Could you buy your groceries on just $42 per week?

Last week was 2014’s National Week of Action, or Economic Security Week, organized by the Progressive States Network.

During this week, legislators across the nation participated in events and activities that lift up a shared progressive vision for economic security in America. In our state, Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, representing Wayne County, were two of the legislators who stepped up to take the minimum wage grocery challenge, purchasing their groceries on just $42.

While this may have been a project for our state legislators, it is a way of life for many Michiganders. With the state’s minimum wage set at $7.40, many people are unable to make ends meet and provide the very most basic of needs for their families, such as food and housing. In fact, according to the Making Ends Meet report released last month, in Wayne county, a single adult must make $11.64 per hour in order to meet their most basic needs, and that is without any dependents to care for.

The Michigan League for Public Policy participated in an event held to raise awareness of the economic insecurity throughout our state on Tuesday, April 8 – Equal Pay Day. I was able to join with state Sens. Virgil Smith and Hoon-Yung Hopgood, as well as Mothering Justice and minimum wage mothers, to call attention to the fact that regardless of what county in Michigan you reside in, there is not a single county where a family of any type can support themselves on minimum wage alone.

This is especially significant as a female earner, who on average earns $0.74 for every dollar a man earns ($0.67 for African American women and $0.54 for Hispanic women), as highlighted in a new fact sheet on Pay Equity.

It has become clear that our current minimum wage is not enough and we must act to do more to raise our families out of poverty.

To learn more about efforts to raise the minimum wage in Michigan, visit Raise Michigan.

Shannon Nobles 

 

A Closer Look at the Governor’s FY 2015 Budget for the Department of Community Health

Full report in PDF

The governor’s budget recommends total funding for DCH of $17.4 billion, including $2.9 billion in state General Fund dollars, an increase of approximately 3% over the current year adjusted appropriation of $16.9 billion. The bulk of the funding is for the state’s Medicaid and Healthy Michigan Plan programs (74%), followed by mental health and substance use disorder services (18%).

The budget for the Department of Community Health is the state’s largest, growing by over 60% between Fiscal Years 2005 and 2014. Of note, is that the state General Fund investment has only increased 13% over the FY 2005 appropriation. This year, federal funds make up nearly 69% of the DCH budget.

The FY 15 budget includes many positive recommendations including full-year funding for the Healthy Michigan Plan, continued expansion of Healthy Kids Dental, continuation of half of the primary care rate increase, funding to begin implementation of the Mental Health and Wellness Commission recommendations, restoration of funding for senior meals and services, to name a few.

However, there have been troubling shortfalls identified in the Medicaid health plan services as well as in the public mental health system. Also troubling is the acknowledgement in the budget of the shortfall in the Health Insurance Claims Tax with no recommendation to resolve it. These funds are used to match federal funds to provide Medicaid services.

In addition, we continue to be concerned about the practice of taking ongoing program funding and arbitrarily reclassifying all or part of it as “one-time” funding as has been done with graduate medical education and several other programs over the last several years.

Details on specific Executive Budget recommendations follow:

Medicaid: Approximately one in every five Michigan residents is enrolled in Medicaid for their healthcare coverage, and more than half of all births in the state are paid for by the program. In each of the last three years, half of the children in the state have been covered by Medicaid as child poverty in Michigan continues to increase. In the current fiscal year, the governor projects that 1.82 million Michigan residents will be covered by Medicaid, with an additional 214,000 benefiting from the implementation of the Healthy Michigan Plan that will take effect on April 1.

  • The governor’s budget for 2015 recognizes state General Fund savings of over $243 million as a result of federal approval of Michigan’s waiver to expand Medicaid through the Healthy Michigan Plan effective April 1, 2014. The savings are realized because the state currently spends 100% state General Funds for limited services to very low-income uninsured individuals, and with the expansion, federal funds would be available to pay for services for this population. The governor recommends that half of the savings, or $122 million, be placed in a newly created Health Savings Fund that would ensure that the state has sufficient funds to cover the future reductions in federal matching funds. Healthy Michigan Plan funding is 100% federal funding for calendar years 2014, 2015, and 2016. The federal funding declines during calendar years 2017- 2019, reaching 90% in 2020 where it remains.
  • The Healthy Michigan Plan, championed by Gov. Snyder, will provide comprehensive health coverage to about 400,000 currently uninsured people in the state through 2015, nearly doubling the projected enrollment for FY 14. This comprehensive program covers individuals with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level. Full-year funding of $2.2 billion, all federal funds, is recommended. A staffing increase of 36 positions is included to administer the program.
  • The governor recommends $25.2 million for autism services, down from $35.2 million this year. The funding reduction does not represent a program reduction rather it represents a slow start due to the need to develop provider capacity. To increase needed capacity, $3 million in continuing “one-time” funding, increased from $2 million in the current fiscal year, is recommended to train autism services providers through the creation of university autism centers. One million dollars each is allocated to Eastern Michigan University, Western Michigan University and Michigan State University.
  • Funding of $26 million in state funds, bringing in $49.4 million in federal funds, is recommended to continue approximately half of the rate increase for primary care providers. This rate increase, required in FY 13 and FY 14, was 100% federally funded for the first two calendar years. In calendar year 2015, the rate increase is no longer required or 100% federally funded, so a state investment is required to continue.
  • The special payment for rural and sole community hospitals is recommended for elimination. It was classified as “one-time” funding in FY 12, but converted to ongoing funding for FY 13 and FY 14.

Healthy Kids Dental: Michigan currently provides enhanced dental services to more than 500,000 children in 78 counties. Access to dental services is essential to prevent tooth decay, the number one chronic disease in children.

  • The governor recommends $5.4 million in state General Fund and $10.3 million in federal funds to expand the Healthy Kids Dental program to an additional 100,000 children in Kalamazoo and Macomb counties. With that expansion, the program would cover over 611,000 children in 80 of 83 Michigan counties.
  • Not yet covered are more than 400,000 children in three of the most populated Michigan counties that are the home to many low-income children and children of color, including Wayne, Oakland and Kent counties. Healthy Kids Dental improves access to care by partnering with Delta Dental of Michigan to increase provider reimbursement rates and simplify administration.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services: Since Fiscal Year 2005, Medicaid-related mental health spending has increased by over 50%, while non-Medicaid spending has decreased, leaving thousands of residents without needed services. Funding for substance use disorder services increased by 12%, largely because of increases in federal funding, but fewer individuals were served in FY 13 than in the previous nine years, despite the growing problem with heroin/other opiates addiction.

  • With the expansion of Medicaid eligibility, individuals enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan will also have access to comprehensive mental health and substance use disorder services. As mentioned above, great concern has been raised about the adequacy of the funding to provide the promised services.
  • The governor also recommends $15.6 million in state General Fund, $5 million of which is “one-time” funding, to begin implementation of the recommendations of the Mental Health and Wellness Commission, which released its recommendations for improvements in mental health services in January 2014.
  • The governor recommended $3.4 million in state General Fund for the Mental Health Diversion Council to treat those with mental illness or developmental disabilities in settings other than the criminal justice system. Additional funding of $2.7 million is included in the Judiciary and Corrections budgets.

Public Health and Children’s Services: Nearly two of every three dollars spent on public health services is federal. Over the last decade, nearly all increases in total public health funding have been from federal grants or other sources, while state funding has remained essentially flat.

  • The governor recommends continuation funding of $39.4 million for local public health services. Appropriations for local public health essential services, while increased by $2 million in FY 2014, remain below the Fiscal Year 2005 appropriation.
  •  The governor includes $2.5 million in state funds to conduct a regional needs assessment and expand home visiting services to at-risk families with young children in rural areas in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Lower Peninsula.
  • The proposed budget includes $2 million in “one-time” funding for a pilot program to improve child and adolescent health services by working with two existing school-based clinics to identify satellite locations that will be serviced by mobile teams, increasing access to nursing and behavioral health services in schools.
  • The essential health provider program was increased by $600,000 to reflect the projected additional private revenue. This program assists primary care providers who practice in medically underserved areas with the repayment of their educational loans.
  • After three years of “one-time” funding, island (Bois Blanc, Mackinac, Beaver, and Drummond) health clinic funding was converted to ongoing.

Services for the Aging:

  • The governor’s budget includes $5 million in state funds to help eliminate a waiting list of an estimated 4,500 seniors eligible for home-delivered meals ($1.8 million) and in-home services ($3.2 million) provided through Area Agencies on Aging around the state. With this increase in home-delivered meals, the reductions in funding over the last decade have been completely restored.
  • The governor also expands funding by $9 million in state funds, $17.2 million in federal funds to eliminate the waiting list for the MIChoice program that provides in-home and community services to help seniors or those with disabilities remain in their homes rather than moving to nursing homes, serving an additional 1,250 individuals.
  • The governor recommends the expansion of PACE (Programs for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) to more counties, funded through corresponding savings in nursing home costs.

EITC expansion would keep workers out of poverty

President Obama’s 2015 budget rightly seeks to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to more workers — particularly childless workers. The current EITC rules are unfair to low-wage workers who aren’t raising children, including noncustodial parents. Those workers receive such a small EITC that they can be literally taxed into poverty, or driven deeper into poverty.

By far, the largest share of the EITC goes to those in poverty who work and have children. The EITC is a refundable credit for low-income working families and has been successful at encouraging certain people to take jobs, particularly single mothers. The EITC promotes work and reduces the need for public assistance.

The EITC expansion seeks to incentivize work for three groups whose participation rate in the labor force has declined steadily over the last decade: minority men without a college education, single women working low-wage jobs, and workers with disabilities.

A Michigan minimum wage childless worker employed full time earns around $15,000. That’s 133% of the federal poverty level and, according to Making Ends Meet in Michigan$6,500 short of the amount required for a single childless worker to meet their most essential needs like housing and transportation.

Under current EITC rules, this worker would be ineligible for the EITC, because they made too much money. Under the president’s proposal they would qualify for an EITC of $470, serving to offset a low-wage income and help with expenses such as car repairs needed to remain in the work force.

The president’s proposal would double the maximum credit for childless workers to about $1,000, increase the income levels at which the EITC phases out to about $18,070 for single childless workers, and $23,570 for childless married taxpayers filing jointly, and make the credit available to workers beginning at age 21 as opposed to age 25, nearly doubling the total number of childless workers receiving the EITC.

The most common occupations among those who would benefit from the proposed expansion of the EITC are low-wage retail and food service workers, three quarters of whom live in households with incomes below 150% of the poverty line. And 470,000 childless workers in Michigan would benefit directly from President Obama’s planned expansion of the EITC.

– Jason Escareno

 

Raise Michigan raises hope

The possibility of a long-overdue increase to Michigan’s minimum wage is on the horizon with the kickoff of the Raise Michigan campaign to put the issue before voters on the fall ballot.

If successful, it will raise Michigan’s $7.40 an hour wage minimum wage to $10.10 over three years and index it to inflation. It also includes a gradual increase of the $2.65/hour “tipped” wage for restaurant servers.

With so many problems to report on – rising income inequality, growing number of low-income working moms and shrinking windows of opportunity for our young people – it’s good to be able to talk about a positive solution.

Raising the wage would reduce the state’s poverty rate, decrease reliance on state assistance and boost local economies.

An increase would boost the incomes of nearly 1 million Michigan workers. Despite oft-repeated statements from opponents to the contrary, only 13% of that group are teens. Most are 20 and over and many are parents. In fact, 15% of all children in the state have a parent earning the minimum wage.

The proposal will index it to inflation. Without indexing, the minimum wage loses purchasing power over time. Since 1968, the minimum wage has lost more than 30% of its value, despite a few increases along the way.

Make sure to stay informed on this important development. There’s much work ahead – the campaign has until May 28 to collect nearly 259,000 valid signatures and there will be many volunteer opportunities. Make sure to connect at www.raisemichigan.com.

– Gilda Z. Jacobs

Priorities Michigan launch

Last week marked the launch of a new organization, Priorities Michigan, a civic engagement and education project aimed at changing the conversation around the state budget and promoting needed investment in public goods.

The Michigan League for Public Policy is proud to be a partner organization on this as we join with others to highlight the effects of over a decade of devastating budget cuts to schools, communities, higher education, infrastructure and human services. (more…)

War on Poverty: Part 2

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
Sign up for the newsletter and e-news here

Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s now-famous State of the Union address that launched the War on Poverty:

“Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope — some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.

While some pundits will undoubtedly seize the anniversary as an opportunity to wrongly declare the War on Poverty a failure, we should instead recommit to LBJ’s vision, as there is plenty of evidence that it worked. And what an incredible return on investment! (more…)

The kids are not all right

Whatever economic recovery has occurred in Michigan, it has not reached children and their families. Poverty continues to affect one of every four of the state’s youngsters. Over half a million of the children in Michigan lived in families with income below the federal poverty level ($18,000 for a single parent family of 3 and $22,000 for a family of four), according to this year’s annual Kids Count in Michigan overview of child well-being.

Economic security weakened in almost every county between 2005 and 2011, and the more affluent counties experienced the steepest increases: Oakland, Ottawa and Macomb counties saw their child poverty rates almost double over the trend period. (more…)

A gift for the future

From the First Tuesday newsletter
Sign up for e-news

 The holidays are upon us, and I’d like to offer Michigan the gift that keeps on giving – 10 ways to invest in our future.

The generations that came before us knew what it took to build a Mighty Mac, freeways and strong universities. Yet today, when you hear about economic development, you often hear about tax cuts, not investments. We can’t cut our way to prosperity. We simply must pay it forward for future generations and give them the investments they need for a strong economy.

A recent report by Senior Policy Analyst Pat Sorenson offers 10 ways to invest in our economy. It’s the League’s gift for the future:

1.
Invest
In early childhood.
2. Make sure all kids get
a great education – and a diploma!
3. Make college affordable 4. Encourage good health
with access to physical and mental health treatment 5. Offer help
with basic needs to those who cannot work or who cannot find
a job. 6. Invest in community services to attract businesses and young
professionals. 7. Generate revenue by strengthening the personal income tax,
based on the ability to pay. 8. Make sure businesses pay their fair share 9. Bring sales tax
into the modern age by taxing services and Internet sales. 10. End ineffective tax breaks
and put funds
into what works.

Happy holidays, and make sure to sign up for our Dec. 9 policy forum!

– Gilda Z. Jacobs

Walking the walk with infant mortality

Factors that may drive Michigan’s tragically high infant mortality rate include stress, unemployment, poverty and neighborhood safety in addition to what might be thought of as the more traditional reasons, such as lack of healthcare or poor safe sleep practices, according to a new report from the Michigan Department of Community Health. The report takes a broad look at why Michigan’s rate is so high and in particular why an African American infant in Michigan is 2.6 more times likely to die before reaching the child’s first birthday than a white infant. (more…)

As economy improves, food assistance goes down

A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that spending for the food assistance program called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) fell slightly in fiscal year 2013. This trend is expected to continue as the economy recovers and fewer low-income people qualify for SNAP.

As seen in previous recessions, this is expected enrollment behavior for SNAP: Caseloads go up when unemployment rises and the economy struggles and then they go down when the economy recovers and more jobs become available. The recent increase in SNAP caseloads is due almost exclusively to the deep recession and our current slow recovery.  The Congressional Budget Office predicts that SNAP spending will return to its 1995 levels by 2019. (more…)

Next Page »