Seniors

Third and State This Week: Rising Unemployment, a Health Insurance Rate Hike and Momentum for a Drilling Tax

This week we blogged about momentum building for a natural gas drilling tax and rising unemployment in Pennsylvania. We also featured a guest post on the need for stronger insurance rate protections in Pennsylvania. And Mark Price kept us up to date with the Morning Must Reads.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • On jobs and unemployment, Stephen Herzenberg shared his media statement on the rising jobless rate in Pennsylvania.
  • On the Marcellus Shale, Sharon Ward highlighted a recent New York Times article on the problems that have come with Marcellus Shale growth in Pennsylvania. Kate Atkins urged readers to sign a letter to lawmakers in support of a drilling tax that would generate revenue to improve schools, fix roads, train workers, and protect the environment.
  • On health care, Athena Ford of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network penned a guest post on the need for better insurance rate protections in Pennsylvania.
  • Finally, Mark Price had Morning Must Reads on the economic polarization of the 99%, the need for more accountability in charter schools, how we can boost the economy, and what budget cuts and layoffs have in common.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Morning Must Reads: Yes Bridges Need Repair & Little Old Ladies Are Homeless But Ask Yourself Have We Really Done Enough for the Top 1%?

With unemployment in the construction industry at record highs, interest rates low and a deep backlog of thousands of structurally deficient bridges in need of repair, now is a great time to spend money to fix stuff do nothing!

Actually, it is not really that bad; it's worse. The Pennsylvania Legislature is spending time debating changes to the state's prevailing wage statute, even though a large body of empirical research demonstrates that changes to prevailing wage laws do not lower construction costs.  Anyway, if you find yourself in Pittsburgh, make sure your car seat also doubles as a floatation device.

Third and State This Week: States Cutting Budgets, the Debt Ceiling Debate, and a Middle Class 'Under Attack'

This week, we blogged about the looming debt ceiling crisis in Washington, how state budget cuts will hurt the economic recovery, Marcellus Shale job claims, a new report on the middle class in Pennsylvania and more.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

  • This week was a busy one for Mark Price, who penned four of our five blog posts. On the Marcellus Shale, Mark corrected an inaccurate figure in a recent Wall Street Journal piece about jobs created in Pennsylvania from Marcellus Shale drilling.
  • On the economy, Mark wrote about a recent report from the Keystone Research Center and the national policy center Demos on a middle class that is "under attack" in Pennsylvania. He also blogged about a new policy brief analyzing Pennsylvania's June jobs report.
  • On the federal debt ceiling debate, Mark shared his op-ed on this "manufactured crisis" which ran on FoxNews.com this week.
  • Finally, on the state budget, Chris Lilienthal highlighted a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finding that at least 38 of 47 states are cutting K-12 education, higher education, health care, or other key public services in 2012. According to the report, this cuts-only approach that most states have taken will slow the recovery and weaken the nation’s economy over the long term.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

State Cuts to Education, Health Care Will Slow Recovery

We have written about the negative impact that deep cuts to state funding will have for Pennsylvania children, seniors and our economy. Now a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that we aren't alone.

At least 38 of the 47 states with new 2011-12 budgets are cutting K-12 education, higher education, health care, or other key public services, according to the report. As Policy Analyst Erica Williams writes at the Center's Off the Charts Blog:

While states continue to face rising numbers of children enrolled in public schools, students enrolled in universities, and seniors eligible for health and long-term care services, most states (37 of 44 states for which data are available) plan to spend less on services in 2012 than they spent in 2008, adjusted for inflation — in some cases, much less.

State lawmakers no doubt faced tough decisions this year, with revenues still far below pre-recession levels and emergency federal aid all but expired.  Still, our review shows that the cuts are unnecessarily harmful, unbalanced, and counterproductive.

Class Action Lawsuit Proceeds over Benefit Cuts for 359,000 Low-Income Pennsylvanians

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In February 2010, more than 359,000 low-income Pennsylvanians unable to work because of a disability, blindness or age were dealt a blow when a modest monthly state benefit was cut.

These Pennsylvanians receive a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment of no more than $674 per month. In addition to this federal benefit, they receive a state-funded payment called the State Supplementary Payment (SSP).

In February 2010, the state benefit was cut from $27.40 per month for an individual (in most cases) to $22.10. This may not seem like a big cut, but as Michael Froehlich at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia notes:

To SSI recipients, this reduction in their income was significant.  The combined SSI and SSP monthly amounts of $696.10 for an individual now equal less than 78% of poverty.  For many SSI recipients, the reduction in SSP meant a missed meal, a medical co-pay that could not be met, or a paratransit ride that could not be taken.

In November, Community Legal Services along with the law firm Dechert LLP filed a class action lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare alleging that the Department broke the law by cutting the SSP benefit without first seeking public comment.

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