News and Action Summary for August 28, 2014

Download a pdf version of the August 28, 2014 News and Action Summary!

News Summary 8-28-14

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Newly Posted Resources—August 28, 2014

Here are the most recently posted resources available for individuals and congregations:

Ferguson, Missouri: A Moment of Opportunity

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Opportunities for Funding, Competitions, and Places Where You Can Get Involved—August 28, 2014

Here is a current listing of opportunities including contests, grants, and efforts that you can join in Pennsylvania and nationally:

Write a Letter to the Editor Explaining Why Congress Must Raise the Minimum Wage to $10.10

PA Department of Health Has Been Willfully Ignoring Calls About Fracking—Share Your Story

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News Posts, August 28, 2014

Here are news articles posted since the previous News and Action Summary:

How We Should Really Honor Labor Day

Unemployment Insurance: A 79-Year Old Promise to American Workers That Needs Renewing

Millions of Part-Time Workers Are Still Looking For Full-Time Work

CMS Removes Most Harmful Elements of Healthy PA, but Threat of Future Benefit Cuts Remains

National Resistance to High-Stakes Testing Grows Even Before School Year Begins

How Early-Life Stress Affects the Brain

Fighting Poverty and Reducing Jail…in Real Time

Fracking Operators Illegally Injecting Diesel Fuel, Study Finds

Wishful Thinking About Natural Gas

Under Attack? Climate Change Raises PA’s Pesky Insect Population

A Call for More Than Judicial Remedies to the Killing of African American Boys and Men

Tax Policy and the Race for the Governor’s Mansion: Pennsylvania Edition

Cutting Your Way to a More Sluggish Recovery

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CMS Removes Most Harmful Elements of Healthy PA, but Threat of Future Benefit Cuts Remains

On August 27, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced their approval of Governor Corbett’s Medicaid Expansion alternative, Healthy Pennsylvania.

The final proposal is markedly different from the original plan submitted by Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare (DPW), with some of the most harmful elements like punitive lockout periods and tying premiums to a new, bureaucratic work search requirement removed.

The modified version of Healthy PA leaves Pennsylvania’s current Medicaid program mostly intact, and will extend health care coverage to more than half-a-million Pennsylvanians. Beginning January 1st, 2015, individuals and families with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level will be eligible to enroll in health insurance offered by private Medicaid Managed Care companies in a new system run by the Commonwealth.

While the approval of Healthy PA marks a major step forward in covering all Pennsylvanians, serious concerns remain about several key aspects of the final proposal:

PREMIUMS

Under the agreement, DPW has the authority to require low-income Pennsylvanians living between 100 and 138% of the poverty level to pay 2% of their monthly income for coverage starting in 2016. A significant body of research shows that imposing premiums on low-income people leads to poor health outcomes, unmet health needs and loss of coverage.

NEW MEDICAID MANAGED CARE SYSTEM

Rather than cover newly eligible Pennsylvanians through the private plans in the federal Marketplace or through Pennsylvania’s current Medicaid Managed Care system, Healthy PA intends to establish an entirely new, distinct MCO system that will operate independently from but need to interact with existing structures. Pennsylvania has long struggled to seamlessly link health systems, which often results in individuals getting “lost in the system” or experiencing delays and disruptions in their coverage.

POTENTIAL FOR FUTURE BENEFIT CUTS

While CMS did not approve significant benefit cuts to the existing Medicaid program under the Healthy PA waiver agreement, they also did not rule them out. Negotiations will continue between PA’s DPW and CMS on changing the scope of benefits for Pennsylvania’s current Medicaid program.

This chart developed by Community Legal Services and the Pennsylvania Health Law Project contrasts current Medicaid benefits with the high and low-risk benefit packages the Corbett Administration is seeking to implement (and move current Medicaid enrollees into based on their score on a 20-question health survey still under development at DPW).

Most current Medicaid recipients would be placed into the most restrictive “low-risk” plan. Some Medicaid recipients with disabilities or other special health care needs would be placed in the “high-risk” plan. The 500,000+ newly eligible people under expansion would be enrolled in private insurance and receive the Essential Health Benefits package.

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Ferguson, Missouri: A Moment of Opportunity

From Everyday Democracy (http://www.everyday-democracy.org):

Once again we find ourselves in this place – a place of tragedy, pain, outrage, frustration and confusion.Ferguson resource

One tragedy in Ferguson is that another mother, father, and community are experiencing a deep loss.  The life that was expected to progress will not; the dreams that were expected to be fulfilled will not.

A second tragedy is that another community has lost its trust in the very public institution – the police – created to be its servant and protector.

As the mother of three African-American young men, I feel this tragedy in the core of my being.  I have had “the talk” with them over the years about the relationship between young men of color and the criminal justice system in America and especially law enforcement.  Those have been painful conversations.

Yet in the midst of my pain and grief for the family of Michael Brown and others, I also hold onto hope because of what I’ve seen in our work at Everyday Democracy.  Across the country, there are formal and informal leaders who understand that we can do better and who are committed to doing things differently.

We can and must act differently — in our communities, and in our public institutions.

Continue reading Ferguson, Missouri: A moment of opportunity at http://everyday-democracy.org/news/ferguson-missouri-moment-opportunity.

Read strategies to build trust and take action in the wake of Ferguson at http://everyday-democracy.org/news/strategies-build-trust-and-take-action-wake-ferguson.

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Poll Finds Support for More Money for Public Schools Despite Underestimating What is Already Spent

By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com on August 26, 2014 at 2:17 PM

As public education advocates begin to ramp up their calls for a fair and predictable school funding formula, a conservative policy center released a poll that shows a majority of voters are surprised to learn Pennsylvania already spends $2,900 more per-student on education than the national average.

Interestingly, though, the Commonwealth Foundation-sponsored poll conducted by the GOP-oriented national polling firm, The Tarrance Group, shows that despite being told about the average per-student spending level, a majority of respondents still supported increasing K-12 public education spending.

The poll released on Tuesday surveyed 600 registered voters from across the state between Aug. 18 and 20 on their attitudes toward public education. Its confidence interval was plus/minus 4.1 percent.

The poll found 64 percent of voters initially supported increasing public education. However after being told that the state spent $14,600 per public school student in 2012-13, it only caused a 14 percent drop in that support, to 55 percent.

http://www.pennlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/08/poll_finds_support_for_more_mo.html

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Fossil Fuel Divestment & Faith Webinar—September 10, Webinar

Divestment seems to be the buzzword lately.

But what is it?  What does it mean?

Join us for a webinar along with perspectives from the United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church (USA), and the United Methodist Church to learn what is happening in different denominations, regionally, and worldwide around fossil fuel divestment.

Whether you are a divestment expert or have never heard of it, we’d love to have you join!

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Cutting Your Way to a More Sluggish Recovery

Posted at http://thirdandstate.org/2014/august/cutting-your-way-more-sluggish-recovery

Aug 19, 2014 06:46 am | Mark Price

New data on consumption spending from the Bureau of Economic Analysis further illustrates that Pennsylvania has cut its way not to prosperity, but to a more sluggish recovery.

As illustrated in Figure 1 below, the growth of consumer spending (per capita personal consumption expenditures) was greater than the national average in Pennsylvania from 2009 to 2011.

This early strength consumer spending was, in part, due to a relatively less severe recession in Pennsylvania and an unemployment insurance system that covered more workers and replaced more lost income than was typical in other states (until Act 60 went into effect in 2013 and reduced unemployment benefits and eligibility by $300 million a year). These advantages helped fuel consumer spending in Pennsylvania that was above the national average during those years.

The 2011-12 state budget made deep cuts in education spending that ultimately resulted in the loss of 20,000 jobs in the education sector, which is roughly the equivalent of closing 40 factories.  Such high job losses played a critical role in depressing consumer spending and that, in turn, substantially slowed further job growth in the Commonwealth.

It’s also important to note that substantial cuts in corporate taxes also were enacted over these years, and those cuts did not boost job growth or consumer spending.

Cutting Economy

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Fact of the Week: 1 in 7 Americans Rely on Food Pantries

Posted at http://www.chn.org/2014/08/27/fact-week-1-7-americans-rely-food-pantries/#.U_3zS_ldVqU

By Lecia Imbery
August 27, 2014

More than 46 million Americans, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors, rely on food pantries and meal programs to feed themselves and their families, according to a study released last week by Feeding America. That’s 1 in 7 people in the U.S.

Hunger in America, the study produced every four years, gives startling statistics about the state of food insecurity in the U.S. and gives a snapshot of those who struggle to have enough to eat. Included in the report’s findings:

  • 39% of client households have a child under age 18, while one in three has a senior over age 60 in the house.
  • 1 in 10 adult clients is a student – 2 million are full-time students, 1 million are part-time students.
  • 72% of households served live at or below the poverty line. The median household income was just $9,175 a year – less than half the federal poverty level for a family of three.

The statistics are worse for people of color – 1 in 4 Black people in America and 1 in 6 Latinos in America rely on food pantries and meal programs.

The vast majority of clients regularly had to make difficult decisions about how to spend their limited money – often choosing between being able to afford food and utilities, transportation, medical care, and housing.

Choices

The report also notes that more than half of client households report at least one employed person at some point in the past year, and that among households with an employed person, the individual with the longest employment duration is more likely to be employed part-time than full-time. For more information on the 7.5 million part-time American workers who are still looking for full-time jobs, see our previous Fact of the Week.

Feeding America says this year’s report is the largest and most comprehensive study of people seeking food assistance in the U.S, compiling results from more than 60,000 client surveys and 32,000 surveys completed by their network of of food banks, food pantries, meal service programs and partner agencies.

As noted by the Huffington Post, just over half of the households in the report receive monthly food stamps/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Twenty-four percent of households with children receive benefits through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Unfortunately for these households, both of these programs have seen cuts in recent years. The farm bill that was enacted in February of this year cut $8.6 billion from SNAP funding, which resulted in  850,000 households losing about $90 per month in food assistance. CHN’s research shows that funding for WIC has shrunk nearly 15 percent from FY2010 to FY2014, and many other nutrition programs have been cut as well.

Such shortsighted cuts like these, along with policies that promote income inequality, will only continue to hurt those who need help the most. And if that happens, reports like Hunger In America will continue to show the need for additional assistance for our most vulnerable neighbors rise.

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