Human Services

The Return of Bigfoot: Telling the Truth about Welfare Spending in Pennsylvania

BigfootYou may remember that the Commonwealth Foundation put out a report about welfare spending a couple of weeks ago that we likened to “Bigfoot” because it found something in the Department of Public Welfare — massive fraud, millions of non-working adults — that just didn’t exist.

I had a chance to debate Matt Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation on WITF’s Radio Smart Talk, and I thought it might be a good time to share the facts and give you my four big ideas about how we push back on the destructive framing that the “Bigfoot” report perpetuates.

This Week at Third and State: School Bus Contracting, Voter ID and the Misguided Food Stamps Asset Test

This week, we blogged about a new report on the higher costs of contracting out school bus transportation to private companies, the expensive voter ID bill approved this week, an op-ed from the CEO of Weis Markets on the misguided asset test being proposed for food assistance, and much more.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • On privatization, Stephen Herzenberg blogged about a new Keystone Research Center report finding that private school bus transportation services in Pennsylvania cost more than when districts provide their own transportation, underscoring that privatization is not always the best option.
  • On voter ID, Chris Lilienthal wrote about this costly plan earlier in the week and later included a link to a news story after its final passage on Wednesday.
  • On food assistance, Chris Lilienthal highlighted an op-ed by Weis Markets CEO David J. Hepfinger explaining what a bad idea it is to impose an assets test on people who are seeking food assistance.
  • On health care, Sharon Ward shared the podcast of her appearance on WITF's Radio Smart Talk, in which she discussed the future of health and human services in Pennsylvania.
  • And in the Morning Must Reads this week, Mark Price highlighted a news report on a new study that predicts fiscal distress in Pennsylvania school districts thanks to state budget cuts, articles comparing the gas booms in North Dakota and Pennsylvania, and a piece examining whether the settlement between states and mortgage lenders over questionable document processing is accelerating foreclosure activity.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

More Harm than Good

David J. Hepfinger, the CEO of Sunbury-based Weis Markets, has a great op-ed in today's Harrisburg Patriot-News explaining what a bad idea it is to impose an assets test on people who are seeking food assistance:

We can clearly see how the poor economy impacts our customers at Weis Markets. Today, they are making fewer shopping trips, buying in smaller sizes, switching from beef to poultry and, sadly, purchasing fewer diapers and more ointment despite an unchanged birth rate.

The Future of Health and Human Services in PA

This morning I was on WITF's Radio Smart Talk to discuss the state of health and human services in Pennsylvania.

I explained that it was important for the commonwealth to spend taxpayer money wisely, but that current policies were resulting in eligible Pennsylvanians, including thousands of children, losing their health care.

Rather than taking away health care from children or jeopardizing the nursing care of seniors, I said state policymakers should look at alternatives, including closing tax loopholes and ending corporate welfare.

You can listen to the show at WITF's web site or by clicking on the player below. Let us know what you think in the comments section.

Morning Must Reads: High Unemployment Strains the Safety Net and Underwater Mortgages

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports this morning on the continued strain that high unemployment is putting on the safety net in Pennsylvania.

Third and State This Week: PA Budget Summit, Revenue Update and Pressure on Food Programs

This week, we blogged about our 2012 Pennsylvania Budget Summit, the state's revenue performance in January, programs that serve the poor coming under increasing pressure, and more.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • On the state budget, Michael Wood wrote that Pennsylvania's revenue performance in January offered some hope with General Fund collections coming in close to estimate, although corporate taxes continue to lag. Chris Lilienthal shared resources from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center's 2012 Budget Summit this week and a Fox 43 news report on it.
  • In the Morning Must Reads this week, Mark Price blogged about news reports on soup kitchens and self sufficiency programs coming under pressure (as well as a new effort to identify the public health impacts of Marcellus Shale development); rising demand for Meals On Wheels in Reading and fines for a Hershey Co. subcontractor; and a look at policies in Europe and here at home that Paul Krugman has dubbed the "Pain Caucus."

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Morning Must Reads: Soup Kitchens & Self Sufficiency Programs Under Pressure & Marcellus Public Health Issues

The Erie Times-News reports this morning that Governor Tom Corbett's decision to implement an asset test for food assistance in Pennsylvania is expected to drive more people to seek help in already overburdened soup kitchens.

In other news this morning, it has fallen to charitable foundations to fund programs to help identify the public health impacts of Marcellus Shale development.

Third and State This Week: Human Services Block Grant, Mortgage Help and Rising Student Loan Debt

This week, we blogged about a proposed state block grant and funding cut for county human services, the end of a mortgage assistance program in Pennsylvania, high student loan debt and more.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • On the state budget, Chris Lilienthal shared a table from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center explaining the Governor's proposal to combine funding for a variety of county-level human services into a single block grant and cut it by 20%.
  • On housing, Mark Price wrote about how the state's decision to end the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) could harm Pennsylvania's economic recovery.
  • And in the Morning Must Reads this week, Mark Price blogged about news stories on the student loan "debt bomb," the rise in homelessness in shale country, extended unemployment benefits and prevailing wage, and why delaying school construction is penny wise but pound foolish.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Morning Must Reads: Unemployment Benefits Extended, Prevailing Wage Change Stalls and Running Government Like a Business

What a difference an election year makes. Last year was full of pointless brinksmanship over federal policy issues that will take several decades to solve. Those battles at times looked like they threatened the near term health of the economy. 

The New Year is shaping up to be very different. The New York Times reports this morning that a deal has been struck to extend the payroll tax reduction and extended unemployment benefits through the end of the year. Tentatively, it looks as if efforts to weaken the unemployment insurance system have been blocked. Both the payroll tax reduction and extended unemployment benefits were set to expire at the end of February, and the failure to extend them was on most economists' lists of things that could weaken the economy in 2012.

Combine and Cut: Governor's Block Grant Plan for County Human Services

A week after Governor Tom Corbett rolled out his state budget, many people are still trying to make sense of it.

Perhaps the biggest reshuffling in the Department of Public Welfare budget involves the expansion of the Human Services Development Fund, a flexible funding stream used for a wide variety of human services at the county level. This fund has been repeatedly reduced over the past few year. The new budget combines and cuts funding for other programs into a single Human Services Development Fund Block Grant.

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