Thursday, June 30, 2011

HUD Director Encourages Public Housing Authorities to Grant Access to Ex-Offenders

Stable housing is crucial to the successful reintegration of ex-offenders into society, and both significantly impact family economic success.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan sent a letter to the directors of public housing authorities (PHAs) clarifying and reaffirming HUD’s position on the eligibility of individuals with criminal records for public housing. The letter, which was cosigned by Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing Sandra B. Henriquez, highlights the importance of housing stability for successful reentry into the community and prevention of recidivism. It clarified the two explicit bans on public housing occupancy—for individuals found to have manufacture or produced methamphetamine on the premises of federally assisted housing and for sex offenders subject to lifetime registration in a state’s sex offender registration program—while encouraging PHA directors to use their broad discretion “to allow ex-offenders to rejoin their families” in public housing.

Visit PolicyForResults to learn more about strategies to promote affordable housing. Also, visit our homepage to sign up for email updates on workforce strategies for integrating ex-offenders—coming soon!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cuts to TANF: A new report

Fiscal year 2012 is likely going to be one of the most difficult budget years on record with approximately 44 states and the District of Columbia projecting budget shortfalls. The current economic climate has led states to cut a number of programs that are aimed at supporting children and families in poverty. A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities outlines the severe cuts to the TANF program that are currently happening across the country and the impact of those cuts on poor families. The report says that a number of states are significantly cutting cash assistance or ending it entirely for many families that already live far below the poverty line, including families with physical or mental health issues as well as other challenges. TANF reauthorization is expected this year, and it is important for state policymakers to be a part of the discussion. In order for TANF to meet the needs of families in your state – it is critical to consider the ways that the program has worked in your home state as well as the improvements that could be made.

For strategies to ensure that Children Grow Up in Safe, Supportive and Economically Successful Families visit PolicyforResults.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bridging the Gap: Key Findings and School Policies and Practices to Improve Health and Prevent Obesity

In April 2011, Bridging the Gap released a report describing the findings of one of the most comprehensive nation-wide health surveys of secondary schools to date. The report also includes policy recommendations for preventing childhood obesity, encourage healthy lifestyles and improving health-related policies and practices in secondary schools. The report concluded that although secondary schools have been making an effort to offer students healthier food options, most students have easy access to unhealthy junk foods and sugar excessive drinks, especially at the high school level. Seventy-eight percent of U.S. middle school students and eighty-four percent of high school students were in a district or school that had adopted a wellness policy by 2008. However, far fewer schools and districts actually implemented and adhered to these wellness provisions, such as setting goals for physical activity or nutrition guidelines for foods available on campus.

Some important policy recommendations described in the report included the use of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 to increase federal reimbursement rates for school meals, the number of schools providing menus with caloric information to parents and training for and collaboration with food service providers and staff. Moreover, policymakers can explore improving physical education requirements, increasing opportunities for physical activity outside of physical education classes and incentivizing walking and biking to and from school.

According to the report, one out of every three American children is overweight or obese, and low-income students are more likely to be overweight as adults, a status that puts them at higher risk for lower educational attainment, chronic health problems and dependency on welfare or unemployment compensation. Thus, preventing childhood obesity and ensuring childhood health remain critical policy goals.

Visit for more information on preventing childhood obesity.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New on! Policies to promote Family Housing Affordability.

Making a Connection: Housing and Family Well-Being. With homeownership at 66 percent, one of the lowest rates in years, and rental rates equivalent to more than 100 hours per week of minimum wage work – the housing crisis is having a significant effect on not only the national economy but the social, emotional and physical well-being of children, youth and families.

Safe, stable and affordable housing plays a significant role in the prosperity of local economies and in the lives of families. It can be a factor in a number of issues, including health, educational achievement, economic prospects and more. Recently, however, more and more public officials are recognizing the necessity of comprehensive housing policies and other supports to improve conditions for families.

The Center for the Study of Social Policy has developed two new resources that focus on the role policymakers and community stakeholders have in creating places where all families can thrive.  The new materials make the connection between housing and family well-being, provide state policymakers with recommendations supported by research and data and offer examples of how states and communities are leveraging existing federal resources.

Monday, June 20, 2011

State Budgets: A Resource

The National Conference of State Legislatures report, State Budget Update, provides valuable information for understanding the current budget climate across the states. While it isn’t a surprise that states are still facing budget shortfalls as the economy continues to recover, NCSL’s report provides the details on the progress being made and the challenges still faced by states. The report states that while a number of states are projecting continued budget gaps in FY2013 (marking the 5th year in a row for budget shortfalls in many states), improving revenue performance is helping in the reduction and elimination of gaps in states. Some of the highlights in the report include:

  • Eighteen states reported new gaps since the beginning of FY 2011. The sum of these imbalances currently stands at $13.4 billion, half as much as the figure states reported in November 2010 of $26.7 billion.
  • Twenty states and Puerto Rico reported that personal income tax collections exceeded the latest estimate. Twelve of these states saw collections surpass increased estimates.
  • Ten states and Puerto Rico saw corporate income tax receipts exceed estimates, including Alaska, North Carolina and Tennessee—states that had raised their forecasts. Eighteen states saw collections coming in on target. Ten of those states had previously increased their forecasts.
  • At least 31 states and Puerto Rico projected FY 2012 gaps. The sum of these imbalances is $86.1 billion.
  • At this time, 19 states anticipate budget gaps for FY 2013. The aggregate gap currently stands at $30.9 billion. This compares with the $66 billion gap projected just four months ago.

For strategies to support children and families, especially during tough economic times visit Strategies for Tough Fiscal Times on Policy for Results.

Friday, June 17, 2011

New Resources: Vital Links Between Affordable Housing and Health and Education Outcomes

The Center for Housing Policy recently released fantastic new resources that analyze research and the links between affordable housing policy and health and education outcomes, respectively.

The brief The Impacts of Affordable Housing on Health: A Research Summary presents the results of research on the pathways through which affordable housing can affect the health of residents, especially children. Findings include that affordable housing allows families to achieve greater residential stability, reducing the stress and disruptions associated with frequent or unwanted moves and providing a platform for individuals with chronic illnesses and other conditions to receive needed care.

The Impacts of Affordable Housing on Education: A Research Summary discusses a large body of research suggesting that stable, affordable housing provides children with enhanced opportunities for educational success. The brief highlights, among other findings, that stable, affordable housing complements the efforts of educators, leading to better student achievement, reduced absenteeism, and reductions in student turnover rates.

Check out these new resources and a related report, Should I Stay or Should I Go? Exploring the Effects of Housing Instability and Mobility on Children, to better understand how affordable housing can support positive health and education outcomes for children.

Visit PolicyForResults to learn more about strategies to support early grade-level reading and ensure that children are healthy. Sign up for updates on the PolicyForResults homepage, and stay tuned for strategies to promote affordable housing—coming soon!