Human Services

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP and food stamps, is the nation’s largest anti-hunger program. The program is designed to be anti-cyclical—providing more benefits during economic downturns. About 46.5 million Americans received monthly SNAP benefits in the 2014 fiscal year, dramatically up from 28 million in 2008. In 2013, some states began to see SNAP numbers decline and by 2014, all but eight states posted declines in enrollment from the year before. National SNAP enrollment in 2014 was down by 2.3 percent from 2013.

The right of 12 same-sex couples to marry—and the rights of states to choose whether to recognize those marriages—is now in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.

On April 28, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Obergefeel v. Hodges, centered on whether  same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage and, if not, whether states may refuse to recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed out of state.

According to Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center, the case has far-...

Wal-Mart, a CSG Senior Associate member, committed in 2013 to hiring 100,000 veterans over a five–year period. At that time, nearly 1 million veterans were unemployed and male veterans age 18-24 had an overall unemployment rate of almost 30 percent. “Wal-Mart is hiring veterans because it is just the right thing to do,” Joe Quinn, Wal-Mart’s senior director of issue management and strategic outreach, said at the time of the announcement. “Men and women who fight for our country should never have to fight for a job.”

Over the past several years, CSG Associate member Comcast—owner of NBCUniversal and Universal Studios—has been working to make its products and services accessible to everyone, including the 8 million people with visual disabilities who live in America. Comcast launched a national campaign during the 2015 Academy Awards featuring a documentary,“Emily’s Oz,” that seeks to educate others on how individuals with disabilities consume entertainment.

CSG Midwest
Michigan has become the third state in the Midwest to require certain recipients of public benefits to undergo drug testing. Signed into law in late December, HB 4118 and SB 275 will operate as a one-year pilot program in three counties. In those counties, some recipients of cash assistance will be drug-tested based on an “empirically validated substance abuse screening tool.”
 

Veterans have unique needs when they attend college, but fortunately, state leaders can do quite a few things to help ease their transition into college, civilian life and the workforce. “Generally speaking, their (veterans’) skills are undervalued by the civilian workforce,” said Dawn McDaniel, a U.S. Army veteran and president of Bravo Delta Consulting, a business that partners with companies and governments to help reduce the barriers for veterans in the workforce. “This is largely because the military culture is unknown. With only a 7.5 percent veteran population in the United States, … that leaves a tremendous amount of people who never had any connection or any intimate knowledge of the service and what it means.”

Veterans are enrolling in postsecondary education institutions in large numbers, most of them with extensive occupational experience. Many colleges use Prior Learning Assessments to award academic credit when the knowledge and skills an individual has gained outside the classroom--including employment, military training and service, civic activities, and volunteer service--can be matched to college-level coursework. Veterans who earn credit for general courses are able to complete their degrees in a shorter period of time, reducing...

Working with student veterans on a daily basis, Jan Del Signore sees the challenges of making the transition from military service to civilian life, especially when assisting those building credentials to find sustainable employment. Unlike many college students, military veterans bring a set of skills and past training, but are less likely to persist to a degree and more likely to be unemployed. When postsecondary institutions offer college credit for prior learning in the military, most students complete college faster, attain a degree or credential and leave with less student debt.

The poverty guidelines for 2015 are available and published here in the Federal Register. These guidelines -- often cited as 100 percent of the federal poverty line -- are used to determine eligibility for a number of stata and federal programs. Sometimes eligibility is greater than 100 percent; for instance, the Affordable Care Act allows states to expand Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of federal poverty. 

Top Five 2015 Health Issues: A Further Examination

A flurry of state governors - in the 24 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid - are talking about expanding Medicaid eligibility as allowed under the Affordable Care Act. Many of these governors are offering up solutions that they say are designed uniquely for their state, carefully differentiating the new proposals from “traditional” Medicaid. This activity is likely to continue throughout 2015. Outside ACA issues, states will consider a number of health delivery issues. These include how to match the workforce to the need for professionals and how to expand some service areas such as mental health and substance abuse.

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