sponsor a Grandparent” while selecting your tickets. 

The Children’s Policy Summit is sponsored in partnership by Every Child Matters in NH and Child and Family Services of NH.

Lunch will be served. 

Date and Time: Thursday, November 17th  11:30 am to 4:00 pm

Location: Holiday Inn, 172 North Main Street, Concord, NH 03301

Register HERE

Granite State Rumblings: The High Cost of Being Poor in New Hampshire

Anti-Poverty Programs Help Alleviate Costs, But More Must Be Done to Reduce Burdens

It is welcome news that the poverty rate in New Hampshire declined from 9.2 percent in 2014 to 8.2 percent in 2015 and declined nationally from 15.5 percent in 2014 to 14.7 percent in 2015.1 Sustained economic gains, strengthened by federal and state policies that increase income or reduce expenses, have finally begun to reach our low-income neighbors. 

The decline in poverty is good news, and with job growth continuing, we ought to be able to take steps to accelerate the pace of poverty reduction. But the precarious situation for the poor and near poor stands in the way of substantial progress. The fact is, it is expensive to be poor in the United States. New data released in September by the Census Bureau show that more than 106,000 adults and children remain in poverty in New Hampshire – and they need to pay every dime they have for necessities like rent, child care and groceries. They pay a premium for rent and food because of bad credit and inability to get to cheaper markets. Getting less value for their limited dollars, poor families are exposed to threats to health, child development, and employment. When expenses outstrip income, late fees and fines make things worse. For too many low-income Americans, predatory loans are a desperate attempt to stave off eviction or loss of a vehicle, leading instead to a trap of debt and poverty. While New Hampshire has restrictions against predatory payday lending, we must ensure this protection is not weakened, putting more Granite Staters at risk. 

The new Census Bureau data also show that effective anti-poverty programs, like housing assistance, child care subsidies, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) lift millions out of poverty and reduce the cost of poverty for millions more. But more needs to be done to reduce the burden of poverty even further, and for more Granite Staters living in and near poverty every day.

Progress to Build on

There were 2 million fewer poor people across the U.S. in 2015 than in 2014 and nearly 12,000 fewer poor Granite Staters. From 2011 to 2015, unemployment declined nationally from 10.3 percent to 6.3 percent. The proportion of Americans without health insurance plunged from 15.1 percent to 9.4 percent over the same five years. 

While communities of color in general saw substantial improvement, they remain disproportionately affected by poverty – and its associated costs. While 10.4 percent of non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. were poor in 2015, the poverty rate was 25.4 percent for African Americans and 22.6 percent for Latinos.2  

People aged 65 or older saw their poverty rate drop from 9.5 percent to 9.0 percent from 2014 to 2015 nationally, and in New Hampshire 6.1 percent of seniors were poor, statistically unchanged from the previous year. However, the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure counts income and expenditures more fully, and the differing budgets of seniors (such as more medical expenses) leads to a nationwide poverty rate of 13.7 percent for this group using this alternative measure.

3ecmnhreportChildren remain more likely to be poor in America than any other age group, with more than one in ten in poverty in New Hampshire in 2015 (10.7 percent), down from 13.0 percent in 2014. As with adults, children of color experience poverty at much higher rates that their white peers. In fact, African American and Latino children are roughly 2.5 times more likely to be poor than white children. In 2015, 12.5 percent of non-Hispanic white children in the U.S. lived in poverty, while 36.5 percent of African American and 30.5 percent of Latino children were poor.3 While their parents struggle to pay for necessities, children in poverty may pay in other ways, from damage to brain development to poorer physical and mental health, education and employment outcomes. 

Those with jobs are not immune – the Census Bureau data also show that in 58 percent of poor New Hampshire families, at least one person worked, although not always full time or year round. Even when work and other income helps people to live up to twice the poverty line (up to $37,742 for a family of three), most people recognize that making ends meet is not that easy for those this near poverty. Here, one in five Granite Staters are trying to get by with incomes this low. High costs affect them too, and may lead to the downward spiral to debt and poverty that the right policy choices can prevent. 

The High Cost of Being Poor

The poor pay more in many different areas of daily living. The Census data show that 61 percent of New Hampshire households with incomes less than $20,000 a year spend more than half of their income on rent alone.4  On average, low-income households face slightly higher food prices than other households face for the same basket of food,5 forcing them to choose lower quality items to reduce the cost. They get less for what they have to spend, and still end up spending a larger portion of their income on food than higher-income families.

The high cost of being poor is a major burden for all living in poverty, but for those in deep poverty – living below half of the federal poverty line – the burden is that much heavier to bear. For a family of four in 2015, the official poverty line was $24,257. According to the Census Bureau, 6.8 percent of Americans – 20.4 million people – live in deep poverty. Nearly 1 in 11 children is this deeply poor. That’s down from the previous year, but a higher proportion than in 2007, before the Great Recession. Locally, nearly 47,000 Granite Staters live in deep poverty.6 These families are especially prone to late fees for unpaid rent and eventual evictions, leading to frequent moves. Once they do find new housing, they often start out in the hole with a new landlord because they can’t afford the first and last month’s rent along with a security deposit.7  

2ecmnhreportTenants with evictions on their records can also be banned from affordable housing programs and often lose their only possessions as a part of the eviction.8 Young children living in poor housing conditions and/or subject to frequent moves or homelessness are more likely to suffer health problems. For example, a Boston area study found that infants and toddlers in low-income families that had moved two or more times in the past year were 59 percent more likely to be hospitalized than similar children in more secure housing.9 Rental vouchers limiting the amount low-income families pay for rent make a tremendous difference in child health, educational outcomes, and future earnings, but since 2004, the number of families with children receiving rental vouchers dropped by 250,000 nationwide (a 13 percent decline).10 Families do not have to be deeply poor to risk eviction, although they are likely to be among the quarter of low-income tenants across the U.S. who are paying at least 70 percent of their income on rent, and so are especially at risk of being unable to pay each month. However, even among New Hampshire households with incomes up to $35,000, 45 percent are paying half or more of their income on rent. 

Low-wage workers are more likely to lack paid sick days and paid leave, and they are less likely to have predictable work schedules, leaving them with even less money to cover expenses. Some gains for low-wage workers have been made in cities and states that have raised the minimum wage and adopted paid sick leave and other family-friendly policies, but not all states have taken these steps, and national standards leave too many low-wage workers out in the cold. Their struggle to pay rent each month can also take its toll on employment. The Milwaukee Area Renters Study found that workers leaving housing involuntarily were 20 percent more likely to lose their jobs afterwards than comparable workers who did not have to leave their dwellings.11  

Quality, affordable child care is critical for both the economic security of low-income parents, as it allows them to work, and for the development of children. Yet the cost puts quality child care out of reach for many families. The average cost in New Hampshire for an infant in a child care center is more than $11,800 a year; for an infant and a 4-year-old, it’s more than $21,250.12 A family at the poverty line with an infant and toddler in child care would therefore have to spend 88 percent of its income on child care, if paying the state average cost. Without a subsidy, low-income families have no choice but to make cheaper and often less reliable arrangements. 

Medical costs can have devastating effects on already-strapped family budgets. The Census data show that 11.2 million more people across the U.S. would be in poverty if out-of-pocket medical costs were taken into account, showing the importance of quality, affordable health insurance. Medical costs are even more of a burden for the poor in states that have not taken advantage of the Affordable Care Act option to use federal Medicaid dollars to expand health coverage to low-income adults. Low-income adults in the 19 states that have not made this move are uninsured at nearly twice the rates of those in states that have taken this step to expand coverage.13 They are too poor to qualify for health insurance subsidies through the Affordable Care Act, but are denied Medicaid, leaving them at even greater risk for overwhelming medical costs and, too often, forcing them to forgo necessary medical treatments. In New Hampshire, the percentage of uninsured people has remained unchanged from 2011 to 2015 at 6.2 percent.

With few other options, many low-income Americans in a majority of states feel they must turn to payday loans and similar practices to cover these higher expenses. Unfortunately, this leads to higher costs still. These predatory lenders target low-income Americans and communities of color – nearly half of payday borrowers have a family income of under $30,000. Nearly one in five borrowers relied on Social Security or some other form of government assistance.14 Payday lenders have been shown to be 2.4 times more concentrated in African American and Latino communities.15 Payday loan companies charge exorbitant interest rates – between 300 and 400 percent, on average, and fees that quickly rack up when borrowers are forced to take out loan after loan just to repay the previous loan. This traps the borrower in a cycle of debt. In fact, the average payday loan customer who borrows $400 for a loan to help them get by until their next paycheck winds up paying back $950 over 11 loan cycles in a year.16 In one-third of these cases, the borrower is forced to overdraw his or her checking account to pay off the loan, thereby incurring additional fees.17 Because of these abusive practices, New Hampshire has restrictions against payday lending. 

Vehicle title borrowers are similar to payday borrowers, but the consequences of failing to pay back a loan can be even more severe. One in five car title loan borrowers who agrees to repay the loan in a lump sum, plus interest and fees, loses his or her car,18 creating an even larger burden when he or she can’t get to work, to school or to the child care center. Every form of debt gets worse when it’s passed along to collection agencies. In December 2015, 18 percent of consumers in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods in New Hampshire had debt in collections.19 

While the cost of poverty is extremely high for those in poverty, it is also high for our society as a whole. In fact, child poverty alone costs the U.S. economy an estimated $672 billion each year, or 3.8 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP).20 Child poverty results in a less-educated workforce, which reduces productivity and economic output years later. It raises the incidence – and cost – of crime, while also increasing physical and mental health costs. 

Effective Anti-Poverty Programs Reduce the Cost of Being Poor

The Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which counts income sources such as federal tax credits and food and housing assistance, shows that federal programs increase incomes for millions of Americans, lifting them out of poverty and reducing the burdens of poverty for millions more. More than 9 million people were lifted out of poverty by low-income refundable tax credits in 2015 nationally; 2.5 million fewer were poor because of housing subsidies.21 Other analyses show that 16,000 Granite Staters were lifted out of poverty by low-income tax credits each year on average from 2011 to 2013 and 14,000 fewer were poor, each year on average from 2009 to 2011, because of housing subsidies.22 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program lifted 16,000 Granite Staters out of poverty each year on average from 2009 to 2011, and lifted 4.6 million Americans out of poverty in 2015. The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program served more than 8.6 million women, infants and children across the U.S. in 201323 and lifted 371,000 of them out of poverty last year. More than 21 million children nationally received free and reduced-priced lunch during the 2014-2015 school year through the National School Lunch Program,24 lifting 1.3 million people out of poverty.

Child care subsidies reduce the cost of care, allowing parents to go to work or school and providing children with quality educational experiences in the critical early years. Single mothers were more likely to be employed, more likely to be employed full time, and more likely to have stable employment when receiving child care subsidies.25 Nationally, families headed by single mothers with at least one full-time, year-round worker had a poverty rate of 11.5 percent, while similar families where workers only had part-time or part-year employment were five times as likely to be poor (55.3 percent rate).26

States that raised their minimum wage saw faster wage growth for low-wage workers in 2015 than states without an increase.27 More money in the pockets of low-income workers resulting from a higher minimum wage and more paid, predictable hours is better for workers, their families, and our economy.

But many of these effective programs do not reach enough of the people they are designed to help, and others, like SNAP, could do more good if their benefits were higher. Across the country, only one in four qualifying renters receives rental assistance because Congress has not provided enough funding.28 Nationally, only one in six low-income children who ate a school lunch during the regular 2014-2015 school year were reached by federal summer nutrition programs.29 More than 13 percent of New Hampshire households without children experienced food hardship in 2014-2015. Households with children in New Hampshire fared worse: 16.3 percent suffered food hardship over the same period.  

More than six out of seven children eligible to receive federal child care assistance nationally are not getting any help,31 and 2,300 New Hampshire children in need have lost access to child care since 2006,32 leaving families to struggle to pay for care or forego jobs to stay home and provide care. In addition, while the 2014 reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (the primary source of federal funding for child care subsidies for low-income working families) included many improvements that were long overdue, the bill did not include a guarantee of federal funding to implement the changes. This lack of funding threatens care for even more children.

1ecmnhreportThe Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), an extremely effective anti-poverty and pro-work tax credit, provides far less help to low-income workers who aren’t raising children. This group has an unenviable distinction as the only group of Americans who are taxed into poverty. Expanding the EITC to these workers would benefit up to 74,000 Granite Staters.33 Similarly, families with children earning under $3,000 a year are excluded from claiming the Child Tax Credit (CTC), denying help to children because their parents, despite working, are too poor. Expanding the CTC to these poorest children and families would benefit millions across the U.S. every year. 

Because predatory lending practices are so hurtful to low-income people, 14 states, including New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia have restrictions against payday lending, and the consumer watchdog agency the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a proposed rule in June to rein in predatory payday, car title, and certain high-cost installment loans. The proposed rule would require lenders to determine whether borrowers can afford to pay back their loans, known as the ability-to-repay requirement. While the CFPB proposed rule is a necessary first step, it contains loopholes pushed for by payday lenders that could hurt consumers in all states. For example, the proposal exempts six high-cost payday loans from the ability-to-repay requirement and doesn’t go far enough to ensure that, after repaying the loan, the borrower will have enough money left over to cover other basic living expenses without reborrowing.34 This leaves consumers in states that have restrictions against payday lending vulnerable, as a weak CFPB rule will give the payday lending industry a leg up in trying to get New Hampshire and other states to weaken or even undo their existing laws. Protections that have helped low-income people out of the debt trap could be eroded. 

We Can Further Reduce the Cost of Poverty

We can – and should – do more to further reduce the high cost of poverty on millions of Americans and close the ever-widening opportunity gap our children face. To achieve this goal, Every Child Matters in New Hampshire and the Coalition on Human Needs recommend the following:

  • Increase federal funding for housing subsidies and child care subsidies. As Congress continues its Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations process, it should increase funding to provide millions more low-income Americans in need with access to safe, stable housing and quality, affordable child care. One analysis estimates that an additional $1.2 billion investment is needed in FY17 funding to allow for full implementation of improvements contained in the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant without the loss of additional spots for children.35 Additional funding over FY16 levels is also needed to ensure existing housing vouchers keep pace with inflation and to expand the supply of vouchers for those left out in the cold. Beyond these immediate needs, proposals such as President Obama’s call for $82 billion over 10 years to fund child care assistance for children younger than four and $11 billion to end family homelessness by 2020 (providing housing for 550,000 families) should be implemented.
  • 6ecmnhreportExpand the Earned Income Tax Credit to workers not raising children and expand the Child Tax Credit to families making less than $3,000 a year. President Obama, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are among the bipartisan supporters of expanding the EITC, so helping workers without dependent children should be a top priority for Congress. Congress should also act to ensure all low-income children benefit from the CTC.
  • Increase SNAP benefits and pass a Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill to ensure that low-income children have access to healthy and nutritious foods. As part of the reauthorization, Congress should streamline and expand the summer food program, expand WIC eligibility for children not in full day kindergarten from age five to age six, reject attempts to deny free and reduced-priced meals to students in high-poverty schools, and reject attempts to block grant school meal programs. Congress should also protect SNAP from cuts, increase SNAP benefits to align with the cost of the Low-Cost Food Plan rather than the inadequate Thrifty Food Plan currently used, and end the harsh time limits on SNAP benefits for certain jobless adults willing to work. 
  • States that haven’t yet expanded health coverage to low-income Americans by drawing down federal Medicaid dollars should do so. Governors of states that have continued to deny health coverage to low-income residents should end this costly failure to take advantage of federal dollars on the table to provide necessary health care to those who can least afford it. 
  • A strong rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, without loopholes, is needed to stop predatory lending, help low-income Americans break out of the dangerous debt trap, and ensure that consumers in states like New Hampshire where the practice is already restricted remain protected from these harmful practices. Low-income advocates should encourage the CFPB to strengthen the rule to protect all low-income consumers. The CFPB is accepting public comments on its proposed rule until October 7.
  • Raise the minimum wage and help workers get more paid hours through paid sick leave and more predictable hours. Low-wage workers need more hours and higher pay. The federal government, along with states that haven’t already done so, should increase the minimum wage and adopt paid leave requirements and predictable scheduling laws.

As Election Day draws nearer, we should be thinking hard about our priorities as a nation. Reducing poverty and the high costs of being poor clearly should be a top priority. The evidence from 2015 shows that proven anti-poverty programs like SNAP, housing assistance, and low-income tax credits are effective at lifting millions of people out poverty, reducing the costs associated with poverty and building family economic security. Other research and common sense tell us that child care, by helping parents to work and helping children to develop and thrive, can spur poverty reductions over two generations. But as overall poverty and child poverty rates in New Hampshire remain higher than in 2007, before the Great Recession,36 we must invest more to reduce the burden of poverty even further, and for more Granite Staters. And if we are concerned about trapping people in poverty, we need to maintain strong protections against harmful practices and state policies that place unnecessary burdens and requirements on low-income people that aim to keep them down. 


This report was prepared by Every Child Matters in New Hampshire and the Coalition on Human Needs.

  1.   U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, released September 15, 2016, http://www.census.gov
  2.   U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, released September 15, 2016, http://www.census.gov 
  3.   U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, released September 15, 2016, http://www.census.gov 
  4.   U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, released September 15, 2016, http://www.census.gov 
  5.   U.S. Department of Agriculture, http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/921672/aer759.pdf 
  6.   U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, released September 15, 2016, http://www.census.gov
  7.   “The Eviction Economy” by Matthew Desmond, as printed in The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/06/opinion/sunday/the-eviction-economy.html 
  8.   “Poor Black Women Are Evicted at Alarming Rates, Setting Off A Chain of Hardship,” by Matthew Desmond, for the MacArthur Foundation, https://www.macfound.org/media/files/HHM_Research_Brief_-_Poor_Black_Women_Are_Evicted_at_Alarming_Rates.pdf 
  9.   Children’s HealthWatch, http://www.childrenshealthwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/MAhousing_brief_Oct2012.pdf
  10.   Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, http://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/rental-assistance-to-families-with-children-at-lowest-point-in-decade 
  11.   University of Wisconsin-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty, http://www.irp.wisc.edu/publications/fastfocus/pdfs/FF22-2015.pdf 
  12.   Child Care Aware of America, http://usa.childcareaware.org/advocacy-public-policy/resources/reports-and-research/costofcare/ 
  13.   The Commonwealth Fund, http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2016/aug/who-are-the-remaining-uninsured and U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey Health Insurance Coverage, released September 13, 2016, http://www.census.gov/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-257.html
  14.   Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/Rulemaking_Payday_Vehicle_Title_Certain_High-Cost_Installment_Loans.pdf 
  15.   Center for Responsible Lending, http://responsiblelending.org/research-publication/predatory-profiling-0 
  16.   Stop the Debt Trap Coalition, https://medium.com/@stoppaydaypreds/five-things-you-need-to-know-about-payday-lending-d30a94ddcd44#.7m5gyyyt8 
  17.   Center for Responsible Lending, http://www.responsiblelending.org/payday-lending/research-analysis/finalpaydaymayday_defaults.pdf 
  18.   Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/Rulemaking_Payday_Vehicle_Title_Certain_High-Cost_Installment_Loans.pdf 
  19.   FRBNY Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax data, tabulated by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Minneapolis and accessed via the Consumer Credit Explorer (accessed Sept. 2016). https://www.philadelphiafed.org/eqfx/webstat/index.html 
  20.   https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/11114756/ChildAllowance-report.pdf 
  21.   U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 Supplemental Poverty Measure, released September 13, 2016, http://www.census.gov/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-258.html 
  22.   Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, http://www.cbpp.org/blog/state-data-on-safety-nets-impact-in-one-place
  23.   Food Research and Action Center, http://frac.org/pdf/cnr_primer.pdf 
  24.   Food Research and Action Center, http://frac.org/federal-foodnutrition-programs/national-school-lunch-program/ 
  25.   Center for Law and Social Policy, http://www.clasp.org/resources-and-publications/publication-1/CCDBG-Advocacy-Fact-Sheet.pdf 
  26.   U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 Current Population Survey, released September 13, 2016, http://www.census.gov/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-256.html
  27.   Economic Policy Institute, http://www.epi.org/publication/wages-grew-more-for-low-wage-workers-in-states-that-raised-their-minimum-wage-in-2015/ 
  28.   Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, http://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/policy-basics-federal-rental-assistance 
  29.   Food Research and Action Center, http://frac.org/federal-foodnutrition-programs/summer-programs/ 
  30.   Food Research and Action Center, http://frac.org/pdf/food-hardship-report-households-with-children-sep-2016.pdf
  31.   U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://aspe.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/153591/ChildEligibility.pdf 
  32.   Center for Law and Social Policy, http://www.clasp.org/issues/child-care-and-early-education/in-focus/child-care-assistance-spending-and-participation-in-2014 
  33.   Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, http://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/strengthening-the-eitc-for-childless-workers-would-promote-work-and-reduce 
  34.   Stop the Debt Trap Coalition, http://stopthedebttrap.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/stdt_payday_proposed_rule_works_jun2016.pdf 
  35.   Center for Law and Social Policy, http://www.clasp.org/issues/child-care-and-early-education/in-focus/child-care-assistance-spending-and-participation-in-2014 
  36.   U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, released September 15, 2015, calculations by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 

Granite State Rumblings: Strengthening Head Start Programs

school-bus-thoseguys119-flikr-cc

Head Start School Bus (Image by THOSEGUYS119 FLIKR CC)

Head Start programs are undergoing major requirement revisions for the first time since 1975. Announced on September 1st the Obama administration’s proposals include expanding Head Start to a full day for everyone, raising professional development and curriculum standards, and beefing up services for children with disabilities or who still need to learn English.

“Today we’re unveiling some of the most significant improvements we’ve ever made to Head Start,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, who herself attended the early childhood education program as a child in West Virginia. “The new standards strengthen educational practices and are based on the best research about how children learn and develop.”

Head Start, which targets low-income families, enrolls nearly 1 million children every year, and has served more than 33 million children since its inception in 1965. These new standards are the largest revision of the program since 1975 according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

One of the biggest changes included in the overhaul is the requirement that Head Start centers offer childcare for a full day over the course of a full school year, which will be phased in over the next five years. Currently Head Start preschool programs are required to operate at least 128 days a year and offer at least a 3.5 hour day. 

A second major focus of the new standards is to solidify the critical role of parents in the program, which has been a long-standing cornerstone of the Head Start program. 

The new Head Start Program Performance Standards are effective as of November 7, 2016. However, in order to afford grantees a reasonable period of time to implement certain provisions that have changed significantly from previous standards, the final rule allows programs additional time to comply with some specific provisions.

Here are some of the highlights of the new requirements from the Administration for Children and Families at HHS:

  • Education services which focus on effective teaching practices and key areas of child development, using stronger curriculum requirements and child assessment data, to ensure effective teaching in Head Start, so that children are academically and socially competent. 
  • Reduce bureaucratic burden on programs by cutting the current 1,400 Head Start regulatory standards by approximately 30 percent. This will improve regulatory clarity and transparency by eliminating unnecessary and duplicative rules while setting high standards that will drive program performance. This will allow programs to focus on outcomes over process and plans. 
  • Over time, programs will serve Head Start preschoolers for a full school day and a full school year, which is based on research and evidence that shows that students who spend more time in high quality early learning programs learn more and are better prepared for kindergarten. 
  • Programs will create a system of evidence-based, individualized professional development that builds teacher skills and core competencies which includes the use of targeted intensive mentoring and coaching. 
  • Produce higher returns on taxpayer investment. When children start school ready to succeed, they benefit and the entire nation benefits. High quality Head Start programs have demonstrated outcomes that are just as strong as, if not stronger than, the best public pre-k programs in the country. Research has shown that comprehensive services – physical and mental health and family engagement – are critical to promoting children’s school readiness and to reaping the economic return on investment in early childhood.

The release is especially timely, since the findings of two research reports published in August found long-term gains for Head Start graduates. For example, a study from the Hamilton Project says Head Start participation increased the probability that children would later graduate from high school and attend college. What’s more, there was evidence for social-emotional growth in such areas as self-control and self-esteem. You can download the full report from the website for The Hamilton Project, an economic policy initiative of the Brookings Institution. 


NHStepUp2016

Granite State Rumblings: Enhancing Public Education With Family Engagement

As the kids get ready to head off to school, our early education settings and elementary schools are doing more to engage the entire family in the educational process of their learners. They have come to realize that raising our next generation is a shared responsibility. When families, communities, early learning centers and schools work together, students are more successful and the entire community benefits.

The U.S. Departments of Education and Health Human Services have issued a new Family Engagement Policy Statement.

“Implementing effective family engagement practices to promote positive child outcomes will require bold leadership and dedication from all institutions where children learn,” write the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services In a joint letter sharing their new family engagement policy statement.

Released in May 2016, the policy statement outlines family engagement recommendations for birth-through-eight early childhood systems and programs. It emphasizes that family engagement is not optional for children’s healthy intellectual, physical, and social-emotional development and academic success. It describes family engagement in early learning programs and elementary schools and its value as “support[ing] families as they teach, nurture, and advocate for their children. In turn, family engagement supports and improves the early learning programs in which children are cared for and taught.”

The Departments identify ten common principles of effective family engagement and include examples of what each looks like in practice.

Principle

Practice Highlights

Create continuity and consistency for children and families.

Promote a vision for family engagement that is consistent across systems and programs.

Value respectful and trusting relationships between families and professional.

Value families’ experiences and strengths and provide opportunities for shared learning.

 

Encourage two-way communication by welcoming information from families on all aspects of the child’s life and development, including their culture, traditions, and home language.

 

Develop goal-oriented relationships with families that are linked to children’s development and learning.

Work with families to identify specific strategies that support children’s development and learning at home and in the classroom and community.

Engage families around children’s health, mental health, and social and emotional well-being.

Ensure programs and families know about child development related to health, mental health, and social and emotional well-being and have access to the tools they need to promote child well-being at home and in the classroom.

Ensure that all family engagement opportunities are culturally and linguistically responsive.

Ensure that the environment, curricula and all family engagement opportunities respect, reflect, and embrace families’ cultures, are devoid of bias, and are linguistically accessible.

Build staff capacity to implement family engagement practice principles.

Prioritize professional development that support staff to view parents as capable, competent partners.

Support families’ connections and capabilities.

Provide opportunities for families to build upon their knowledge and skills; advocate; share experiences and expertise; and take on leadership and advocacy roles.

Systemically embed effective family engagement strategies within early childhood systems and programs.

Align, integrate and coordinate family engagement strategies in all aspects of programming.

Develop strong relationships with community partners that support families.

Establish formal partnerships with community partners, such as after-school programs, social service agencies, adult education programs, one stop career centers, medical homes, public housing authorities, and libraries, to promote family wellness and adult learning, and enhance children’s learning and family stability.

Continuously learn and improve.

Measure effectiveness.

To implement family engagement practices across birth-through-eight systems, the statement recommends actions at the state and local levels. Highlights of steps states can take include:

  • Plan for and prioritize family engagement, including developing statewide early childhood and early elementary school policies on family engagement.
  • Communicate consistent messages that support strong family engagement, including modeling cultural responsiveness in all state outreach to families.
  • Invest and allocate, including establishing or enhancing statewide technical assistance on family engagement in early childhood systems and programs; and establishing community parenting and family engagement hubs that bring educators and families together to access information and engage in shared learning.
  • Establish policies, procedures, and practices that support family engagement, beginning with reviewing and prioritizing policies that are most effective in supporting family engagement. The statement offers several examples of policies to consider, including using federal funds from the Every Student Succeeds Act to support the implementation of more robust, research-based parent and family engagement practices in school districts.

At the local-level, recommendations cover the following topics:

  • Providing Access to Families and Invite Them to Participate in Learning Activities
  • Creating Family Friendly Environment
  • Supporting Family Connections
  • Developing Family and Professional Relationships Linked to Learning, Development, and Wellness
  • Providing Two-Way Communication
  • Supporting Families as Decision Makers
  • Establishing Supportive Transitions to New Learning Settings
  • Providing Family Supports
  • Providing Voluntary Home Visits
  • Establishing Formal Relationships with Community Partners
  • Making Data about Children’s Progress Accessible and Understandable to Parents
  • Establishing workforce capacity building that supports family engagement

Click here to read the Policy Statement on Family Engagement from the Early Years to the Early Grades.

Granite State Rumblings: TANF At 20 and Step Up Kids NH

Next Monday, August 22, 2016, marks the 20th anniversary of “welfare reform” in America. Congress created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant through the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, as part of a federal effort to “end welfare as we know it.”

Prior to welfare reform there was Aid to Families with Dependent Children or AFDC which served as the nation’s major cash welfare program.

AFDC was established in 1935, as part of the New Deal. It provided financial support for single mothers and children living in poverty.

Under TANF, the federal government provides a block grant to the states, which use these funds to operate their own programs.  In order to receive federal funds, states must also spend some of their own dollars on programs for needy families (they face severe fiscal penalties if they fail to do so).  This state-spending requirement, known as the “maintenance of effort” (MOE) requirement, replaced the state match that AFDC had required.

States can use federal TANF and state MOE dollars to meet any of the four goals set out in the 1996 law:  “(1) provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives; (2) end the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage; (3) prevent and reduce the incidence of out of wedlock pregnancies and establish annual numerical goals for preventing and reducing the incidence of these pregnancies; and (4) encourage the formation and maintenance of two parent families.”

States have used their TANF funds for a variety of services and supports, including:  income assistance (including wage supplements for working-poor families), child care, education and job training, transportation, aid to children at risk of abuse and neglect, and a variety of other services to help low-income families.  Since the four TANF goals are extremely general, states can use TANF funds much more broadly than the core welfare reform areas of providing a safety net and connecting families to work; some states use a substantial share of funding for these other services and programs.

~ Source: Center on Budget and Public Policy Priorities

The 1996 law authorized TANF funding through federal fiscal year 2002.  After several short-term extensions, Congress reauthorized TANF for another five years in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 and made some modifications to the program.  Since October 2010, Congress has again continued to extend TANF with short-term extensions rather than a full reauthorization.

The TANF program is long overdue for reform. The basic TANF block grant has been set at $16.5 billion each year since 1996; as a result, its real value has fallen by one-third due to inflation.

Back then we really didn’t know how living in poverty impacted children. Now we do. Researchers have found that the consequences of living in poverty and economic uncertainty for children and youth is especially harsh and could linger for years. Numerous studies have shown that children who grow up poor are more likely to suffer from poor health, developmental delays, behavioral problems, and lower academic achievement. Even temporary spells of poverty can have negative long-term effects on child development.

So the question is: Has TANF worked?

Some policymakers have pointed to TANF as a model for reforming other programs, but the facts suggest otherwise. TANF provides a greatly weakened safety net that does far less than AFDC did to alleviate poverty and hardship, as the Center on Budget and Public Policy Priorities’ LaDonna Pavetti and Liz Schott point out in their newly released report:

TANF at 20: Time to Create a Program that Supports Work and Helps Families Meet Their Basic Needs

TANF’s combination of nearly unfettered state flexibility, fixed block grant funding, narrowly defined work requirements, and time limits has created a system that provides a safety net to very few families in need and does little to prepare low-income parents for success in today’s labor market.  Federal policymakers can address these problems by adopting policy changes in three broad areas:  providing an effective safety net to poor families with children, creating effective work programs to help parents prepare for work, and ensuring adequate resources are available for achieving these goals.

Twenty years’ experience under TANF has provided more than enough information to see that the program is not working as intended and is leaving many children worse off than they were under AFDC. States certainly could have done a better job to further TANF’s twin goals of providing a safety net and connecting parents to work, but the law itself is a large part of the problem. It contains poorly designed incentives and requires no state accountability for providing a safety net. It does not promote effective work programs or hold states accountable for creating them. States have used TANF’s flexibility to spend the money in ways Congress never imagined, with less than a third of the funds going to providing a safety net or effective work programs. Given states’ dismal track record, federal law should change to hold states accountable in these key areas.

You can read the full report Here.

Writing in a blog post for The Hill, Melissa Boteach, Vice President of the Poverty to Prosperity Program, and Rebecca Vallas, Managing Director for the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress (CAP) said this about the TANF program:

While a robust economy in the late 1990s, along with expansions in tax credits for working families and childcare investments initially helped spur a dramatic reduction in poverty, once the economy slowed down, TANF’s flaws began to surface.

The program was not designed to respond to recessions. Indeed, during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, many states actually cut back on assistance while unemployment and hardship were quickly rising. States began diverting TANF funds to plug budget holes, leaving just one in every four TANF dollars for income support to struggling families.
The result? Today, just one-quarter of poor families with children are helped by TANF, and assistance is so meager that in no state are benefits for a family of three enough to make rent on a two-bedroom apartment. In fact, TANF’s ineffectiveness at mitigating hardship has directly contributed to the rise in deep poverty.

In addition, a wealth of evidence now demonstrates that TANF’s work requirements are ineffective at boosting employment. That’s not surprising, given such requirements do nothing to address the lack of good jobs or barriers to work like childcare and transportation.

…..Without vital programs such as Social Security, nutrition assistance, and tax credits for working families, our nation’s poverty rate would be nearly twice as high as it is today. Moreover, these investments not only mitigate poverty today, they boost economic mobility tomorrow, improving children’s health, education, and employment outcomes in adulthood.

Ensuring an adequate safety net is something we all have a stake in. Job loss, low wages, ill health, and the birth of a child are the most common triggers of poverty spells in the U.S. More than half of Americans will experience at least a year of poverty or teetering on the economic brink during their working years, and fully 70 percent will need to turn to the safety net at some point.

We must take steps to strengthen the program so it can protect kids and families from hardship. Benefit adequacy, meaningful accountability, and reforms to support TANF recipients in obtaining the education and skills they need to get ahead are key priorities.

But we cannot stop there. To dramatically reduce poverty and expand opportunity, we must also pursue a bold agenda to build an economy that works for everyone—not just those at the top of the income ladder. This includes supporting job-creating investments in infrastructure, research, and education, and pathways to good jobs such as apprenticeships and subsidized employment. It’s long past time to raise the federal minimum wage so it ceases to be a poverty wage, and to adopt paid leave and paid sick days so working parents are not forced to choose between work and caregiving.

We should also protect and strengthen key investments in nutrition, housing, income security, and healthcare—including women’s reproductive healthcare and rights—to ensure basic living standards for all families. And we must invest in the next generation by ensuring affordable high-quality childcare, pre-K for all, and access to higher education.

Twenty years later, it’s not just time to fix TANF; it’s time to enact an agenda that will dramatically bolster family economic security once and for all.

We agree.

GRANITE STATE RUMBLINGS

Mark your calendars for our 8th annual Step Up for Kids Day! We will be back on the State House lawn on this year with plenty of fun activities, games, and musical entertainment for kids of all ages!

NHStepUp2016

Granite State Rumblings (Part 2): The Relationship Between Healthcare And Healthy Development

GROWING UP GRANITE

(This is part two of this week’s Granite State Rumblings. Part 1 can be found here)

CLASP and Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (CCF) released a new report on the important but often-overlooked link between adult health care coverage and children’s healthy development – specifically, the connection between health care coverage and identifying and treating maternal depression, so that children can thrive.  Because of the powerful connection between mothers’ mental health and children’s wellbeing and long-term success, Medicaid expansion is a critical tool to help children and should be front and center for child-focused advocates and policymakers.

We are especially excited about this report because of the complementary expertise of our two organizations – CCF on health and CLASP on child care and early childhood development.  Thank you to our co-authors Stephanie Schmit and Alisa Chester for their hard work synthesizing the research about child development, Medicaid expansion, and maternal depression.  The report, Medicaid Expansion Promotes Children’s Development and Family Success by Treating Maternal Depression, distills the research to support four key conclusions.

  • Untreated maternal depression is a major public health problem that affects large numbers of women, especially low-income women and their children. More than half (55 percent) of poor infants have a mother who is experiencing some level of depressive symptoms. Maternal depression has been shown to undercut children’s healthy development and stymie families’ efforts to escape poverty. Maternal depression can affect children’s cognitive, socio-emotional, and behavioral development, as well as academic achievement and employment opportunities throughout their lifetime.
  • While safe and effective treatments exist, low-income and uninsured women are far less likely to get treatment. More than one-third (37 percent) of low-income mothers with young children who have had a major depressive disorder do not receive any treatment. The cost of mental health care is a major barrier to care, particularly for uninsured mothers.
  • States that used the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income parents have new opportunities to ensure that women are enrolled and receiving coverage. In the 19 states that have not expanded Medicaid, half a million mothers fall into a coverage gap. They earn too much to qualify for Medicaid coverage but earn too little to qualify for premium assistance through the ACA’s health insurance marketplace. The Medicaid income eligibility threshold for parents in most non-expansion states is extremely low. (See chart).
  • Mothers without health insurance face significant financial barriers to getting the care they need to treat maternal depression.  As research cited in the report demonstrates, expanding Medicaid coverage to more low-income adults (including mothers) would remove those barriers and help increase access to screening, identification, and treatment of maternal depression—thereby promoting young children’s healthy development and families’ economic security. Access to Medicaid has been shown to reduce the incidence of depression by increasing access to mental health services and diminishing financial barriers to care. For example, new research indicates that Medicaid expansion has not only resulted in improved access to medical benefits but has also resulted in improved access to behavioral health treatment for newly eligible enrollees.

The report concludes that Medicaid expansion for low-income mothers can greatly improve women’s access to treatment for depression, which is vital to children’s healthy development.

Extending Medicaid coverage to more low-income mothers would help increase screening, identification, and treatment of maternal depression—thereby promoting young children’s healthy development and family economic security.

If more states were to accept Medicaid expansion funding, more mothers would gain access to maternal depression screening and treatment and more children would have improved opportunities to reach their full potential.

Granite State Rumblings: We Need Quality Affordable Childcare

Child care expenses have climbed nearly twice as fast as overall prices since the recession ended in 2009, according to Labor Department data.

It is one of the biggest expenses that families face. And it is even less affordable for low wage workers and families with infants.

Every week in the United States, child care providers care for nearly 11 million children younger than age 5 whose parents are working. On average, these children spend 36 hours a week in child care, and one quarter (nearly 3 million) are in multiple child care arrangements due to the traditional and nontraditional working hours of their parents. Source: Child Care Aware of America

High quality, dependable, affordable, and accessible child care for children of all ages is more important than ever as we continue to see growth in both the opportunity and achievement gaps children across the country face.

An analysis by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers describes the economic returns to investments in childhood development and early education. Some of these benefits, such as increases in parental earnings and employment, are realized immediately, while other benefits, such as greater educational attainment and earnings, are realized later when children reach adulthood. 

Their report, The Economics of Early Childhood Investments, makes the following points:

  • High-quality early education for all would narrow the achievement gap. Dozens of preschool programs have been rigorously examined since the 1960s. Overall, across all studies and time periods, early childhood education increases cognitive and achievement scores by 0.35 standard deviations on average, or nearly half the black-white difference in the kindergarten achievement gap. Since higher income children are currently more likely to have access to high-quality early education, expanding access to all would narrow the achievement gap.
  • Early childhood education can boost children’s earnings later in life. Long-term analyses suggest that early childhood education can increase earnings in adulthood by 1.3 to 3.5 percent. These earnings gains alone are bigger than the costs of such programs.
  • Earnings gains from increased enrollment in early childhood education would provide benefits that outweigh the costs of the program. Researchers estimate the gain in income for recent statewide programs over a child’s career to be $9,166 to $30,851, after taking out the cost of the program. If all families were able to enroll their children in preschool at the same rate as high-income families, enrollment would increase nationwide by about 13 percentage points and yield net present value of $4.8 billion to $16.1 billion per cohort from earnings gains alone after accounting for the cost of the program. In the long run, these earnings gains translate into an increase in GDP of 0.16 to 0.44 percent.

Parents recognize the importance of early childhood investments and, despite working longer hours for pay, both mothers and fathers are also spending more time interacting with their children. Early childhood education programs can strengthen parents’ attachment to the labor force and increase their earnings potential by providing a safe and nurturing environment that furthers the education and development that parents are providing at home.

  • High-quality, affordable child care can help parents balance work and family responsibilities. Studies show that providing better access to and lowering the cost of high-quality care can significantly increase mothers’ employment rates and incomes. This increase in family income has been shown to improve children’s outcomes as well.

Children who enter school at higher levels of readiness have higher earnings throughout their lives. They are also healthier and less likely to become involved with the criminal justice system. These positive spillovers suggest that investments in early childhood can benefit society as a whole.

  • Early childhood education can lower involvement with the criminal justice system. Research shows that improving cognitive and socio-emotional development, investments in early childhood education may reduce involvement with the criminal justice system. Lower crime translates into benefits to society from increased safety and security as well as lower costs to the criminal justice system and incarceration.
  • Early childhood interventions can reduce the need for remedial education. Research shows that benefits in children’s development may also reduce the need for special education placements and remedial education, thereby lowering public school expenditures.

In total, the existing research suggests expanding early learning initiatives would provide benefits to society of roughly $8.60 for every $1 spent, about half of which comes from increased earnings for children when they grow up.

The Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC summarized the issue this way in a report they released in April 2016: An ambitious national investment in early childhood care and education would provide high societal returns. American productivity would improve with a better- educated and healthier future workforce, inequality would be immediately reduced as resources to provide quality child care are progressively made available to families with children, and the next generation would benefit from a more level playing field that allows for real equality of opportunity.

It is vitally important that we all raise our voices on the importance of quality, affordable and accessible child care for all families. 

Early childhood education is a local, state and federal issue. And polling shows that it is important to voters across party lines:

  • More than three-fourths of American voters support increasing federal investment to help states provide more access to high-quality early childhood programs for low- and moderate-income families.
  • Voters see access to quality early childhood education as a necessity for today’s families.
  • Voters support federal investment when it doesn’t permanently add to the debt or deficit – something quality early childhood education has proven it can accomplish.
  • Voters overwhelmingly describe a candidate who supports federal investment in state and local early childhood programs as one who is looking out for working- and middle-class families.
  • Americans say our education priorities should be reversed, calling for more investment in early education.

So if you attend a candidate event, or run into one at the grocery store, or post to them on Twitter or Facebook, take a moment to talk about kids and child care.

Here a few ideas to make that easier: 

  • Share your childcare story – and then ask the candidate if they have ever faced child care issues in their own family and how they handled it.
  • Remind them that child care needs to be accessible to a culturally and linguistically diverse population – children of refugees and immigrants now account for 25% of the 23 million children under the age of 6.
  • Tell them that childcare providers need to be paid a livable wage – the average income for a full-time early child care worker in the U.S. in 2015 was just $10.72 an hour.
  • Share with them that the cost of child care is out of reach for many working families in our state – including those who earn middle-class wages.
  • Let them know that investments in high-quality early education generate returns of over $8 for every $1 spent – who wouldn’t want that kind of return on their investment? 
  • Tell them that investing in children today is an investment in the future for all of us.

We can close the gap. But waiting until kindergarten is too late. We need to provide equal access right at the starting gate.

GROWING UP GRANITE

In New Hampshire there are 78,057 children age birth through five years; 67 percent of these children live in households where all available parents are currently working, and 21 percent of all New Hampshire children are part of low-income families. Source: Early Childhood Workforce Index 2016

It is widely agreed that the current early care and education system across states is woefully underfunded. The cost of services is out of reach for many working families, including those who earn middle-class wages. Let’s take a look at how that plays out here in New Hampshire. The information below comes from the Economic Policy Institute.

The cost of child care in New Hampshire:

  • The average annual cost of infant care in New Hampshire is $11,810 – that’s $984 per month.
  • New Hampshire is ranked 12th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for the most expensive infant care.
  • Infant care in New Hampshire is just $2,659 (18.4%) less than in-state tuition for a 4-year public college.
  • Infant care for one child would take up 14.4% of a typical family’s income in New Hampshire.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, child care is affordable if it costs no more than 10% of a family’s income. By this standard, only 30.3% of New Hampshire families can afford infant care.
  • Child care for a Granite State 4-year-old costs $9,457, or $788 each month.
  • Child care for two children – an infant and a 4-year-old – costs $21,267. That’s 67.8% more than average rent in New Hampshire.
  • A typical family in New Hampshire would have to spend 26.0% of their income on child care for an infant and a 4-year-old.
  • A minimum-wage worker in New Hampshire would need to work full time for 41 weeks, or from January to October, just to pay for child care for one infant.
  • In 6 out of 7 metropolitan areas in New Hampshire, more than 90% of childcare workers don’t make enough to afford the basic cost of living in their area.
  • A typical childcare worker in New Hampshire would have to spend 55.4% of their earnings to put their own child in infant care.
  • Meaningful child care reform that capped families’ childcare expenses at 10% of their income would expand New Hampshire’s economy by 0.9%. That’s $625.0 million of new economic activity.
  • A typical New Hampshire family with an infant could save $3,627 on childcare costs if we implemented this reform. This would free up 5.2% of their (post-child care) annual income to spend on other necessities.

Now that you have the facts, please take a few minutes to share it with others. Thank you!

Granite State Rumblings: Americans Want A Candidate Who Will Invest In Children

Public Opinion Shows Voters Strongly Favor Investments in Children & Youth

A new poll commissioned by the Children’s Leadership Council finds that a strong majority (63 percent) of Americans want more funding for programs that support children and young people. More than three in five adults strongly favor expanded spending to improve education, health and nutrition.

In this election year, most adults say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who commits to investing in effective child and youth well-being policies, according to a new national poll conducted by Hart Research on behalf of the Children’s Leadership Council. More than three in five adults representing every age, race, income and education level across the country, want the next president and Congress to spend more on nutrition, health and education programs for children, according to the poll findings. By overwhelming margins, Americans say the nation’s children would be better off if government did more to support parents and families, and, that they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who would commit to policies that advance children’s well-being, if elected. This is especially true of Millennials, regardless of party.

“Support for the well-being of our nation’s children has no boundaries,” said Randi Schmidt, executive director of the Children’s Leadership Council. “Adults of all stripes, and from every corner of the country, are sending a strong message to presidential candidates and to Congress that our children must come first.”

Those surveyed responded with particular enthusiasm to candidate commitments related to reducing child abuse, child poverty and hunger. These are followed by policies related to child health care coverage, college affordability, child care, and education.

Millennials overwhelmingly support programs aimed at ensuring children’s well-being, according to the poll findings, with three in four millennials (74 percent) saying there should be greater investments in such programs.

Key findings:

Overall government investments in child well-being

  • Support for greater government investments in children is particularly high among Americans age 18- 34 (74%), African Americans (75%), Hispanics (74%), and parents with children under age 18 (71%).
  • Eighty-three percent of Democrats and more than half (58%) of Republicans say the next president and Congress should invest more when it comes to meeting the needs of children.
  • Parents of children under age 18 say that America’s children would be better off if government did more to support parents and families by making education, child care, nutrition and children’s healthcare more affordable. The majority of adults, both parents and nonparents, support this statement, with 75 percent of women, and 64 percent of men responding affirmatively.

Child Poverty and Hunger

  • Both parents and nonparents equally (80%) say they are more likely to support a candidate who prioritizes reducing child poverty and hunger.

Child Abuse and Family Violence

  • Seventy-five percent of all adults surveyed say reducing child abuse and family violence is an especially compelling reason to support a candidate. Among Republicans, this position resonates particularly well, with more than 2 in 3 (67%) of Republicans saying they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who stakes out such a position.

Children’s Healthcare

  • Children’s health care is the top issue among African Americans, with 83 percent of respondents saying they would be more likely to support candidates who commit to preserving and improving health care coverage. Sixty-seven percent of all adults also would be more likely to support a candidate who makes children’s health care a priority.

Affordable College

  • 76 percent of parents with children under 18 say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who commits to making college more affordable, making it the second-most compelling reason among the policies tested, to support a candidate.
  • 66 percent of all respondents say they are more likely to support a candidate who focuses on making college more affordable, while 82 percent of African Americans and 81 percent of Democrats say such a commitment would draw their support.
  • For unmarried moms, parents over 35, college-educated parents, and those making more $75,000 a year, making college affordability a priority is the top reason to support a candidate.
  • Across all geographic and democratic groups, millennials are even more likely than older adults to support an increase in investment for children and youth.

Child Care Assistance and Early Childhood Education

  • Expanding child care assistance and early childhood education garners the most support from African Americans (77%) and Democrats (73%). Both of these groups are most likely to be compelled to vote for a candidate who commits to other learning opportunities, including expanding afterschool programs and summer learning opportunities.

Hart Research conducted the online survey between March 31 – April 6 to understand national sentiment regarding public investments in children and the role of government in improving child well-being. There were 2,050 adults, including 595 parents of children under the age of 18 from across the country, who participated in the survey.

The Children’s Leadership Council is a coalition of leading policy and advocacy organizations, (which includes Every Child Matters), that are working every day to improve the health, education and well-being of children and youth in order to prepare them for school, work, and life.

For more information, visit the Children’s Leadership Council at childrensleadershipcouncil.org.

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