For uninsured, vote is huge step forward

Contact: Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436 or (517) 410-5798

The following statement is from Gilda Z. Jacobs, president & CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, on the 4-0-1 vote Wednesday by the Senate Government Operations Committee to approve a substitute to HB 4714 (Medicaid expansion):

“This is a huge step forward for low-income uninsured adults in Michigan. Accepting federal dollars to provide needed health care to low-wage workers, unemployed parents and others will improve the health of hundreds of thousands in our state and increase Michigan’s competitiveness. It will reduce expensive and unnecessary emergency room treatment while saving dollars and providing more effective care. It’s hoped that the full Senate will quickly pass this plan when senators return next month.’’

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, formerly the Michigan League for Human Services, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy and research organization dedicated to economic opportunity for all.

Time to move the sales tax into the 21st century

A recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concludes that most state sales taxes, including Michigan’s, are ill-suited to a 21st century economy because states have not kept pace with such trends as the growth of the service sector and e-commerce.

The report recommends four steps that Michigan could take to modernize its sales and use taxes to ensure that there is adequate and stable funding for services that are vital to economic growth such as effective public schools, affordable higher education, adequate public safety, and supports for families struggling in low-wage jobs. They are a broadening of the sales tax to include more services, laws to increase the collection of taxes on out-of-state and Internet commerce, the extension of the sales tax to online products such as books, music and movies, and  closing tax loopholes for online travel companies. (more…)

Is Michigan a place for economic opportunity?

An eye-opening map in the New York Times this week shows Michigan looking like a few Southern states when it comes to “income mobility’’ — a startling realization for the state that’s often credited with birthing the middle class.

If you are born in the Detroit or Kalamazoo area and your family income falls in the bottom fifth of income, your chances are very slim of moving to the top fifth, a new study concludes.

On the “heat map,” where red shows little mobility and blue shows the most mobility, Michigan and parts of Ohio and Indiana resemble Arkansas and Alabama. (more…)

Bridge Magazine: In Michigan, a full-time job is no guarantee of good housing

The line began growing overnight, hundreds of low-income suburban Detroit residents hoping to secure one of 1,000 available subsidized housing vouchers. It stretched to more than a mile long and an estimated 5,000 people when doors to the Taylor Community Services Center were opened the morning of Jan. 12. July 23, 2013 — Bridge Magazine

Michigan’s minimum wage outdated — no longer keeps families out of poverty

Seventy-five years ago President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the first minimum wage bill, saying: “Our nation so richly endowed with natural resources and with a capable and industrious population should be able to devise ways and means of insuring to all our able-bodied working men and women a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”

In 2006, we raised Michigan’s minimum wage in three steps up to $7.40. After that, for the first time in many years, the minimum wage was high enough to bring a full-time working single parent with one child out of poverty.

Last year, the minimum wage no longer did that. A single parent with one child who works full time is once again below poverty level. This is because the minimum wage stayed level at $7.40—it does not have an annual adjustment for inflation. (more…)

How do we increase family economic security? We increase the minimum wage!

As they do every year, the Economic Policy Institute recently released their 2013 Family Budget Calculator. Unlike other measurements of economic security, such as the Federal Poverty Line, this calculator goes beyond giving us a rough idea of the income levels that separate abject poverty from modest poverty or moderate incomes.

Rather, the EPI calculator suggests the minimum income needed for a family to raise children in an economically secure environment.

Using EPI’s Family Budget Calculator, we estimate that a one-parent, one-child family living in Detroit would need an annual income of $49,356, or an hourly wage of $23.73, to live modestly but economically secure. In rural Michigan, this same family would need an annual income of $44,790, or an hourly wage of $21.53.

A Detroit household consisting of two parents and two children would need an annual income of $66,896 to be economically secure. If both parents worked full-time, an hourly wage of $16.08 would allow them to earn this modest annual income. If this same family lived in rural Michigan, their annual income would need to reach at least $62,058, and the parents’ hourly wage would need to be at least $14.92. (more…)

Drug testing fails the test

Last week, Utah released preliminary data on their year-old drug testing policy for recipients of cash assistance. As Utah is my home state and as the Michigan Legislature is considering drug testing proposals, I was very interested in seeing the results.

Utah was one of the first states to implement a suspicion-based drug testing policy for cash assistance – one in which all applicants are required to be screened for substance abuse issues and then must take a drug test if the screening indicates an issue may exist. Here is how the numbers came out: 4,425 people were screened for drug use, 394 were then required to take a drug test and nine people ended up testing positive for drugs. That’s right, nine. The cost to the state of Utah to identify the 0.2% of those screened that ended up testing positive for drugs? $26,391

Oklahoma had a similar experience. In the first four months that they implemented their suspicion-based policy – about 1,300 people were screened, 340 of those were referred to drug testing and 29 people were denied benefits as a result of it all – 2%. The cost for the four months? $74,000 (more…)

MLive: Work in Progress: Long-term unemployed risk dropping out of the workforce, losing viability

The effects of joblessness gradually filter down to the worker who stays unemployed.

At 20 weeks, her state unemployment insurance will run out. At 27 weeks, she’ll be counted by the government as long-term unemployed, along with more than 4 million people nationally. With each passing month, she’s considered less employable by recruiters. Her federal unemployment insurance runs out at the 49-week mark. July 16, 2013 — MLive

Michigan Radio: Child abuse is on the rise in Michigan, economic conditions might be to blame

Child abuse is on the rise in Michigan.

That’s not just opinion or speculation.

As recently as 2006, Michigan’s rate of child abuse and neglect was below the national average.

Today, it is more than 50% higher than the national rate. July 16, 2013 — Michigan Radio

MLive: Work in Progress: Long-term unemployed dropping out of the work force, losing viability

The effects of joblessness gradually filter down to the worker who stays unemployed.

At 20 weeks, her state unemployment insurance will run out. At 27 weeks, she’ll be counted by the government as long-term unemployed, along with more than 4 million people nationally. With each passing month, she’s considered less employable by recruiters. Her federal unemployment insurance runs out at the 49-week mark. July 15, 2013 — MLive

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