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US Water Alliance;
Access to water and sanitation services should not hinge on background, geography, or how much money someone makes—but it often does. Studies show that between 2012 and 2019, local water bills increased 31 percent nationally, far outpacing inflation and the consumer price index. Historical declines in federal support for water infrastructure have made this trend even worse. Local officials and water utility leaders have had no choice but to raise local water and sewer rates to pay for the needed operation, capital, and maintenance costs. Without federal and state support, local water and wastewater rates have increasingly become unaffordable for millions of Americans, and utilities have operated with outdated billing systems and often struggled to enroll low-income residents into the modest assistance available.Financial stress incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis has brought water affordability into sharp focus, and innovators have been seeking solutions to meet their communities' rising needs. The water and wastewater utilities in Louisville, Kentucky, provide one such case. Louisville shows how new, smarter solutions to bill relief are helping people in need while improving the utility-customer relationship by balancing care, bill assistance, and debt relief with needed revenue stability to maintain essential water systems. This case study explores key facets of the challenge, what Louisville achieved for its residents, and how the city's approach provides a model for other utilities to consider as they move forward. Sections discuss: How traditional customer assistance efforts have failed to meet customer needs, struggled with enrollment, and overlooked their fundamental purpose of guarding against revenue instability.What a modern, user-friendly approach to bill assistance looks like and how, combined with compassionate messaging, it can shift utility-customer payment and service relationship for the better.Why establishing innovative bill assistance options is especially wise given current and future federal funding opportunities to provide debt relief.Longer-term actions the federal government should prioritize to make safe, reliable water and wastewater service affordable for all.
Carsey School of Public Policy at The University of New Hampshire;
When low-income residents struggle to make ends meet, non-profit social service agencies can help fill the gaps. In doing so, these agencies must find sufficient funding, retain qualified staff, and craft efficient service delivery mechanisms that are respectful of clients and communities. Some of the challenges that service providers encounter are exacerbated by rural characteristics, such as vast geographic distances and the lack of economies of scale. Yet in some ways rurality is beneficial, as small communities can facilitate community engagement and providers can engage natural supports in their service delivery work.
Ascendium details how colleges have learned to probe for the underlying issues that contribute to financial emergencies, and are connecting students to community agencies as well as offering enhanced campus resources.While the report offers many lessons learned and insights, three key messages prevail:Colleges created an institutional culture where students feel safe asking for help.Colleges are more aware of students' holistic needs.Emergency aid is a vital retention tool.For many low-income students, an unforeseen car repair or medical bill can mean the end of their college hopes. While typically not large expenses, they can be enough to force these students into a tough choice: stay in college or pay the bill. Since its inception, Ascendium's Dash Emergency Grant Program has helped more than 100 two- and four-year colleges throughout the U.S. implement emergency grant programs on their own campuses.
Ascendium Education Group (formerly known as Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates) has invested heavily to advance postsecondary success for low-income students, students of color, and first-generation students. Since 2012, Ascendium has awarded over $10.2 million in Dash Emergency Grants to 63 two- and four-year institutions. Through Dash, colleges administer emergency aid (EA) grants to meet students' unanticipated expenses so that more of these students stay on track for completion. These small grants, often $500 or less, can make the difference in whether a student is able to remain in school. Ascendium contracted with Equal Measure in late 2017 to create a set of tools to help the field codify the process of awarding emergency aid. Emergency Aid for Higher Education: A Toolkit and Resource Guide for DecisionMakers is the result of more than 10 months of research, interviews, focus groups, and webinars with Dash Emergency Grant recipients that elucidated current best practices, and gaps, in administering EA programs.
National Conference of State Legislatures;
Across the country, businesses striving to fill their workforce needs are turning to hard-toemploy and chronically underemployed parents. Business and government leaders face aging demographics, slow population growth, low unemployment rates and industry-specific workforce shortages as they attempt to increase, or at least sustain, economic growth and competitiveness. States are intensifying efforts to connect industry's workforce needs with available workers to get more people on a sustainable career path, leading to a stronger economy."Benefits cliffs"—or "the cliff effect"—are a hurdle for businesses and workers alike. The cliff effect refers to the sudden and often unexpected decrease in public benefits that can occur with a small increase in earnings. When income increases, families sometimes lose some or all economic supports. These can include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school nutrition programs, health care, child care assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and housing. Often, wage increases result in a net loss of income or only a small overall increase. Sometimes the cliff effect looks more like a slope or plateau, but it is still a disincentive to work. When lost benefits outpace a wage increase, many families "park" or fall off the cliff's edge, stalling progression in their jobs and careers.
Heartland Alliance Policy And Advocacy;
March 23, 2018 marks 8 years since the Affordable Care Act has been enacted. This healthcare programs has brought affordable and quality care to millions, including over 1 million Illinoisans. View our infographic to see the impact of the ACA in Illinois and to celebrate another year of healthcare access for millions, including those that Heartland Alliance serves in Illinois and across the nation.
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP);
This paper examines how asset limits run counter to the goals of TANF and SNAP of supporting recipients in work and enabling them to advance economically.
Center for Economic and Policy Research;
Puerto Rico's circumstances changed significantly with the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria in September 2017. The storm claimed the lives of an estimated thousands of people, destroyed the island's infrastructure, severely damaged over 472,000 homes, and completely shut down utilities. The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico estimates there to be at least $80 billion in damage from the storm, though a report from Puerto Rico's governor estimated it would take $95 billion to rebuild.This paper finds that the Board's new fiscal plan, like the previous one, is based on overoptimistic macroeconomic assumptions, downplays the negative impacts of continued austerity, and fails to address many of the structural problems at the core of Puerto Rico's lost decade, all while mandating a significant erosion of worker rights and reductions in public services.
Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation;
More than four years after the implementation of the Medicaid expansion included in the Affordable Care Act, debate and controversy around the implications of the expansion continue. Despite a large body of research that shows that the Medicaid expansion results in gains in coverage, improvements in access and financial security, and economic benefits for states and providers, some argue that the Medicaid expansion has broadened the program beyond its original intent diverting spending from the "truly needy", offers poor quality and limited access to providers, and has increased state costs. New proposals allow states to implement policies never approved before including conditioning Medicaid eligibility on work or community engagement. New complex requirements run counter to the post-ACA movement of Medicaid integration with other health programs and streamlined enrollment processes. This brief examines evidence of the effects of the Medicaid expansion and some changes being implemented through waivers. Many of the findings on the effects of expansion cited in this brief are drawn from the 202 studies included in our comprehensive literature review that includes additional citations on coverage, access, and economic effects of the Medicaid expansion.
America's current debt problem is the result of too much spending, not too little taxation. Mandatory or "auto-pilot" spending accounts for two-thirds of the federal budget. The Congressional Budget Office projects that by 2039 federal spending on Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and interest on the debt will outpace all revenues. The longer Congress waits to address reforms to these programs, the worse the fiscal situation will become. Social Security cannot be reformed through reconciliation, but all other mandatory programs can be. Congress should use reconciliation to begin reforming these programs now.
Overall, immigrants are less likely to consume welfare benefits and, when they do, they generally consume a lower dollar value of benefits than native-born Americans. This appears contrary to the study conducted by the CIS (Publication 3), but Cato claims its work is more accurate because it examines individuals with immigration status, while CIS measures welfare use by households headed by immigrants (which often contain multiple native-born Americans).