Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The case for cash assistance; Candidates talk mental health and poverty; A different kind of road rage and; Funding the Future

The case for cash assistance
The idea that cash assistance–aka, welfare–and other social safety net programs take away the incentive to work is deeply ingrained in the popular psyche. It also is wrong. Studies have shown that cash assistance does little to keep people out of the workforce, though it does benefit children. Eduardo Porter of the New York Times has more:


One billion people in developing countries participate in a social safety net. At least one type of unconditional cash assistance is used in 119 countries. In 52 other countries, cash transfers are conditioned on relatively benign requirements like parents’ enrolling their children in school.

Abhijit Banerjee, a director of the Poverty Action Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, released a paper with three colleagues last week that carefully assessed the effects of seven cash-transfer programs in Mexico, Morocco, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Indonesia. It found “no systematic evidence that cash transfer programs discourage work.”


Here in America, researchers are learning that the 1996 welfare “reform” law may not be responsible for the employment gains and reductions in child poverty that followed.


After the fact, many independent researchers concluded that the strong economy of the late 1990s, combined with bigger wage subsidies through an expanded earned-income tax credit, deserved most of the credit for the improvement. Meanwhile, pushing the poor off welfare — replacing the entitlement to cash assistance with limited state-run programs that sharply curtailed access to aid for all sorts of reasons — had definite costs, borne by the poorest of the poor. “What we lost is a commitment to the poor who face significant barriers to work, whether because of child care or physical or mental disabilities,” Mr. Ziliak said. “We have walked away from cash for that group and that group has suffered considerably.”


Candidates talk mental health and poverty
Three of the four main contenders for governor took the stage Wednesday for their final debate before Saturday’s primary. John Bel Edwards, Jay Dardenne and Scott Angelle fielded questions at LSU while David Vitter stayed in Washington. Kevin Litten of was there:


On mental health, Edwards accused Jindal of cutting 180 inpatient beds and outpatient clinics. He said, “people are not being given the opportunity to be treated, diagnosed, medicated, and they will act out.”… Dardenne also said he would ramp up mental health services, saying, “we have a multi-level problem when it comes to mental health.” He said he would implement programs that would have police involved in spotting mental health issues with people who’ve been arrested, and he said services need to be available if those people are referred for evaluation. “We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got an evaluation process and an ability to recognize … what treatment program they need to keep them out of jail and make them productive members of society,” Dardenne said…Angelle said he would begin a regional assessment of mental health services and facilities and make it a priority to fix.



The three candidates also discussed what they would do to raise people out of poverty. Dardenne and Angelle said they would focus on education though they differed on how they would do it. Angelle said he wants to focus on early childhood education and making job skills, technical colleges and community colleges more robust. Dardenne said he’d take a more broad approach at all levels of schooling though he said he would also explore early childhood education — especially for children from birth to three years old. Edwards said he would address poverty issues with policies that would put more money in the pockets of Louisianians. He said he would double the earned income tax credit, raise the minimum wage and support equal pay legislation for women. “We’re worst in the nation paying women 66 cents on the dollar and a lot of women are not only working for themselves but to raise kids,” Edwards said.


A different kind of road rage

Louisiana citizens are unhappy with the state Office of Motor Vehicles for sending more than 1  million letters demanding money for alleged lapses in insurance coverage. It’s all part of an effort to collect $444 million the state says it’s owed – even though some of the debts are more than a decade old.  The Advocate’s Maya Lau broke the story and has a follow-up:


The fines for interrupted insurance will go at least in part toward paying for State Police salary increases, following an appropriation for pay hikes by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget earlier this year.  Edmonson said the fact that some of the insurance penalties may go toward trooper salaries was not the impetus for sending out the 1.2 million letters.“We’re not going through this now because we can’t pay our salaries. We’re meeting our salaries. We’re meeting our bills. This is money that’s owed to the state,” he said. He added the solicitation stemmed from a deadline set by the Department of Revenue to move funds to the state’s Department of the Treasury. The letters sent earlier this month are in some cases just the initial letters that will be sent, and drivers can expect at least one more notice before the debt is sent out for collection, he said. Of the 1.2 million letters sent, 25,000 have been returned because of bad addresses, Edmonson said. He said he has extended OMV’s hours to 8 p.m. so representatives can answer more phone calls. The agency is addressing complaints on a case-by-case basis and will refund fines found to be paid in error, he said. “Bear with us, work with us; nothing has been turned over to collections,” he said.


Funding the Future

The research is irrefutable: Public investments in quality programs for young children have a high rate of return, as it leads to better outcomes in adulthood such as stronger graduation rates, improved lifetime earnings and lower incarceration rates. But translating that knowledge into sound public policy is an ongoing challenge. Last night it was the focus of a one-hour Louisiana Public Square as policy experts, childcare providers, legislators and advocates discussed the challenges and opportunities in making sure all of our children are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten:


Access to quality early childhood education and childcare is the single biggest indicator of future educational success and worker retention. Louisiana passed legislation to restructure and improve early childhood options, but changes have been largely unfunded. How could the next governor and a newly elected Board of Elementary and Secondary Education alter the early childhood arena? If funds do come, what should be prioritized? How can improving early childhood programs improve the state’s educational outcomes, workforce availability and overall economic outlook?


You can watch the full episode on LPB’s website.


Number of the Day
– The number of countries with at least one type of unconditional cash assistance program (Source: The New York Times)