social services

Researchers to White House: Stop Pawning Mercury-Laden Tuna Off on the Poor
social services

US Newswire: "In response to a new Institute of Medicine proposal, advocates are calling on the federal Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program to stop exposing America's most sensitive, low income populations to mercury in white tuna. Currently, canned tuna is the only animal meat protein source offered by WIC programs, except in Hawaii. The IOM Report suggests that the types of fish/shellfish that are intermediate in methylmercury contamination (be) limited" in the WIC program. "Since last year, FDA has known that white canned tuna has three times as much mercury as light tuna," said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project. "So why is the federal WIC program continuing to subsidize the tuna industry and, in effect, the poisoning of low-income Americans with mercury from white albacore tuna?"

Congress Rubberstamps $25 Billion for Iraq, but Leaves Poor Children, Disabled, and Elderly in 36 States in Crisis
social services

Children's Defense Fund: "Two-thirds of states are facing budget gaps for the next fiscal year that total $36 billion. While the increase in the federal match rate helped states avoid some Medicaid cuts, virtually all states still had to reduce Medicaid services last year. Many states are preparing to make even deeper cuts to Medicaid health services for poor and disabled Americans this year, in part because they expect that the federal match rate will drop on June 30, just as the new state fiscal year begins. An extension of the match rate - which has not been approved by Congress - would protect vulnerable Medicaid beneficiaries, especially children, the elderly, and the disabled from cuts in coverage and benefits." But, for this administration and its Congressional cronies, these groups are, at best, an afterthought.

Bush Administration Jubilant as Thousands Move from Welfare to....Homelessness
social services

Tommy Thompson brags that the number of people seeking help from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is declining and this means things are getting better for the poor. He even tries to say that the 54% drop in cases since 1996 is due to the "great success" of welfare reform. But in 1996, it was predicted by opponents of welfare reform that because of the strict time limits (families are bumped after a few years) that while there would be a big decrease in the number of recipients over several years, there would also be an increase in homelessness. Why? Because of a growing number of people moving not from welfare to work but from welfare to homelessness. Sure enough, the increase in the number of homeless has risen by 13% for the past three years, and is predicted to reach a red zone this year. Congratulations, Tommy and all your welfare reform cohorts. (see http://www.nlchp.org/Press/detail.cfm?PRID=27 and http://www.nlchp.org/Press/detail.cfm?PRID=26

Bush Cuts to Housing Program Will Hurt 250,000 - 600,000 Low-Income Families
social services

Bush plans to slash the nation's principal low-income housing assistance program, by over $1.6 billion in 2005 and by even more in coming years. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports: "If all housing agencies coped with the funding cuts by assisting fewer households, they would have to shrink the program by 250,000 families next year and by about 600,000 families - roughly 30 percent of the entire program - in 2009. Alternatively, if housing agencies coped with the funding cuts by raising rents, they would have to charge an average of about $850 more per family in 2005 and about $2,000 more per family in 2009, even though most of these families have incomes well below the poverty line." More of that "compassionate conservative family values" bit, eh?

Medicaid Rolls Swell as Bush Continues to Tout 'Improving Economy'
social services

USA Today reports: "Government-subsidized health insurance for the poor covered a record 42.4 million people last year, contradicting predictions that financial problems would force states to slash 1 million people or more from Medicaid. Medicaid enrollment rose by 1.6 million or 3.9% in 2003... That's about triple the growth rate of the total population. The government expects enrollment to grow 2.1% this year." So with jobs leaving the US by the hundreds of thousands how will the new enrollment rate DECREASE? Here's a clue: In 2003, Texas reduced its new Medicaid enrollee rate by lowering the maximum income people could earn and still qualify. As a result, the books will show a drop in enrollment - not NEED - in 2004. We expect the "Texan" in the White House will manipulate the national figures accordingly.

Senators Try to Stem AmeriCorps Cuts
social services

WashPost reports: "Senators from both parties introduced legislation yesterday to prevent massive cuts in the AmeriCorps national service program prompted by an accounting problem... AmeriCorps announced earlier this week that it would cut the largest category of its volunteers by more than 80 percent. The struggling national and community service program has indicated it may not be able to fill more than half of the 50,000 slots it was expected to have in the current year. The trouble stems from an accounting dispute between the White House's Office of Management and Budget, which favors more lenient standards, and Congress's General Accounting Office, which said stricter standards were required by law."

Thousand Points of Hype
social services

Paul Rogat Loeb is dismayed by George W. Bush's embrace of volunteerism, like his co-chairing of the recent National Youth Service Day. As Loeb writes, community service should draw support across political lines. He is delighted that AmeriCorps has been so spectacularly successful that it now draws bi-partisan support. So men like Republican Senator Rick Santorum no longer dismiss it as taxpayers paying "a bunch of hippie kids to sit around the campfire, holding hands and singing 'Kumbaya.'" But it's the height of duplicity for an administration that's the most hostile toward the poor and powerless in twenty years to imply that everything will be fine if we all just voluntarily pick up the slack.

Salvation Army Dumps Beloved Program for Street Kids, Leaving Youngsters and Teachers Out in Cold (But Jesus Loves Ya'!)
social services

For over a decade, the Greenhouse School in Portland, OR was a safe, open-armed place where homeless teens could work to get their high school diplomas - "street kids" who otherwise might never have bothered with school. But this August, with no prior warning, the Salvation Army, which funded the program, shut the school down, changed the locks, and fired the teachers and social workers. Why? Money: "They are moving away from a relationship-based program toward numbers, which translates into money," said Greenhouse teacher Joy Cartier. I.e., with Bush Bucks in the offing, why waste the pork on helping a bunch of kids when you can do less for more? One homeless youth summed it up more poignantly: "It's bureaucratic bulls**t. I f***ing loved this program. What now?" Welcome to the world of faith-based charity, kiddo!

Safety Net for Nation's Jobless - Flimsy at Best - Is Snapping beneath Its Escalating Burden
social services

Last year, 10 million Americans applied for unemployment. Only 3 million received benefits. Of those who were "officially" ruled jobless, only 38% received benefits. Meanwhile, the number of people being bumped off welfare under the "reformed" system is growing as limits kick in. Soon, America, land of "plenty" (if you earn enough!) will have an army of homeless and hungry. Why? Because there are now fewer unions to protect worker interests, because once benefits are exhausted, workers "disappear" from the system's notice, because parent's who cannot accept some jobs because of child care problems are ruled ineligible, and because people fired from minimum wage jobs are - incredibly! - ruled as having earned too little to qualify for unemployment! Yet all of Bush's attention is riveted on providing MORE for the wealthy. Not only that, by plundering Soc. Sec., he may add homeless and hungry elderly to the army of America's forgotten.