Policy

How rules and regulation can  shape opportunity.

Jessica Lucia / Flickr

More and more people, especially kids, need help getting food.

Last year, one in every five kids lived in households that depended on SNAP benefits (you know, food stamps) to help put food on the table. In Michigan, SNAP fed well over a million and a half people every single month.

Vicki and Chuck Rogers / flickr

Over the holidays, Governor Snyder signed a bill to bring back drug testing for welfare beneficiaries.

Snyder signed the bill on Christmas Eve, so it’s not surprising it slid by without most Michiganders noticing. But drug testing as a particular set of hoops for cash assistance is such old news in Michigan it’s hard to think critically about it anymore.

flickr/_chrisuk

Two years ago, Michigan raised taxes on the working poor. It was reported plenty at the time; it should be no surprise. 

If you want to be technical about it, the state didn't so much raise taxes on the working poor. It reduced the tax credits that went to the working poor. The Michigan League for Public Policy estimates that prior to 2011, the average low-income family in Michigan received a tax refund of $446. In 2012, that refund dropped to $138. The MLPP says the change means that about 15,000 fewer families were lifted out of poverty as a result of the credits. 

None of this is news. The change happened two years ago. 

Why bring it up now? Because right now Michigan leaders are considering another tax increase that will have a disproportionate impact on the state's working poor.

Greyloch / flickr

There have been a few recent developments that meet at the intersection of the Venn diagram made when State of Opportunity meets government affairs.

What matters is how likely these reforms are to make a difference for kids in Michigan. Here's some early stage analysis. 

Gina / Flickr

Earlier this week, President Obama signed a bill that could lead to major changes in the child welfare system.

Arguably the most important part of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act is its acknowledgment of something we don't like to think about but is nevertheless true: the strong connection between foster care and human trafficking. 

Michigan child care options pushing low-income families out

Sep 25, 2014
Michigan League of Public Policy

Child care is an absolute necessity for working families -- and their employers. Nearly two-thirds of preschool age children in the U.S. live in homes where both caregivers work. So healthy and reasonably priced child care is essential for parents. 

What happens when affordable, high-quality child care isn't an option?

user DarkGuru / creative commons

Pay now or pay later? I feel like that could be the unofficial tag line for our State of Opportunity project.  

The "pay now or pay later" question comes up time and again when we talk about programs aimed at helping kids climb out of poverty. For example: Do we spend the money up front for high-quality preschool for low-income kids, or do we wait until they're falling behind to try and step in to help? Do we offer preventive medical care for low-income kids, or do we wait to treat them until they've developed asthma or heart disease later in life?  

flickr/thomashawk

Virginia Commonwealth University's  Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development has a lot of research projects aimed at helping young people succeed.

One of those projects is a community surveillance system that tracks ambulance calls, emergency room visits, and other data to track levels of violence across neighborhoods in Richmond, Virginia.

In 2003, researchers from the Institute reported to local community members on a not-so-surprising correlation they'd discovered: Rates of violence were higher near convenience stores that sold "inexpensive, single-serve alcoholic beverages."

A paper published by Institute researchers last year described what happened next: 

commondreams.org

Paul Ryan is arguably the Republican Party's most amplified voice on poverty. He talks about it often in his role as chairman of the House Budget Committee and spoke famously on Vice Presidential campaign trail.

YouTube

What happens when you take high school students from a poor school and have them interact with high school students from a rich school? Well, if you're lucky, a little something called empathy develops. 

(Need a refresher on the difference between empathy and sympathy? Check out this animated video of a fox and a bear and an antelope. I guarantee it's way better than just looking up the definitions in a dictionary.)

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