MLPP Blog: Factually Speaking

Affordable Care Act – Reasons to be grateful

Added November 24th, 2015 by Jan Hudson | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jan Hudson

Recent employment numbers and unemployment rates should dispel the “job killer” label and negative predictions of those who oppose the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The national unemployment rate in March 2010, the month the ACA was signed into law, was 9.9%. The unemployment rate in October 2015 was 5.0%, nearly a 50% reduction. In addition, significant employment gains—jobs—have been made over this same period.

The Brookings Institution noted in their ACA fifth anniversary blog, “Of course, the drop in unemployment and rise in payroll jobs might have been even faster if the ACA had not passed. Nonetheless, it is not easy to make a convincing case that job gains have lagged since the President signed the health insurance law.” The following figure illustrates this point.

 Source: Brookings, March 20, 2015

The uninsured rate has also been declining in large measure due to coverage gains from full implementation of the ACA. Healthcare coverage can be purchased through the Marketplace, with premium and cost-sharing subsidies for low- to moderate-income purchasers, and a majority of states have now expanded Medicaid (31 currently, including D.C.).

The November 2015 release of the National Health Uninsured Survey for the first half of 2015 reported that at the time of the interview the national uninsured rate had dropped from 16.0% in 2010 to 9.0% for the January–June 2015 period. The largest decline, more than 50%, came in the young adult age group (19–25 years) where the uninsured rate fell from 33.9% in 2010 to 15.9% for the first half of 2015. In Michigan, the uninsured rate at the time of the interview dropped from 12.2% in 2010 to 6.7% in 2015 according to the Survey.

For the first time in more than 50 years, more than 90% of Americans/Michiganians have healthcare coverage.

While the reduction in the rate and number of uninsured is very encouraging, there is work yet to be done. A number of counties in Michigan still have double-digit uninsured rates, while the uninsured rates for African-Americans and Hispanics remain much higher than the rate for whites, according to Enroll Michigan’s recent report.

There is also good news from David Brooks in his recent NY Times Op-Ed where he cited annual healthcare price growth from March 2010 through August 2015 as the slowest in 50 years. This historically low growth has led to substantial reductions in projected federal healthcare spending and significant improvements in future budget outlooks. As Brooks observes, “We seem to be making at least some incremental progress toward a structural reduction in health care inflation… We haven’t whipped healthcare inflation, or defeated our intractable budget issues. But the evidence suggests we’re landing a few serious blows.”

The number of 50-year records being broken or exceeded and the number of 50% gains is stunning. The Affordable Care Act has achieved a number of historic milestones. The law is not perfect and much could and should be done to improve it, but for the moment, let’s acknowledge these great accomplishments and be grateful.

– Jan Hudson

Adult education at community colleges is a win-win-win

Added November 17th, 2015 by Peter Ruark | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Peter Ruark

One of the biggest obstacles to student success in community college is the need to relearn basic skills through developmental education. Fully 61% of community college students in Michigan need to take at least one developmental education class because they have not mastered an academic skill at the level necessary for college-level classes.

Having to take developmental education courses creates two problems for students. First, it prolongs the time that students have to spend in college to get a credential (degree, certificate or license). Second, developmental education courses, even though they are non-credit, cost the same amount of money as regular for-credit college courses. This means students either have to pay more out of pocket or use up some of their financial aid on non-credit classes.

The longer it takes a student to complete a degree, the more likely the student will drop out before graduating. This is especially true of students with jobs and families, and such “non-traditional” students now are the majority of the student population at community colleges.

In the same way, the more expensive it is to get a community college education, the higher the likelihood of a student running out of money or financial aid and having to drop out.

One idea that is gaining some traction is to align adult education classes with community college curriculums and provide them at community colleges in place of developmental education. The Michigan League for Public Policy recommends that school districts (the providers of adult education in Michigan) and community colleges enter into transfer agreements through which specific adult education classes, offered on campus at the community colleges, would fulfill developmental education requirements. This would save students money, because adult education classes are free for the students.

This would be a win-win-win for the parties involved: community colleges would get some relief from having to provide so much developmental education, adult education providers would conduct classes in an environment conducive to student success, and students would save money without having to travel off-campus for basic skills education.

Michigan needs more of its community college students to succeed, especially those who are raising families and need to acquire occupational skills and a credential leading to employment. This is one idea the state should consider to facilitate that success.

– Peter Ruark 

Veterans Day: You’ve sacrificed enough

Added November 11th, 2015 by Rachel Richards | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Rachel Richards

Every year on November 11th, we as a nation thank those who served for the sacrifices they made in protecting our freedom. We honor a great uncle who served during World War II, a parent who fought in Vietnam, or a cousin who just returned from a final tour in Afghanistan. While it is important that we take a day to remember our veterans, it’s equally important to make sure veterans have the resources to return to their lives and provide for their families.

One of the best ways we can do this is to ask Congress to save key provisions of two tax credits that help veterans and military families make ends meet. These credits, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), only go to people who work, and they encourage employment and self-sufficiency. The benefits of the EITC and CTC are undisputed. These tax credits encourage work, help lift families out of poverty, and improve the lives of children. Additionally, research shows children in families that benefit from the EITC and CTC are healthier, do better in school, are more likely to go to college, and earn more as adults.

Millions of Americans, including two million active service members, veterans, and their families, receive these credits to provide for their families. In Michigan alone, about 62,000 veteran and military families benefit from the EITC, the low-income component of the CTC, or both. However, if key provisions expire, half of these families, including 32,000 in Michigan, could lose all or part of their credits. What this means is that a single veteran with two children making Michigan minimum wage—$18,500—would lose $1,415 of his or her $2,000 child tax credit.

Michigan’s veterans were hit hard by the recent recession. In every year of the past decade, Michigan’s average annual unemployment rate for veterans has been higher than the national average, and in half of the past ten years, Michigan veterans have had a higher unemployment rate than Michigan’s average unemployment rate. In general, veterans from the post-9/11 era have been disproportionately affected. And while things seem to be improving, we must continue to support our active service members and veteran families.

Right now, Congress is starting to debate the extension of a number of business tax credits that expire this year. Both Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch and House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady have expressed an eagerness to either extend or make permanent these business tax cuts by the end of the year. And should any of these credits be made permanent, these key EITC and CTC provisions should be treated the same.

Military men and women put their lives on the line to ensure our safety and to protect our freedom. And they shouldn’t have to strain to provide for themselves and their families once they return home. This Veterans Day, Congress should honor the men and women who served our country by protecting these credits that help so many when they return.

– Rachel Richards


Latest road funding plan offers more problems than solutions

Added November 4th, 2015 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs

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After years of debate and months of gridlock, the Michigan Senate and House passed a “new” road funding plan yesterday. Unfortunately, this final proposal contains many of the same ill-advised components that have stymied bipartisanship and drawn opposition from business and advocacy groups alike.

One of the reasons our state had so much trouble finding revenue for roads to begin with is that the Legislature passed $1.6 billion in business tax cuts in 2011 that hurt our budget and our economy, leading to less money for the state’s roads, cuts to schools and communities, and higher taxes on individuals. And now, the Michigan Legislature has passed a roads proposal that will again devastate the state budget and inordinately hurt low-income families.

There are two main sticking points with this final roads plan that the League adamantly opposes: $600 million in undisclosed future state budget cuts and an income tax rollback.

The state budget has barely recovered from the drastic cuts caused in part by the $1.6 billion tax breaks in 2011. Our schools, state services, public safety and local communities have also yet to rebound from the cuts they have endured over the last four years. And now some legislators want to cut the state budget even more by $600 million. Scratch that, they want future legislators to cut their budget by $600 million, and in ambiguous and subjective cuts.

This concept is doubly bad, as it passes the buck and puts the responsibility to pay for that $600 million on future legislators. And by leaving the potential budget cuts open-ended, it doesn’t clarify what in the state’s General Fund would be protected, and what would be in jeopardy. As we have already seen over the last few years, nothing is safe or sacred when it comes to budget cuts, and that’s why we oppose this piece of the plan. The League believes our roads should be funded with more new revenue than additional budget cuts, and we also believe that funding earmarked from the state budget should be identified and important programs protected.

We appreciate the recognition of the Legislature that a roads plan should include some tax relief for those who are struggling to counteract any other tax increase. But we apparently disagree on who is actually struggling.

As part of the 2011 tax breaks for businesses, individual income taxes were hiked by around $1.4 billion, disproportionately hurting low- to middle-income families and seniors. Nearly 1 in 6 Michigan residents, and 1 in 4 children, live below the poverty level ($24,000 a year for a family of four). One in three children lives in a household where neither parent holds a full-time job or is forced to piece together part-time jobs that do not provide stable employment. Low-wage, low-skill jobs make up 46% of Michigan’s employment, and about 63% of all jobs pay less than $20 per hour.

Taking into context how hard it’s been for low earners in Michigan, it’s disturbing that an income tax rollback is the so-called relief being offered. When your income is very low, getting a rollback of the taxes you pay isn’t significant. A majority of Michigan workers have seen their taxes go up while their wages haven’t kept up, and an income tax rollback will do nothing to change that. Additionally, an income tax break will cut into state revenues and again put important programs at risk.

Our roads are certainly in desperate need of repair, and Michigan residents want resolution. But we have to remember that any plan is not the same as a good plan, and relying heavily on murky future budget cuts and giving income tax breaks that do little to help low earners are not the solution. We urge Governor Rick Snyder to veto this roads plan.


 – Gilda Z. Jacobs

You can’t fill potholes by padding profits

Added November 3rd, 2015 by Rachel Richards | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Rachel Richards

The Legislature and governor are still struggling to find a consensus on how to fix roads. This challenge is made worse by the decision in 2011 to cut business taxes by about $1.6 billion. These business tax cuts resulted in increased taxes on individuals and left the state without enough revenue to fund our most vital services, such as roads, education and public safety.

As the League’s latest report highlights, these business tax cuts haven’t grown the economy as promised and have left many Michiganians behind. While all states have started seeing job growth, Michigan is still over 7.5% below its private job peak in 2000. And many Michigan residents are not feeling the recovery, as per capita income remains below the national average, and wages are growing at a slower pace than almost all other states in the region. Poverty also remains high, with 1 in 6 residents, and 1 in 4 children, falling below the poverty line ($24,000 a year for a family of four). The tax cuts also just shifted taxes onto individuals; while net business tax revenue as a percentage of total state revenue is anticipated to fall almost 80% between 2011 and 2016, tax contributions of individuals to total state revenue in the same period will grow by nearly 40%.

The business tax cuts simply left fewer and fewer dollars available for Michigan’s budget. The state has struggled to find revenue to fix our crumbling roads and has diverted more and more away from our local communities to meet the needs of other state services. Per-pupil K-12 funding fell sharply after implementing the business cuts and only rebounded above the 2009 peak seven years later. Even Michigan’s current budget, which has been touted as the largest budget in history, continues to fall short in many areas necessary to grow our state’s economy and make a Michigan that works for everyone.

Michigan’s disinvestment in these vital services—that businesses and people alike want—have made Michigan less attractive as a place to live, work and grow the economy. Low-wage, low-skill jobs make up 46% of Michigan’s employment, and about 63% of all jobs pay less than $20 per hour. However, due to the decreased funding for education and postsecondary education, Michigan businesses lack access to the skilled workers needed for open positions, and as a result, many good, well-paying jobs are going unfilled.

The business tax cut “reform” just didn’t work. Instead of more business tax cuts, Michigan needs to invest in the state and its people. Policymakers should consider several options, such as a fairer income tax structure, broadening the sales tax base, and restoring the cuts made to Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit, in order to create a Michigan that works for everyone.

– Rachel Richards


Two generation policies offer support for parents and kids

Added October 29th, 2015 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs

On Monday, October 26th, the Michigan League for Public Policy held our annual meeting and public policy forum, “Secure Parents and Successful Kids.” We were joined by more than 250 people from around the state and a host of national and state experts and innovators in the fields of education, economic security and child well-being to discuss a two-generation approach to tackling poverty.

Our keynote speaker was Anne Mosle, who directs Ascend at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. Ascend is a national hub for breakthrough ideas and collaborations that move children and their parents towards educational success and economic security—the very definition of a two generation approach.

Anne began her presentation with a short video on the Jeremiah Program. Jeremiah provides single mothers and their children with a safe, affordable place to live, quality early childhood education, life skills training and support for career-track education. The video summarizes the dilemma many low-income families face, and how two generation strategies can help. Oftentimes these families are so focused on surviving and getting by that they are unable to succeed and move up. But if they have support in the moment, they can start planning for and building toward the future.

As Anne stated, we have to meet people where they are and develop a plan for where they want to go. Equity doesn’t just happen. It has to be an intentional commitment instead. For example, $3,000 in extra family income can increase a child’s economic trajectory by over 20%.

Anne and her colleagues at Ascend have put together a booklet, Top Ten for 2Gen, that includes policy ideas and principles to advance two-generation efforts. It outlines the keys to success and stability that all families need, and they are the same areas where the League is working in Michigan: early education, postsecondary education and employment pathways, health and well-being, social capital and economic assets.

Anne’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion on two-generation policies and approaches in Michigan with Tim Becker, chief deputy director, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; Carol Goss, former CEO of the Skillman Foundation; Dr. Ali Webb, director of Michigan programs, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; and Mindy Ysasi, executive director, The SOURCE.

Tim Becker shared a presentation on the “River of Opportunity” and noted that it is in his department and the state’s best interest to try a two generation approach to better help children and families together. Having worked in human resources for some of the state’s leading organizations, Mindy Ysasi said that workplace policy is a key area where a two generation approach is needed and that “the people who need the most flexibility have the least flexibility.”

The panel also delved into Michigan’s political climate and racial inequity. The League also recently examined the racial disparities in the state budget that are perpetuating poverty for people of color in Michigan.

A large focus of the discussion was that everyone’s work on poverty and two generation policies is still largely dependent on the Legislature and the budget. Dr. Ali Webb and Carol Goss talked about the efforts of foundations like theirs, but that it is not enough without policy changes at the state level. Michigan’s state budget of a couple hundred billion can have way more of an impact than any one foundation.

Research shows that two-generation programs and policies are a win-win for children, their families and the state, and should have universal appeal to nonprofit and service organizations and elected officials. The League’s public policy forum was a good start, but there is much work ahead to truly start implementing two generation policies in Michigan.

 – Gilda Z. Jacobs

Survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Michigan need paid “safe time”

Added October 19th, 2015 by Seema Singh | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Seema Singh

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month — a month intended to help bring together advocates, highlight the toll domestic violence takes on families and put forth solutions to end this type of violence. One thing Michigan can and should do to help support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault is to ensure that all workers have earned paid sick time.

If a parent can plan for an emergency and access legal and medical assistance, they are better able to leave a harmful living situation. But maintaining financial stability and independence during that difficult transition is also key. Low-wage workers disproportionately do not have earned paid sick leave and those facing domestic violence often have to choose between putting their lives or their jobs in jeopardy. An earned paid sick leave policy that includes safe time for domestic violence and sexual assault would provide survivors with the tools to care for themselves and their loved ones.

A coalition of organizations devoted to protecting workers in Michigan has proposed a referendum to pass earned paid sick leave in Michigan which will be on the ballot in 2016 if enough signatures are gathered. If approved by voters, Michigan’s earned sick leave would allow workers to earn paid sick time at the rate of one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours of paid work.

Domestic violence and sexual assault can also affect job performance, and paid safe time off would be a way that businesses could support workers who need to take time off to take care of medical, legal and family business without fear of losing their jobs. A recent League fact sheet highlights the economic impact of domestic violence and the potential benefits of earned sick leave for survivors:

    • Nationally, our economy loses nearly $6 billion annually because of domestic violence and sexual assault. Most of these costs ($4.1 billion) are for medical care for survivors according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control report.
    • Moreover, 8 million workdays are lost per year due to nonfatal domestic violence. This is the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs.
    • Nearly 5.6 million days per year of household productivity are lost due to this violence.

The personal toll of domestic violence is just as significant. Children of domestic violence survivors are more likely to struggle economically, and those who witness violence in the home can face long-term mental health trauma and face challenges in school.

Four states and several cities around the country have already passed earned paid sick leave legislation, and Michigan should strive to be next. Local efforts are already being considered, but the issue needs to be addressed statewide. More information can be found here. To stand up for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and fight for safe days through earned paid sick time, go to

– Seema Singh


Reduction in teen births benefits all, but more work still needed

Added October 8th, 2015 by Alicia Guevara Warren | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Alicia Guevara Warren

Teen pregnancies are rarely planned and the consequences of teen childbearing are dire and long lasting for both of the teen parents, especially the mother, and the child. Young mothers are not likely to have sufficient resources and support to raise a child putting these babies at higher risk for living in poverty, being less prepared for school, and becoming victims of abuse or neglect. Teen births also hinder the parent’s likelihood of finishing high school, going to college and getting a secure, good-paying job, increasing their chances of living in poverty as an adult. These challenges for mother and child in turn affect our communities, our economy and our state services.

But Michigan’s teen birth rate is declining, and all residents are reaping the rewards.

According to the recent Kids Count in Michigan annual Right Start report, Teen births in Michigan, its cities and townships: We cannot afford to slow down progress, the state as a whole and local communities are mostly improving when it comes to the number of young women under age 20 giving birth. In fact, over the last two decades the percentage of babies born to teen mothers in Michigan has declined by 40%.

Over the trend period, 2004-2006 compared to 2011-2013, the report found that only 12 of 63 communities experienced an increase in the percentage of births to young moms.

According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the decline in teen births between 1991 and 2010 saved Michigan taxpayers almost half a billion dollars in 2010 alone. Fewer teen births means improved educational outcomes for teens, more financially secure adults, more stable families and healthier kids, helping families, communities and the state as a whole.

However, it is rather concerning that communities with higher concentrations of poverty and communities of color continue to be disproportionately impacted with greater percentages of teen births, often continuing economic disadvantages for another generation.

The report focuses on local data for 69 major population centers in Michigan and, when possible, examines the percentages of teen births by race and ethnicity. The report found that those in wealthy suburban communities in Oakland, Ottawa and Macomb counties had the smallest percentages of teen births while the largest percentages were concentrated in central cities in eight counties across the lower half of the state. Many Michigan cities had drastic variations in teen births by race and ethnicity. Local profiles with this information have been developed for 20 communities.

While Michigan as a whole and a majority of our communities saw teen births go down, we must continue to address teen pregnancy, especially targeting resources in low-income communities and communities of color, along with youth in foster care and the juvenile justice system since these youth are at higher risk of teen pregnancy. This progress is a sign that we must continue to evaluate and expand these successful efforts.

Knowing the impact on children, their young mothers and their communities, and that there is room for much more improvement, policymakers must take note and act by:

    • Supporting funding for evidenced-based, results-driven programming to prevent teen and unintended pregnancies;
    • Targeting resources specifically for youth in foster care and the juvenile justice system, who experience teen pregnancy at higher than average rates;
    • Ensuring access to affordable contraception that includes a full range of methods; and,
    • Expanding early childhood services to improve the health and outcomes of moms and babies, including home visitation programs, which have shown to help with family planning.

We know that when communities and policymakers work together towards proven solutions progress can be made, which is evident by the significant reduction in the percent of teen births over the past two decades. These efforts cannot be abandoned—they must be renewed.

– Alicia Guevara Warren

Join us October 26th for Public Policy Forum

Added October 7th, 2015 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs

From the First Tuesday newsletter
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Just like assets or heirlooms, economic disadvantages are often passed down from generation to generation. And we need your help to change that.

A recent report on the state budget by the League shows that children born into poverty immediately start out behind and spend the rest of their lives playing catch-up. They have limited early education opportunities when the brain is at one of its highest stages of development. These kids have trouble ever overcoming that gap, with problems in fourth-grade reading proficiency. Not surprisingly, they are also less likely to finish high school or attend postsecondary school, and without a degree or training, they end up with lower-paying jobs themselves.

While these numbers are disheartening, they are a clear call for change in our approach. For decades, Michigan has tried to support low-income parents and their children through separate policies and programs, but the statistics show not much headway is being made.

But there’s a new policy strategy in two-generation approaches to help support low-income parents today and build a brighter future for their kids tomorrow. Research shows that two-generation programs and policies can effectively help the two generations make progress together. It’s a win-win for children, their families and the state.

As people who care about Michigan children and families and the direction of our state, we want you to be a part of the conversation.

You are invited to join us on Monday, October 26th in Lansing for our free public policy forum, “Secure Parents and Successful Kids: A two-generation approach to tackling poverty.” We will have state and national experts all in one room to discuss a two-generation approach to reduce poverty and increase economic security.

Keynote speaker Anne Mosle directs Ascend, the national hub for breakthrough ideas and collaborations that move children and their parents towards educational success and economic security. Anne will speak about these new and innovative ways to help children and their parents.

Anne’s presentation will be followed by a panel that will talk about two-generation policies and approaches in Michigan. Members of the panel include Tim Becker, chief deputy director, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; Carol Goss, former CEO of the Skillman Foundation; Dr. Ali Webb, director of Michigan programs, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Brian Whiston, new state superintendent and head of the Michigan Department of Education; and Mindy Ysasi, executive director, The SOURCE.

The public policy forum is FREE, but reservations are requested by Oct. 21 and seating is limited. On-site registration will be accepted if space allows. Light refreshments will be served. A brief annual meeting will begin at 1 p.m.

We hope you can join us, and please share this with other people who might be interested. Together, we can take a new approach to public policy in Michigan that will benefit working families and kids equally.

– Gilda Z. Jacobs


Racial disparities persist in child poverty

Added October 2nd, 2015 by Peter Ruark | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Peter Ruark

Census numbers released in September show that although poverty is decreasing in Michigan, racial inequities still exist, especially for children.

In 2014, there were 493,000 children (22.6%) living in poverty, compared to 2013 when there were 524,000 children (23.8%) in poverty.

A 31,000 drop in the number of poor children is good news. However, more than 1 out of 5 Michigan children living in poverty is still far too many. Poverty is especially strong in families with young children—22% of families with children under 5 are in poverty compared with 19% of all families with children.

Moreover, racial disparities are stark. More than 30% of Hispanic and Native American children and 47% of African-American children lived in poverty at some point during the year, while only 15.6% of white children and 13.7% of Asian-American children did. Much of this has to do with the fact that poor white and Asian-American families often live in suburban communities with income diversity and opportunities for economic advancement, while poor African-American and Hispanic families tend to live in areas of concentrated poverty with fewer jobs and advancement opportunities.

There are policy changes the state can make to address child poverty, including modernizing its child care subsidy program, providing opportunities for parents to build their skillsimproving conditions for low-paid workers, and preserving and restoring the state Earned Income Tax Credit. The Michigan League for Public Policy advocates for these and other strategies to address child poverty.

The League will also host a free policy forum on two-generation strategies to address child and adult poverty. More information and a registration form can be found here.

– Peter Ruark


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