A new proposal from the US Department of Agriculture threatens to strip food assistance from an estimated three million people. The proposed rule change would alter the way states determine eligibility for SNAP and free school meals. Currently, 40 states and the District of Columbia waive income and asset limits and offer food assistance to households with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level, if those households face other expenses—like child care or rent—that leave them with too little money to buy adequate food. Under the proposed rule change, a household’s gross income could not exceed 130% of the federal poverty level, regardless of other expenses a household needs to cover. The rule change would also eliminate food assistance for seniors and people with disabilities if their savings or assets exceed $3,500. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities warns that, by eliminating food assistance for households with modest savings, the rule change would make it harder for people to “avert a financial crisis or weather an emergency that would otherwise push them deeper into poverty or could lead to homelessness.”
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports on the “cycling gender gap” that emerged in a study of how drivers and cyclists interact. “Hennepin County wants more people on bikes. It’s good exercise, it’s great fun, and it cuts down on pollution and gridlock. The county has 259 miles of on-street bikeways and another 500 miles of bike trails and is adding more. So the county was hoping to study how all that new bike infrastructure affected cyclist safety. It wasn’t expecting to learn that women were four times more likely to get crowded [passed by a car with less than a three-foot buffer] on their bike commute. “We wanted to find out, as we were building our bike network, how different types of bike infrastructure is having an effect on people’s bike safety,” said Laura Fredrick of the county’s Healthy Community Planning, who teamed up on the study. “What we found was that female cyclists had a significantly different experience riding than the male riders did. … Female riders tend to have more aggressive interactions with drivers than male riders did.”” Once preliminary findings were published, researchers “started hearing from women with their own stories of close calls, catcalls and hands that reached out of car windows to slap their rear ends as they biked by.” The Gender Policy Report recommends strategies to address these issues, including adding more protected bike lanes: “The evidence is clear. Cyclists, particularly women, face risks. Separation of cyclists from vehicular traffic reduces encroachments and can address the well-founded concerns women have about safety. Other counties and municipalities can learn from the plans being implemented in Hennepin County and Minneapolis and do more to encourage and protect cyclists—especially women and girls.”
A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research estimates that the decision by 14 states to reject the Medicaid expansion has led to approximately 15,600 additional deaths. Vox summarizes the research: “The study linked data from the American Community Survey between 2008 to 2013 to Social Security Administration, focusing on American citizens between 55 and 64 years old in 2014 who either had less than a high school degree or lived in households with income at or under 138 percent of the federal poverty line. The researchers found that states that expanded Medicaid saw higher rates of enrollment and lower rates of uninsurance. Among the 55- to 64-year-olds studied, researchers found, receiving Medicaid “reduced the probability of mortality over a 16 month period by about 1.6 percentage points, or a decline of 70 percent.”
Vox reports on how fears of deportation can block undocumented people from seeking medical care. “Doctors and advocates say that … people who are undocumented or have undocumented relatives are increasingly avoiding the doctor for fear of encountering or being turned over to immigration authorities. Dr. Anjani Kolahi, a family medicine physician and fellow with the group Physicians for Reproductive Health, works with a federally qualified health center in Southern California that provides affordable care regardless of immigration status. But, she told Vox, “patients are not coming for care.” She’s seen patients with cancer who only come to the doctor after experiencing significant weight loss. “They know that they’re very sick, but they’re so concerned about deportation that they will be scared to come into the hospital,” Kolahi said…” [Layidua] Salazar “recommends that clinic staff be trained to inform unauthorized immigrants of their legal rights when it comes to accessing health care, as well as to address logistical issues like what to do when a patient has an ID from another country. Staff should also understand the “genuine emotional and mental barriers” that people can face when accessing care while under threat of deportation.
A new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition examines the gap between what workers earn and the costs of renting across every state, county, and metro-area zip code in the US and finds that “a full-time worker with a standard 40-hour work week earning the federal or prevailing state minimum wage cannot afford a two-bedroom rental home at fair market rent in any U.S. county and can afford a one-bedroom rental in fewer than 99% of counties (28 out of more than 3,000 counties) nationwide. On average, a worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour must work 127 hours every week (3 full-time jobs) to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home ($1,194/month) or 103 hours every week (2.5 full-time jobs) to afford a one-bedroom rental home ($970/month).”
This week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to launch an Office of Racial Equity to oversee the development of racial equity plan. NBC Bay Area reports that the racial equity plan will “mandate different outcomes for different city departments, will include financial ramifications for lack of progress, officials confirmed. New types of reports and analysis tools will be created to assess outcomes. According to the office of Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, who proposed the legislation along with Supervisor Vallie Brown, there are still a variety of areas in which racial disparity persists for minorities in San Francisco, especially that of the black community. These areas include life expectancy, employment, income, arrest rates and homelessness, among others. "This legislation will hold us accountable to moving the needle for racial equity in our city and addressing the disparities facing communities of color with regards to economic stability, housing, health outcomes or policing," Fewer said. "It is long past due that San Francisco makes real our commitment to racial equity, and this Office of Racial Equity will make sure that everyone in San Francisco has equitable opportunity to survive.””
The New York Times reports on the challenges of delivering safe drinking water in California, including the “abundance of small water districts, a fraught culture around water rights, and significant oversight gaps… California has one of the most byzantine drinking water systems in the country, and even in urban parts of the state some water systems are so small they struggle to sustain their maintenance budgets. The hodgepodge of small districts are overseen by local boards — often with little to no expertise in water management — making it difficult for the state to keep track of them. Already, more than 300 public water systems in the state are out of compliance with federal drinking water safety standards, according to publicly available data, and an estimated one million Californians are exposed to unsafe drinking water each year. Those are the ones the state knows about because their water quality has already been tested as unsafe… These troubled districts… often operate in mostly poor areas on thin budgets. With little oversight, they face problems ranging from bankruptcy to sudden interruptions in water capacity, to harmful toxins being delivered through taps.”