What Happens When States Go Hunting for Welfare Fraud?

by Jen Fifield – By the time Illinois decided to crack down on Medicaid fraud in 2012, state officials knew that many people enrolled in the program probably weren’t eligible. For years, caseworkers hadn’t had the time or resources to check. To catch up, the state hired a private contractor to identify people who might not be eligible for the low-income health program and to make recommendations for whose benefits should be canceled. Within about a year, Illinois had canceled benefits for nearly 150,000 people whose eligibility could not be verified — and saved an estimated $70 million. Now, faced with growing Medicaid enrollment and tight budgets, Republican lawmakers in several other states are taking similar steps to ensure that people receiving welfare benefits are eligible for them. Under their proposals, which are modeled on legislation drafted by a national conservative group, recipients would face tougher and more frequent eligibility checks....

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Trump to Propose Massive Cuts to Safety Net in ‘Utter Betrayal’ Budget

by Nadia Prupis – ‘Regular folks need Medicaid. Nursing home care especially. These cuts are just cruel, and all because they want to cut taxes for the rich,’ tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz. President Donald Trump’s first major budget proposal on Tuesday will include massive cuts to Medicaid and Social Security, among other safety net programs, according to new reports. The Washington Post wrote on Monday that the budget will include $800 billion in Medicaid cuts over the next 10 years, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated would slash benefits for 10 million low-income people. It will also call for giving states more power to stiffen work requirements for people receiving federal assistance, which could tighten the limits on who can access anti-poverty payments and for how long, the Post‘s Damian Paletta wrote. “Regular folks need Medicaid. Nursing home care especially. These cuts are just cruel, and all because they...

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With Tom Price Confirmed, Clock is Ticking for Critical Safety-Net Programs

by Deirdre Fulton – Price’s confirmation decried as ‘a body blow to the health and welfare of all Americans’. Putting the nation’s safety net programs at risk, the U.S. Senate confirmed Tom Price as Health and Human Services Secretary early Friday morning. Price, who had represented Georgia in the House of Representatives since 2005, is known as an ardent opponent of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare. During his confirmation hearing in January, Price refused to say whether he would honor President Donald Trump’s campaign trail promises not to cut Medicare and Medicaid spending. He has also led efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, and faced questions about his stock trading during a contentious confirmation process. Friday’s post-2:00am vote was 52-47 along party lines (roll call here), with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) not voting because her husband was having heart surgery. Physicians for a National Health Program (PHNP) called Price’s confirmation...

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The American Dream Moved to Canada

by Chuck Collins – Does your family aspire to the American Dream of a decent paying job, a few weeks of paid vacation, a home of your own, and the hope of retiring before you die? Maybe try Canada. Our country has historically prided itself on being a socially mobile society, where your ability is more important than the race or class you’re born into. Indeed, during the three decades after World War II, social mobility increased — particularly for the white working class. That mobility became part of our self-identity, especially when juxtaposed with the old “caste societies” of Europe and their static class systems. Today, however, that story has been turned on its head. If you forgot to be born into a wealthy family, you’re better off today living in Northern Europe or Canada, where social safety nets and investments in early childhood education have paid big...

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The Most Important Article You’ll Read Today About The Democratic Party

by Dartagnan – Ever wonder why all those folks in rural, “red” America still vote in droves for the same Republicans who brag about gutting the very social programs keeping them alive? How someone like Matt Bevin can run a winning campaign in Kentucky based on cutting people’s access to affordable health care? How Republican governors can get away with refusing free Medicaid for their own citizens? Every election it seems that Democrats end up shaking their heads in dismay as yet another mean-spirited red-state Republican manages to defeat the Democrat by essentially promising to make his own constituents’ lives more miserable. Afterwards we all intone the familiar refrain which boils down to “these people don’t know any better.” If only the Democrats had a more effective “message” on the issues, we could surely reach those people who by all strands of logic ought to vote blue, and convince them that...

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Jeb Bush Channels Mitt Romney: Liberals Want To Sabotage The Economy To Foster Culture Of Dependency

by ALAN PYKE – Fresh off his promise to stop giving black voters “free stuff” in the form of government programs, GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush accused Democrats of sabotaging the American economy for political gain in a Monday television interview. “I think the left wants slow growth because that means people are more dependent upon government,” Bush told Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo. “I reject that. I believe that people want to rise up, they want the tools to achieve earned success, and how we tax and regulate really matters.” Bush’s allegation is the latest in a series of comments about public assistance programs that illustrate the candidate’s fealty to the economic ideas of men like former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), and right-wing talk show host Glenn Beck. In a February speech in Detroit, Bush said supporters of safety net programs have instead “built a spider...

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Testing Congressional Republicans’ Sincerity About Tackling Inequality

by Melissa Boteach, Rebecca Vallas, Anna Chu – This week, the House and Senate will release their fiscal year 2016 budget blueprints, the clearest statement of their priorities for the country. Meanwhile, several prominent congressional Republicans have been underscoring their concern about rising inequality, the struggles of working and middle-class families, and the increasing challenges many Americans face in getting ahead in life despite their hard work. There is little dispute that economic inequality has widened in recent decades, as the gains from economic growth have concentrated among the wealthy few. This concentration of income and wealth has translated into flat or declining wages for working- and middle-class families. At the same time, the costs of the pillars of a middle-class life—child care, higher education, housing, health care, and retirement—are all rising faster than wages, squeezing the budgets of everyday Americans. In fact, for a married couple with two children, the...

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How the Safety Net Cuts Poverty Rates

by  Jake Grovum – Without Social Security, the poverty rate among senior citizens in the U.S. would be more than 50 percent; instead, it’s just 14.6 percent. For people of all ages, food stamps cut the poverty rate by about 10 percent, and they reduce poverty among those under 18 by even more than that. And refundable tax credits, many of which help the working poor, reduce the poverty rate among children by more than a quarter. That’s the power of the safety net, as shown by new U.S. Census Bureau data measuring poverty in America. The federal poverty rate is based solely on income—for 2013, it was $23,624 for a family of four. But the so-called Supplemental Poverty Measure, released this month, adjusts income to account for the value of housing subsidies, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (also known as welfare), Social Security, food...

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The Ryan Budget in Sheep’s Clothing?

By Melissa Boteach and Rebecca Vallas – House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently put forward a plan to overhaul our nation’s safety net. Among other things, Rep. Ryan proposes consolidating multiple safety net programs into a single grant in a select number of states in the name of granting localities and community institutions greater flexibility. But while Rep. Ryan paints his plan as embracing bold, new reforms, his proposals are either another version of his radical budget—a wolf dressed up in sheep’s clothing—or a complete about-face on his commitment to balance the budget. Ryan can’t have it both ways. For the past four years, Rep. Ryan has set forth budgets that get approximately two-thirds of their cuts from programs that help low- and moderate-income families. His most recent iteration, released in April 2014, would turn Medicare into a voucher, cause more than 40 million people to lose their...

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Another Round of Food Stamp Cuts in States

 By Jake Grovum, Staff Writer, Stateline A fresh round of food stamp cuts at the state level are underway, on top of federal food stamp reductions that hit millions of Americans twice since November. In some states, policymakers have imposed additional cuts that jeopardize benefits for hundreds of thousands. The impact of the reductions is just beginning to take hold, or soon will. “They’re getting cut off and seeking help,” said Debi Kreutzman of the Kansas Food Bank, which is dealing with changes that could affect 20,000 Kansans. “We’re starting to see that come into play now, and I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse.”   The state cuts target a relatively small portion of the food stamp population: low-income able-bodied adults, without children, 18 to 50 years old — estimated to be about 10 percent of the more than 47 million in the program. In some states,...

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Aid Cuts Have Hit 2 Million Long-Term Unemployed

  By Jake Grovum, Staff Writer Explore the Stateline interactive. Almost 2 million Americans who have been out of work for longer than six months have missed out on extended unemployment benefits since Congress allowed the program to expire in December, according to a new analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data. In seven states, at least 100,000 unemployed workers have missed out on unemployment benefits they would have otherwise received, according to the analysis from the National Employment Law Project, a group that advocates for workers and has lobbied for an extension of the benefits. Extended unemployment benefits began during the George W. Bush administration in 2008 as a response to a spike in long-term unemployment during the Great Recession. The extended benefits allowed unemployed workers to collect aid for up to 99 weeks, instead of the normal 26 weeks. The White House and lawmakers from both sides...

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