After the third official federal holiday for Juneteenth, where does America stand? Where does Maryland stand? Here are some snapshots in News You Can Use. Inequality in the US persists and may even be growing -- across classes and ethnicities. It reflects itself in data on incomes, on health care, on education and on housing affordability. And there's, as always, a gap within the gap. More on that below, in News You Can Use.
First, some good news.
“The Black-White Wage Gap Has Narrowed,” says the NYT’s David Leonhardt in a Juneteenth column. “What would have to happen for it to narrow more? After all, even with the recent progress, the median Black worker makes 21 percent less than the median white worker.” Leonhardt’s top three remedies, some now having an effect on the gap:
- Tight labor markets [like this one] help almost all workers, and they tend to help disadvantaged workers the most. As [Economic Policy Institute economist Elise] Gould put it, “When employers can’t be quite as choosy — when employers have to look beyond their network [PM’s emphasis]— that can provide more opportunities for historically marginalized groups.”
2. Even though the federal minimum wage has remained stuck at $7.25 an hour for 14 years, “the Fight for $15 movement has helped change policy in states and cities. A minimum wage well above $7.25 is a broadly popular idea, including among many Republican voters and independents.”
3. And the Black Lives Matter and associated campaigns of the days following the murder of George Floyd have focuses public attention anew on the structural inequalities that persist, and how to ease them. Here’s the whole column.
Housing Still Isn't Affordable for Minimum-Wage Workers, Report Says Even though many states and cities have increased minimum wages over the last few years, it’s still not sufficient to relieve the increasing financial stress many renters face. Nearly half of all workers in the U.S. are not making enough to comfortably afford a one-bedroom apartment, The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual Out of Reach report is the latest to show just how unaffordable housing is for minimum-wage workers, a point the report has made for several years.
And if you become homeless -- many cities are following the highly effective "Housing first" model, but House GOP types are backing a bill that would emphasize punitive approaches that, as in new Medicaid strictures, require work, as well as sobriety, and diverts federal money away from the "Housing First" model.
States Expand College Subsidies As Enrollments Fall And Costs Rise: More states are moving to subsidize community college tuition and fees by reducing or eliminating costs for students as enrollment in higher education plunges. Thirty states – including Maryland, Virginia and New York – subsidize two-year college expenses through “first-dollar” payments, which cover all costs, or “last-dollar” programs that pay for whatever federal grants don’t cover, according to the Campaign for Free College Tuition. Enrollment declines at four-year universities are driving states to expand programs as rising costs discourage high school graduates, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. Washington Times
But -- MD.’s Takeover Of Troubled 529 Savings Agency Off To A Rocky Start: Weeks after Maryland Treasurer Dereck Davis assumed control of the state’s troubled college savings agency, parents are accusing his office of a lack of transparency and urgency in figuring out the value of their investments in the prepaid college trust. Davis took the helm of Maryland 529 on June 1, after Gov. Wes Moore (D) signed legislation to overhaul the agency. Lawmakers and account holders criticized Maryland 529 for obfuscation and incompetence after the agency suspended earnings on 31,000 prepaid tuition accounts last year, citing a calculation error. WaPo
Breaking Down The Blueprint: Major Changes Ahead As Maryland Plans Dramatic Expansion Of Early Childhood Education -- Maryland plans to dramatically expand prekindergarten programs during a 10-year education reform effort. The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future sets early childhood opportunities as its first pillar, or priority. That includes universal access to prekindergarten for 3- and 4-year-old children. As prekindergarten opportunities expand, school systems must also ensure early childhood curricula are more inclusive for children with disabilities, early childhood advocates say. Here’s how some school districts will approach these new needs. Maryland Matters
Another New York Times columnist writes on behalf of “children who live in a country where only one state — New Jersey — [not Maryland] includes the study of climate change at all grade levels. Conversely, the science standards for middle school students in more than 40 states include only a single reference to climate change. In hurricane-plagued Florida, middle school science standards make no reference to climate change at all.” [If you read the column, especially the story of an injured bird in a backyard, you will have a happier day.]
Checking In On Medicaid Check-In: In MD, More Than 34,000 People Lost Coverage In May While 76,000 Kept It – Medicaid coverage was automatically renewed during the pandemic emergency, but now that the emergency has elapsed, recipients must re-enroll annually. And US House GOP zealots extracted work requirements for some Medicaid recipients in the recent debt-ceiling scuffle. Now, reports Maryland Matters, “the Maryland Department of Health released data showing that more than 76,000 people were able to continue federal health care coverage, while 34,600 were disenrolled in the program, during a process referred to as “Medicaid unwinding.” “Stateline, an affiliate with States Newsroom, reported that more than 500,000 people lost Medicaid as of May in 11 different states across the United States. The data comes from health policy researcher KFF, which estimates that between 8 million and 24 million people will lose Medicaid coverage by 2024.” Maryland Matters
Insurors are still getting away too much with turning down coverage for their customers. See this blog from People's Action's Aija Nemer-Aanerud, showing how the fightback works and how it scored a big victory.
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