Thousands of out-of-work Wisconsinites who have been searching for a job for a long time will lose their unemployment benefits at the end of the year, unless Congress acts to renew federal unemployment benefits. According to a new analysis from the Wisconsin Budget Project, 65,500 jobless workers in Wisconsin will lose access to federal benefits over the next six months, as shown in the chart below.
Most states pay unemployment insurance benefits to jobless workers for a maximum of 26 weeks. In times of higher unemployment, Congress authorizes federally-funded benefits that provide assistance to people who reach the limit on their state-financed unemployment insurance. If the program that provides federal unemployment benefits is allowed to end, the maximum duration of unemployment benefits for jobless workers in Wisconsin will drop by more than half, from 54 weeks to 26 weeks.
November was Native American Heritage Month, but for most of the month all we have heard about was the mascot issue and casinos. The national stories about the “code-talkers” during World War II were a welcome exception to the dearth of positive stories about American Indians during the first half of the month, though those stories drew attention to just a very brief glimpse of Indian history and contributions.
In addition to wishing that the media would shed more light on Native Americans’ contributions to American history and culture, I would like to hear more about the economic challenges facing American Indians, particularly those living in “Indian country.” The following graphic, prepared by my colleague Tamarine Cornelius, shows that the unemployment rate for Native Americans in Wisconsin is almost twice the rate for non-Hispanic whites, and the poverty rate is more than two and a half times as high for Native Americans (25.3% vs. Read more
Next year is the 50th anniversary of the “war on poverty,” and we can expect a lot of debate and posturing then about that ambitious undertaking. Expect some legislators to use the opportunity to urge that policymakers renew their commitment to fight poverty and reinvigorate some of the elements of that agenda, while others will take that opportunity to declare the war on poverty a failure and a mistake.
Rep. Paul Ryan is preparing to play a role in next year’s debate by offering his own views about a very different type of war on poverty, which may also be a war on the current spectrum of anti-poverty programs. An article in the Washington Post this morning reports on his endeavor:
“Paul Ryan is ready to move beyond last year’s failed presidential campaign and the budget committee chairmanship that has defined him to embark on an ambitious new project: Steering Republicans away from the angry, nativist inclinations of the tea party movement and toward the more inclusive vision of his mentor, the late Jack Kemp. Read more
A Gallup poll conducted last week found strong public support for boosting the minimum wage (now $7.25/hr.) to $9.00 per hour. That change was supported by 76% of Americans, with only 22% opposed. Here are a few of the other highlights from the national survey of 1,040 adults:
- The support was solid across the political spectrum – with the backing of 58% of Republicans, 76% of Independents, and 91 % of Democrats.
- Support wasn’t quite as strong for indexing the minimum wage for inflation (after raising it to $9), yet that was endorsed by 68% of adults and opposed by 29%.
- Public support for an increase to $9.00 was up 5 percentage points since early March, when 71% were in favor and 27% against the proposal.
The national poll was conducted by Gallup last week at about the same time that 61% of New Jersey voters supported an amendment to that state’s constitution to raise the minimum wage $1 to $8.25 and index it for inflation (even as they reelected Governor Christie, who had opposed that measure). Read more
New LFB Paper Illustrates Why Tapping TANF Funding Appears Unlikely
The Assembly overwhelmingly approved a bill today that we strongly support, because it is aimed at expanding a program to provide on-the-job training to low-income people. The only catch is that it isn’t funded, and the prospects for funding it don’t look promising anytime soon.
The bill in question is SB 333, which is part of the package of workforce training bills proposed by the Governor in late September. It authorizes expansion of the Transitional Jobs program, which now only operates in Milwaukee. Transitional Jobs was first implemented several years ago as a pilot program, with funding from the federal Recovery Act. Although that came to an end, the 2013-15 biennial budget bill created a new version of it in Milwaukee, which is now called the Transform Milwaukee Jobs Program. It was allocated $9.9 million from the federal welfare reform block grant known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Read more
Nearly 900,000 people in Wisconsin will see a cut in their food assistance benefits starting Friday, making it harder for many Wisconsin families to put food on the table, according to a new Wisconsin Budget Project report.
The across-the-board cuts will reduce food assistance by $89 million in this fiscal year, when a boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps), is set to expire.
Wisconsin children will be especially hard hit by the cut, as 1 out of 3 Wisconsin children received SNAP benefits last year. In some areas of the state, such as Milwaukee and rural counties in northern Wisconsin, SNAP is such an important support for families that more than half the children receive assistance over the course of the year.
In addition to helping feed hungry families, SNAP is one of the fastest, most effective ways to stimulate a struggling economy. Read more
Many Wisconsin residents are still feeling the effects of the recession, according to a new county-level analysis released today by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.
The income of a typical Wisconsin household is still significantly below what it was in 2008, according to the analysis. In 2012, a typical Wisconsin household had $51,000 in income, compared to $55,600 in 2008. If household incomes had stayed at 2008 levels instead of declining dramatically during the recession, a typical Wisconsin household would have earned an additional $14,700 between 2008 and 2012, compared to what it actually earned.
The WCCF analysis includes 21 county fact sheets that outline how residents of each county are faring with regards to poverty, income, and health insurance coverage. The fact sheets include comparisons to the state and national level, and include recommendations for making investments that will help Wisconsin residents lift themselves out of poverty and get access to health insurance. Read more
Today’s job numbers show little improvement in long-term unemployment
Unemployment benefits kept nearly two million people out of poverty last year, but that number has declined dramatically in recent years as policymakers have curtailed benefits available for unemployed workers, according to a recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. And it will fall much more dramatically in January if Congress does not renew the federal extended benefits for the long-term unemployed.
In 2012, unemployment benefits lifted 1.7 million people above the federal poverty line, down from 3.2 million people in 2010, as shown in the chart below. Part of that decline in the number of people kept out of poverty stems from the fact that fewer workers are unemployed and therefore receiving unemployment benefits, but a much larger portion of the decline stems from the fact that fewer workers that are unemployed are receiving benefits. According to the report, the number of UI (Unemployment Insurance) recipients for every 100 unemployed workers fell from 67 in 2010 to 48 in 2012. Read more
Since late spring we’ve been raising concerns that the biennial budget bill cuts funding for the welfare-to-work program known as Wisconsin Works (W-2) based on faulty assumptions. This June 17 paper examines the problem and explains how reducing W-2 spending and shifting federal block grant funds made it easier to cut state taxes in the budget bill.
This week the Walker Administration acknowledged the W-2 shortfall and submitted a plan to the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) to narrow the funding gap by $9.6 million. The plan submitted to JFC by the Dept. of Children and Families (DCF) and Dept. of Health Services (DHS) closes part of the gap by using unallocated federal funding known as “income augmentation” revenues. These funds are received by the state as the federal share of state and local spending for things like Targeted Case Management and the Medicaid HealthCheck program.
A Significant Economic Hit to the National Economy and a Gradually Expanding Erosion of Key Programs
Economists expect the federal government shutdown to have significant adverse consequences for the national economy. This LA Times article reports that some project that even just a two-week partial shutdown will cause a reduction of 0.3 to 0.4 of a percentage point from national economic growth in the fourth quarter. That’s particularly a problem when the economic recovery is already so sluggish that job growth has been barely keeping ahead of population growth.
I worry about those economic consequences, but I am also very concerned about the effects of the shutdown on children and families in our state – especially for low-income and vulnerable families. Fortunately, most federally funded programs for those families will continue at least through October, but the consequences could be very serious for vulnerable families if the shutdown lasts well into the fall. Read more