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Granite State Rumbling: Every Child Matters NH’s Goals For 2017

Now that the elections and Thanksgiving are in our rearview mirror, our attention turns to the holidays of December and the hope of what a new year will bring.

2016 has been a long year for the advocates, organizations, and agencies across the state and across the country who have worked tirelessly to ensure that basic needs are met for our most vulnerable populations. It has been an even longer and much harder year for the children and families who continue to feel the effects of a shredded safety net and an opiate crisis that shows no mercy on those who are afflicted with the disease and the innocent victims caught in the current.

We have watched more of our children slip into poverty, go to bed hungry, and wonder where that bed is going to be tomorrow night. And as December’s cold winds blow through the state we now fear for those who have no place warm to escape them.

The Thanksgiving break afforded me the time to spend time with loved ones, eat some great desserts, watch some football, and reflect on the feelings of frustration and anger I have felt lately. I have regrouped and am now ready to get back to work. That work means playing offense instead of playing defense (stealing some football terminology).

We have gotten pretty good at playing defense when it comes to addressing the difficult challenges that face our state. The primary obstacle we face is not related to a lack of goodwill, but rather to the fundamental way we understand the nature of the problems we face. More times than not, we merely respond to symptoms of a given problem [defense] and don’t pay adequate attention to the problem that is producing the symptoms [offense]. All of which puts the cart before the horse and keeps us from truly moving forward.

Take, for instance, the growing issue of child poverty. When we think about helping those in need (“giving back to those less fortunate,” as the popular adage goes), many of us usually focus on acts of charitable giving. After all it is the season of giving. In the malls we find Christmas trees with cards on them asking for a gift for a child in need. At the grocery store are pre-packaged groceries that we can purchase for a family in need. Charity in its many forms tries to help people who are in need, which is certainly important and worthy of our best efforts.

But even more important is figuring out why people are in need in the first place, and then working toward alleviating the root causes of such need (it’s one thing to give food to a person who is hungry, but it’s another thing entirely to eliminate the reasons they are hungry in the first place). While we can of course celebrate acts of charity that take place in our community, the ultimate goal isn’t simply about responding to symptoms, but abolishing the problems that produce the symptoms.

So, don’t you think that at a time when we see the income gap widening, ninety-five percent of the recovery gains since 2009 going to the top 1%, over ¼ of all jobs in the U.S. paying below poverty wages, and child well-being indicators falling in our state, now is the right time for all of us to rally around a set of common goals that will strengthen families and put them on a course leading to economic security?

Take a look at Every Child Matters’ 5 priority areas in the section below. Is there an area that catches your attention? Give us a call or send us an e-mail and we’ll give you some ideas about how you can help advocate. Your voice is especially important now.  

Many New Hampshire kids are doing fine – but many are not.

1. Equal Opportunity:  Children remain more likely to be poor than any other age group, with more than one in ten in poverty in New Hampshire in 2015 (10.7 percent), and the gap between the haves and have-nots continues to grow.

2. Family and Work:  The Census Bureau data shows 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. One in five Granite Staters are trying to get by with incomes this low. 

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 for a 4-year-old, it’s more than $21,250.

3. Access to Education:  New Hampshire currently does not have a state-funded preschool program. Only 4 percent of 3-year-olds and 6 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in a public preschool program. A year of tuition for an instate student at the University of New Hampshire costs $16,017 plus room, board, books and incidentals $27,000+. The maximum Pell grant award covers only $5,775.

4. Children’s Healthcare:  12,000 New Hampshire children were without health insurance in 2014 and 94,153 children in New Hampshire were enrolled in Medicaid in 2014, increasing 15.1% from 2013. 

5. Children’s Safety: In 2014, New Hampshire had 15,184 total referrals for child abuse and neglect. Of those, 9,289 reports were referred for investigation.

In 2014, there were 646 victims of abuse or neglect in New Hampshire, a rate of 2.4 per 1,000 children, decreasing 21.4% from 2013. Of these children, 79.1% were neglected, 8.7% were physically abused, and 15.5% were sexually abused.

Equal Opportunity. Individual outcomes will always vary. But when every child gets a fair shot at success, America’s families, communities and the economy as a whole will benefit. Lifting children from poverty and removing discrimination or other barriers to development and achievement are a key government function. As noted by the eminent researcher and author Robert Putnam, denial of equal opportunity is a dagger to the heart of the American Dream.

Family and Work. Stagnant incomes and workplace practices that pit being a parent against being a provider strain families and harm kids. Working and having a family shouldn’t be so hard. Paid sick and family medical leave, access to affordable childcare and better incomes can help provide the economic security and flexibility that parents need to build their careers and support their families

Access to Education.  Research demonstrates that 80 percent of a child’s brain development occurs between the ages of zero and five. Yet little is invested at the federal level in early childhood education. All kids should have access to high-quality preschool regardless of parental income or where they live. Later in life, a teenager willing to work hard in college to get skills needed for success should not be blocked due to race and should not be burdened with a level of debt more crushing than that endured by any previous generation.

Children’s Healthcare.  More children have access to health care than ever due to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) and children’s protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While not perfect, these laws prohibit insurance company discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions, require insurance companies to cover child preventive care, and help ensure families won’t go broke when their child gets sick. Proposed policy changes must detail how children’s protections will be maintained or enhanced.

Children’s Safety. Every child needs a safe environment in their home, school and neighborhood. Preventing child abuse and neglect, as well as minimizing gun violence, a leading killer of children and teens, are top priorities for voters.

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: 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: 4th of July History & Trivia and The Decline Of Child Well Being In NH

Does this year seem to be flying by to you too? This coming Monday is the 4th of July. Happy Independence Day!

In honor of our great country and her history I have put together some Independence Day fun facts, history and trivia.

On July the 4th, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress. Thereafter, the 13 colonies embarked on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. This most American of holidays is traditionally celebrated with parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues across the country. As you head out to enjoy your holiday celebration, take a minute to think about how much you really know about what we are celebrating.

4th of July History & Trivia –

  • The major objection to being ruled by Britain was taxation without representation. The colonists had no say in the decisions of English Parliament.
  • In May, 1776, after nearly a year of trying to resolve their differences with England, the colonies sent delegates to the Second Continental Congress. Finally, in June, admitting that their efforts were hopeless; a committee was formed to compose the formal Declaration of Independence. Headed by Thomas Jefferson, the committee also included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Philip Livingston and Roger Sherman. On June 28, 1776, Thomas Jefferson presented the first draft of the declaration to Congress.
  • Betsy Ross, according to legend, sewed the first American flag in May or June 1776, as commissioned by the Congressional Committee.
  • Independence Day was first celebrated in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776.
  • The Liberty Bell sounded from the tower of Independence Hall on July 8, 1776, summoning citizens to gather for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence by Colonel John Nixon.
  • June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress, looking to promote national pride and unity, adopted the national flag. “Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”
  • The word ‘patriotism’ comes from the Latin patria, which means ‘homeland’ or ‘fatherland.’
  • The first public Fourth of July event at the White House occurred in 1804.
  • Before cars ruled the roadway, the Fourth of July was traditionally the most miserable day of the year for horses, tormented by all the noise and by the boys and girls who threw firecrackers at them.
  • The first Independence Day celebration west of the Mississippi occurred at Independence Creek and was celebrated by Lewis and Clark in 1805.
  • On June 24, 1826, Thomas Jefferson sent a letter to Roger C. Weightman, declining an invitation to come to Washington, D.C., to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. It was the last letter that Jefferson, who was gravely ill, ever wrote.
  • The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence did not sign at the same time, nor did they sign on July 4, 1776. The official event occurred on August 2, 1776, when 50 men signed it.
  • Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on Independence Day, July 4, 1826.
  • Thomas McKean was the last to sign in January, 1777.
  • The origin of Uncle Sam probably began in 1812, when Samuel Wilson was a meat packer who provided meat to the US Army. The meat shipments were stamped with the initials, U.S. Someone joked that the initials stood for “Uncle Sam”. This joke eventually led to the idea of Uncle Sam symbolizing the United States government.
  • In 1941, Congress declared the 4th of July a federal legal holiday. It is one of the few federal holidays that have not been moved to the nearest Friday or Monday.
  • As leaders in the revolutionary cause, New Hampshire delegates received the honor of being the first to vote for the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

Be safe if traveling! Enjoy the holiday!


GROWING UP GRANITE 

We want to take YOU & the KIDS Out to the Ball Game!

Every Child Matters in NH and MomsRising have teamed up to take your family to the Fisher Cats!

Be our guest at the NH Fisher Cats vs. Binghamton Mets game on Sunday afternoon, July 10th.

We’ve got our hands on a limited number of tickets to this game and we’re giving them away for FREE!

All you have to do is SHARE our Every Child Matters NH FaceBook post or COMMENT on our FaceBook page as to why access to affordable, quality childcare is important will get FREE tickets to the game! * A limited quantity of free tickets are available.

The best part is that any kids who come to the game with an Every Child Matters ticket will be invited to go onto the field with the Fisher Cats and Fungo and Friends before the National Anthem for a fun high-five tunnel. PLUS we’ll draw the name of one lucky kiddo who will be able to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the start of the game!

We’ve also got great gifts for the kids and an AWESOME Raffle Prize which will include all the tools you need for an awesome Family Game Night at home.

See YOU at the Ball Park!


An editorial from Foster’s Daily Democrat:

Reason for concern from Kids Count results

The recent Kids Count Data Book showed declines in how children are faring in New Hampshire and Maine and point to areas of concern on which the public and policy-makers need to focus some attention.

The bad news is New Hampshire and Maine have declined in the state ranking of child well-being in an annual national study by Kids Count. The good news is both states remain in enviable spots compared to the rest of the country.

This annual survey by the Annie E. Casey Foundation is one of the best measures of how young Americans are doing, and its Kids Count Data Book should serve as a useful guide for focusing public policy.

So how are we doing?

The report looks at the overall picture, then breaks it down into four core areas.

  • Overall, our kids’ well-being put NH at No. 4 among states. It had been No. 2 for 10 years, so this bears watching. Maine was No. 17; it had been No. 12.
  • Economic well-being ranked No. 7 for NH, while Maine was No. 23.
  • Education ranked No. 4 for NH this year, No. 15 for Maine.
  • Health ranked No. 25 for NH, Maine was No. 20.
  • Family and Community ranked NH No. 1, while Maine ranked No. 9.

Despite the view that the area has recovered from the Great Recession, there still are an estimated 34,000 New Hampshire kids living in poverty, according to the report. This is 4 percent more than in 2008.

New Hampshire State Sen. David Watters noted in a recent news article that 36 percent of schoolkids in Strafford County qualify for reduced or free lunches due to their families’ low incomes. It is not a good thing when more than a third of the families here are considered in need of aid.

In Maine, an estimated 19 percent of kids live in poverty. This drops to 14 percent in neighboring York County, one of Maine’s most affluent areas.

Amy Bourgault, state director of the NH Kids Count division, said one of the top concerns is children’s access to nutritional food. Good nutrition sets students up for success and is the reason why ensuring they get good lunches is so important.

Nutritional issues play a part in the NH overall score decline, as the state Health ranking dropped from 17th to 25th place. Bourgault noted they are looking at the root causes of this.

A major takeaway from the report is the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

As it noted; “More than two decades of research make it clear that growing up in a low-income family can have profound effects on children … poverty can impede their cognitive, social and emotional development and contribute to poor health.”

This begins a downward spiral that has implications and costs for all of us as in more high school dropouts, more teen pregnancies, less income potential and poor health.

The report noted that better socioeconomic status gives huge advantages to kids from those families.

“Advantages that start at birth continue to accumulate as kids grow up. By the time children enter kindergarten, the children of higher-income, college-educated parents already have an enormous head start,” said the report.

All is not lost for those growing up disadvantaged, however. The report notes that kids are resilient and can improve their future prospects. But the odds are stacked against them, which is why government programs such as health care, food aid and early education are so important.

Dover’s Sen. Watters is a big proponent of improving pre-kindergarten programs and notes that New Hampshire is one of only seven states that don’t provide pre-school for kids. He is right on in this regard, if we want to remain among the best states to raise healthy children.

For those interested in reading more about the report’s finding, go to

http://www.nhkidscount.org/sites/default/files/2016%20KCDB_FINAL.pdf.

The Alliance For Retired Americans Blasts Paul Ryan’s “Better Way” Plan

(HTTP://ABETTERWAY.SPEAKER.GOV)

(HTTP://ABETTERWAY.SPEAKER.GOV)

Ryan’s “Better Way” for Health Care Would be Dangerous for Seniors and Inferior to Current Medicare System

Seniors Would Have to Wait Until 67 for Coverage 

The following statement was issued today by Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, in response to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s release of “A Better Way” health care plan: 

“U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan calls his health care plan ‘A Better Way,’ but it is far inferior to the current system and dangerous for Americans.

“Seniors should not be misled. The Speaker wants to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67 and change the program away from guaranteed benefits to a system of ‘premium support.’

“Premium support is a paltry substitute for the earned health care benefits that Americans have paid into throughout their lives and which they have a right to once they turn 65. 

“Ryan also wants to double down on one of the weakest parts of the current Medicare system. He would have Medicare adopt the so-called ‘competitive structure proven successful by Medicare Part D.’ Of course Part D has done nothing to rein in skyrocketing prescription drug prices for taxpayers or retirees and includes unnecessary giveaways for private insurance companies.

“If the Ryan plan were to be adopted, seniors would pay through the nose – with both their physical health and their financial health.”

Granite State Rumblings: NH Rankings On Poverty And Opportunity

Workers protest poverty wages. Image by )OFL communications FLIKR)

Workers protest poverty wages. Image by (OFL communications FLIKR)

Each year I share with you The Center for American Progress’ release of its “State of the States” report, by Rachel West and Jackie Odum.

Here is what is contained in the Executive Summary:

NH Poverty Stat 2016Poverty and Opportunity in the States: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly evaluates progress toward cutting poverty and increasing opportunity by tracking 15 key indicators in each state. These indicators can help state policymakers better understand the areas in which states are improving the situation of struggling families, as well as the areas in which they must do more to promote families’ well-being. The report ranks states according to how successfully they are reducing poverty and inequality, improving the quality of jobs and education, promoting family stability and strength, and ensuring family economic security.

As this report underscores, policy matters when it comes to addressing poverty and improving economic opportunity. State policymakers have a host of tools at their disposal to bring about change that makes a meaningful difference in the lives of American families.

This year’s report highlights examples of commendable and innovative steps that states have recently taken to support and strengthen families. Even as national progress has been stalled by a gridlocked Congress, many states have forged ahead—raising wages for low-paid workers, creating family-friendly work environments through paid leave policies, reducing barriers to employment and public assistance for families involved in the justice system, and connecting youth to high-quality work opportunities through apprenticeships, to name just a few examples.

But while policy can vastly improve lives, policy decisions can also shut the doors of opportunity or reverse families’ hard-earned gains altogether. In addition to commending states’ strides to combat poverty and to promote opportunity, this report also shines a light on recent actions by policymakers that may hinder or harm already-struggling families in their states.

Developments in the states over the past year—the good, the bad, and the ugly—demonstrate how far-reaching and consequential state-level policymaking can be. By taking a hard look at where their state is succeeding and where it is falling short, advocates, lawmakers, and residents can prioritize future action that would dramatically reduce poverty and increase well-being in their backyard and beyond.

Also be sure to check out this great – Interactive: Restoring Shared Prosperity from our friends at TalkPoverty.org.

GROWING UP GRANITE

Here’s the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in New Hampshire.

Population of New Hampshire in 2014: 1,207,584
Number of people in New Hampshire living in Poverty 2014: 117,983

In 2014, the official poverty rate in the United States was 14.8 percent. That means that more than one in seven people, or 46.7 million Americans, lived below the official federal poverty level—about $24,000 per year for a family of four in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In New Hampshire, the poverty rate was 9.2 percent, ranking it 1 among states in the country. While the number 1 ranking sounds great, keep in mind that number 1 translates to just under 118,000 Granite Staters living in the throes of poverty.

Each year, the Center for American Progress track states’ progress toward the goals of cutting poverty and increasing opportunity by publishing their annual “State of the States” report, which examines a broad range of indicators of economic security and opportunity. These indicators help us better understand the areas in which the situation is improving for America’s struggling families—and those in which New Hampshire must do more work to boost families’ well-being.

The following is a summary of where New Hampshire ranks according to the indicators in the 2015 report.

Where New Hampshire is doing Best:
Rank in Poverty Rate: 1
Rank in Child Poverty Rate: 2

Rank in Children Living Apart From Parents: 2

Where New Hampshire is doing Worst:
Rank in Gender Wage Gap: 40
Rank in Unemployment Insurance Coverage: 36
Rank in Affordable and Available Housing: 34

Rank Poverty and Inequality
1 Poverty Rate: 9.2 percent of people in New Hampshire had incomes below the poverty line – about $24,000 for a family of 4 – in 2014.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2014, Table B17001.

2 Child Poverty Rate: 12.5 percent of children under age 18 in related families in New Hampshire had incomes below the poverty line in 2014.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2014, Table B17006.

5 Income Inequality: The share of income going to the top 20 percent of households in New Hampshire was 12.3 times that going to the bottom 20 percent of households in 2014.

Source: Analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2014, Table B19082.

 

Rank Jobs and Education
7 High School Graduation Rate: 87 percent of high school students in New Hampshire graduated on time at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data.

16 Higher Education Attainment Rate: 45.1 percent of young adults ages 25 to 34 in New Hampshire had an associate’s degree or higher from 2011 to 2013.

Source: Analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2013 3-year estimate

6 Disconnected Youth: 11 percent of youth ages 18 to 24 in New Hampshire were not in school or working in 2013.

Source: Kids Count Data Center, Population Reference Bureau, analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2013.

7 Unemployment Rate: 4.3 percent of all workers in New Hampshire were unemployed in 2014.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics, 2014.

40 Gender Wage Gap: Among full-time, year round workers in New Hampshire in 2014, women’s median earnings were 75.6 percent of men’s earnings.

Sources: Analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2014, Table S0201.

 

Rank Family Stability and Strength
2 Children Living Apart from Parents: 3 children in New Hampshire lived in foster care for every 1,000 children under age 18 in 2013.

Source: Kids Count Data Center, Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System.

2 Teen Birth Rate: There were 12.6 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19 in 2013 in New Hampshire.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Vital Statistics System.

 

Rank Family Economic Security
29 Lack of Health Insurance Coverage: 24.1 percent of people under age 65 and below 138 percent of the poverty line in New Hampshire did not have health insurance at any time in 2014.

Source: Analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2014, Table C27016.

3 Hunger and Food Security: 10 percent of households in New Hampshire were food insecure on average from 2012 to 2014, meaning that at some point during the year, they experienced difficulty providing enough food due to a lack of money or resources.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Household Food Security in the United States in 2014.

36 Unemployment Insurance Coverage: 22.5 percent of unemployed workers in New Hampshire were helped by unemployment insurance in 2014.

Sources: Analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2013

34 Affordable and Available Housing: New Hampshire had 59 apartments or other units that were affordable and available for every 100 renter households with very low incomes in 2014. Very low-income households are those with incomes at or below half of median income in the metropolitan or other area where they live.

Sources: Analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2013; National Low Income Housing Center, Housing Spotlight 5 (1) (2015).

3 Savings and Assets: 3.5 percent of households in New Hampshire used high-cost, high-risk forms of credit to make ends meet during 2013. This includes payday loans, automobile title loans, refund anticipation loans, rent to own, and pawning.

Source: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, 2013

Granite State Rumblings: Putting Children And Families First in the Primary

The Iowa caucus is over and on Tuesday, February 9th the voters in New Hampshire will have their say on the candidates they feel will best lead their party to victory in November. This primary season has seen candidates come and go, different issues take center stage, and viewpoints change.

Through it all, the staff of Every Child Matters in New Hampshire has followed the candidates across the state, helped raise the issues that are important to children and families in the state and across the country, and asked every major candidate a question on those issues. We have participated in round table discussions, Conversations with the Candidates, town hall events and forums, held weekly Twitter Chats about the issues with our partner MomsRising, and worked to educate potential voters about the process and the issues.

During this last week before the First in the Nation NH Primary, the candidates will be back in the state. Here are several things that you can do to continue to raise the issues.

  • Please take a look at our Every Child Matters Digital Dialogue – which is a collection of brief snapshots for each of the two major parties’ presidential candidates – a sample record of what they’ve been saying and doing on some issues that we at Every Child Matters have worked on for years.
  • Then continue the conversation by:

to ask a question about their position on an issue that is important to you.

You also have 2 more chances to hear what almost all of the candidates have to say first hand.

On Thursday evening February 4th, the 3 Democratic Candidates will participate in a debate at UNH in Durham hosted by MSNBC. The Union Leader is giving voters a chance to submit a question that they would like to have asked of the candidates. We also encourage you to join us in tweeting questions for the candidates to moderators @chucktodd, @maddow. And don’t forget to watch the debate live on MSNBC at 9 pm. on Thursday, February 4th.

On Saturday, February 6th, some (number is still undetermined) of the Republican candidates will participate in a debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester hosted by ABC News. Join us in tweeting debate moderators @DavidMuir and @MarthaRaddatz with questions for candidates.

All of these things will help you to make an educated decision about the candidates and your issues when you go to vote on Tuesday, February 9th.

GROWING UP GRANITE

Come to YWCA NH in Manchester this Saturday, February 6th from 11 am – 2 pm as we co-host the first NH Primary Family Fun Day! FREE FUN for the whole FAMILY! Join us in counting down the waning days of this Primary Season!

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Leo W Gerard: One Percenters Stuff Their Pumpkin Pie Holes

This Thanksgiving, in dining rooms across America, the turkey will be smaller, the stuffing more meager, the pumpkin pie sliced thinner. Gratitude will be given. But roiling just below the surface, for far too many families, will be economic anxiety.

The vast majority of working Americans haven’t seen a real raise in 35 years.Meanwhile, every year, their health care costs rise. Their employers eliminate pensions. And their kids struggle with rising college or technical school tuition and debt. Workers worry whether they will ever be able to pay the bills.

By contrast, on the other side of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the richest 1 percent are supersizing their feasts. For example, three families will spend $45,000 – each – for Marie Antoinette-style meals, gold flakes and all, at the Old Homestead Steakhouse in New York City. That’s up by $10,000 from the restaurant’s Thanksgiving fare for eight last year. It’s more, for one meal, than the average American worker earns in a year.

The 1 percent can spend $45,000 for a Thanksgiving supper because they’re gobbling up virtually all of the income from workers’ productivity increases. And now they’ve launched a new assault on workers. It’s a lawsuit called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA). The 1 percent hopes it will prevent public service workers like teachers from joining together to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions. If the $45,000-Thanksgiving-dinner crew wins the case, they’ll go after private-sector labor organizations next. They intend to gorge themselves until there’s nothing left for workers.

This is what a $75-a-pound turkey struts like.

This is what a $75-a-pound turkey struts like.

The Marie Antoinette $45,000 Thanksgiving includes two turkeys. Because when would one, 20-pound free-range, organically raised bird at $75 a pound ever be enough?

The Friedrichs case is about power. Individual workers don’t bargain for raises with gigantic multinational corporations and government agencies. They beg.

But when workers band together and seek raises as a team, they gain for themselves the power necessary to negotiate. That’s intolerable to 1 percenters. And that’s why they’re backing the Friedrichs case – to seize that negotiating power from workers.

Defending their right to collectively bargain are public service workers ­– the likes of firemen, teachers, social workers and public health nurses. The labor organizations these workers belong to try to ensure that they receive living wages and decent retirement benefits.

But just as importantly, public service workers also use their collective voice to negotiate in the public interest, including improving response times for paramedics and lowering social worker caseloads to allow adequate time to investigate child abuse allegations.

Public school teachers, who spend an average of $500 a year out of their own pockets for classroom supplies, routinely bargain to secure the smaller class sizes that parents want, to protect the recess breaks that elementary students need and to preserve arts and music education.

In addition, significantly, a study last spring showed that more than half of teachers have used their own money to help students experiencing crises, to get them clothing or to feed them.

The Marie Antoinette $45,000 Thanksgiving includes gravy made with Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, which goes for $4,900 a bottle. Because when would $9 worth of cooking sherry ever be good enough?

The paychecks of all workers are on the line in the Friedrichs case because if the 1 percent succeeds in stripping rights from public service workers, it will go after those of everyone else.

This creates great economic risks, not just for union members, but for non-union workers and their children.

As it is now, a union member earns, on average, $200 more a week and receives better benefits than a worker who is not in a labor organization. If the 1 percenters succeed in robbing private sector as well as public service workers of their bargaining rights, then the wealthy will gain clout to eliminate that union advantage and eventually to suppress all wages.

When union members lose, all workers lose.  That’s because their ability to secure better wages pressures employers whose workers aren’t organized to raise their pay too. In addition, a study released earlier this year showed that the children of union members as well as the children of non-union members who live in high union density communities experience greater upward mobility.

That means entire communities benefit from the work of labor organizations. And entire communities would suffer if the 1 percent can weaken or destroy them.

The Marie Antoinette $45,000 Thanksgiving includes whipped sweet potatoes festooned with $1,600-an-ounce Royal Osetra caviar. Because when would the red-light-special, $115-an-ounce can of fish eggs ever be acceptable?

Providing the big bucks to push the Friedrichs case is the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), which is bankrolled by 1 percenters and right-wing organizations. Its name is significant. It wants to isolate workers, render them individuals rather than members of teams acting concertedly to win benefits for all.

The name of the group opposing CIR is noteworthy as well. It is America Works Together. It supports workers’ right to jointly seek advancement of all members of the group. Of course, labor organizations like the National Education Association (NEA), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), are members of America Works Together.

But the coalition also includes civil rights, faith, legal and health organizations.Among them are the Alliance for a Just Society, Coalition on Human Needs, Interfaith Worker Justice and The Main Street Alliance.

America Works Together is an alliance of alliances advocating for the right of American workers to form alliances. It’s a symbol of the idea it supports – that community creates power.

The Marie Antoinette $45,000 Thanksgiving final course is pumpkin ice cream decked with 24-carat gold flakes and a $4,200 bottle of private reserve rum-infused eggnog sauce.

That’s dessert for the 1 percent.

The 99 percent is seeking just deserts before the U.S. Supreme Court so that workers will retain the right to organize and collectively bargain for wages that will enable them to provide not a garish Marie Antoinette meal but a simple Norman RockwellThanksgiving for their families.

 

Big Banks: Paying Billions (of Borrowed Money) to Stockholders

NASDAQ Watch Photo by Kowloonese used under CreativeCommons license via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Kowloonese; used by CreativeCommons license via Wikimedia Commons


The “new economy” in a nutshell:
full-time employees need government assistance because their wages are so low. Businesses are shrinking, not growing. And corporations are borrowing money to pay it out to stockholders… because, well, that’s what the system is designed to reward.

The more I look, the more I see it. The same pattern, almost everywhere. It’s not limited to just a few rogue companies. It’s not limited to just a few industries.

And it’s not getting any better.

Here’s the view, from the financial sector.

Remember that study showing that almost one-third of bank tellers receive food stamps, Medicaid or other public assistance? The authors calculated that taxpayers pick up the tab for almost $900 million in government aid – just to bank tellers – each year. That study didn’t break those costs out by particular employer, but…

— — — —

Bank Teller Counting Money for Customer --- Image by © Duncan Smith/Corbis via Flickr

© Duncan Smith/Corbis via Flickr. Used under CreativeCommons license.

According to Glassdoor, Bank of America tellers receive an average wage of $12 per hour – or, just about poverty-line wages for a hypothetical full-time employee supporting a family of four.

And the corporation just announced another set of layoffs, bringing the total to

  • about 14,300 jobs eliminated in the past year
  • about 69,000 jobs eliminated in the past five years.

But owners of the bank’s common stock are doing OK. So far this year, the corporation has distributed $3.1 billion to shareholders, through dividends and stock buybacks. And there will be even more money going to stockholders in December.

Can’t help noticing, though… Bank of America has issued a lot of bonds this year – more than $25 billion. Which means the corporation now has more than $270 billion in long-term debt that it has to pay off between now and 2047.

Yes, Bank of America is borrowing money at the same time it’s paying money out to stockholders.

(Which, yes, is sort of like running up your credit card to buy Christmas presents for people who already have everything.)

Wondering how stock prices are affected by the amount of money paid to shareholders?  Last year, Bank of America announced it would increase dividends and start buybacks – but then discovered an accounting mistake and had to withdraw those plans. And stock prices fell by 6.3%.

Want to know why corporate executives care so very much about short-term stock prices?  Look at the way Bank of America compensates its CEO. On the 13th of every month, Brian Moynihan receives the cash equivalent of 17,747 shares of common stock. In August, the per-share price was $17.62; for 17,747 shares, that works out to a payment of $312,702. In September, the per-share price was $16.04; that works out to $284,662. In October, the per-share price was only $15.52; that works out to $275,433. Don’t you think CEO Moynihan notices, when his monthly payment drops by ten or twenty thousand dollars?

But there’s good news for him: this month – after that latest set of layoffs was announced – the per-share price is back up above $17.  (Even though the Bank is $270 billion in debt and its credit ratings are, ahem, less-than-stellar… and it borrowed almost another $3 billion since CEO Moynihan’s October payment.)

— — — —

bankerAccording to Glassdoor, J.P. Morgan bank tellers also receive an average wage of $12 per hour… which is still, yes, about the poverty line for a hypothetical full-time employee trying to support a family of four.

And the corporation is, ahem, “cutting costs” by eliminating another 5,000 jobs. (Last year, they cut 7,900 jobs.)

But… stockholders are doing OK. The corporation just raised its dividend and is buying back $6.4 billion worth of its own stock. (That’s in addition to almost $18 billion in buybacks between 2010 and 2013.)

And CEO Jamie Dimon just got tagged as “the Best Big Bank CEO, Measured by Shareholder Returns.” Between buybacks and stock dividends, Dimon has “generated a total shareholder return of 119.5%” in the last decade.

Even though… can’t help noticing… J.P. Morgan had, at last report, $434.4 billion in long-term debt (which was an increase of $8.3 billion from the previous quarter). And it will be paying off debt through 2049.

I’m sure somebody at JP Morgan can explain why it makes sense to pay billions out to stockholders at the same time the corporation is borrowing billions. (And I’m sure somebody at the Federal Reserve Bank can explain why regulators approved this plan.)

And yes, folks high up the corporate ladder are doing OK, too. Their compensation includes mechanisms like restricted stock units and stock appreciation rights, which ensure they’re paying attention to share prices.  For instance, Managing Director Mary Erdoes just received stock appreciation rights equal to 200,000 shares of JP Morgan stock… on a day when the stock closed at $67.39 a share.   (Yep, some people get paid according to how high the stock price goes.)

Meanwhile… 5,000 JP Morgan employees will be looking for new jobs… and employees who still have their jobs get poverty wages and need government benefits to make ends meet.

— — — —

US states by poverty rate

States by 2013 poverty rate

And I’m betting that if I looked, most of the other Big Banks would show this same paying-low-wages-to-employees while cutting-rather-than-expanding-the-business while borrowing-against-future-revenues so they can pay-more-money-to-stockholders pattern.

It’s not just a few employers.

It’s not just a few industries.

Borrowing money in order to pay it to shareholders is the same basic thing Bain Capital was doing, back before journalists started writing about it, when Mitt Romney ran for President.

Only, this is on a bigger scale.

These are corporations that employ hundreds of thousands of people. And they’re borrowing against future revenue, in order to pay stockholders today.

While their executives rake in millions in compensation.

And their employees need government assistance just to get by.

— — — —

Read my last post, “McDonalds: Paying Billions (of Borrowed Money) to Stockholders” here.

Read my series about Verizon as a case study of what’s wrong with the economy, starting here.

 

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