The Districts Dime

Unlocking Opportunities: A Forum on Helping DC’s Low-Income Students Succeed

September 17th, 2014 | by DCFPI

WHEN

Thursday, October 9, 2014

10:30AM-12:30PM

(Lunch Following the Presentation)

WHERE

John A. Wilson Building

1350 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W. 

Room 120

Washington, DC 20002

Poverty makes it harder for children to succeed in school. Fortunately there are services that schools can deliver, beyond classroom instruction, to alleviate the effects of poverty. 

Join the DC Fiscal Policy Institute to learn about how DC can improve parent engagement, supports for homeless students, mental health, expanded learning, and wraparound services to help DC’s most vulnerable students succeed. 

 Featured speakers: 

  • Rebecca Brink, Children’s Law Center
  • Jamila Larson, Homeless Children’s Playtime Project
  • Maggie Riden, DC Alliance of Youth Advocates
  • Soumya Bhat, DC Fiscal Policy Institute
  • Jenny Reed, DC Fiscal Policy Institute

RSVP

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Despite Slight Increase in Number of Uninsured, District Continues to Have High Rates of Health Coverage

September 16th, 2014 | by Wes Rivers

DC residents are more likely to have health insurance than in almost any other part of the nation, and the District is doing especially well providing insurance to children, according to the newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Still, some 42,000 residents were 9-17-14-CPS-ACS-blog-f1uninsured in 2013, an increase of 5,000 from the previous year. As implementation of the Affordable Care Act continues, it will be important for DC to continue to make progress toward covering all residents. 

Some 595,000 District residents, or 93 percent, had access the health insurance in 2013, according to data released today from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The rate of health coverage puts DC second only to Massachusetts in coverage. The high rate of coverage is a direct result of the District’s expansion of Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and above-average rates of employer-provided insurance.    

The District has done especially well covering children, with nearly 98 percent of kids covered through some kind of insurance –  half of whom are on Medicaid.  

Despite this progress, the number of residents without health insurance rose to 42,000 in 2013, up from 37,000 in the prior year. It is unclear at this point what is driving the increase. Importantly, the District is still in the midst of implementing the Affordable Care Act and is likely to see a reduction in the number of people without insurance going forward. Most notably, the District implemented DC Health Link – the online marketplace that increases access to affordable health plans – in 2014. Thanks to assertive outreach, we already know that 51,000 people have used DC Health Link to enroll in Medicaid or a private health plan.  

Later this week, the Census Bureau will release more data on health insurance coverage, as well as on incomes and poverty among DC residents. Look for more information in Thursday’s District’s Dime. Stay tuned!

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Welcome to DCFPI’s Fall Interns!

September 15th, 2014 | by Jenny Reed

I am excited to welcome Marco Guzman and Sean Reilly Wood to DCFPI as interns for the fall.  Marco and Sean will be spending their time this fall analyzing unemployment, wage, and health disparities in DC, as well as getting to know the ins and outs of DC government.  We look forward to having them on board!9-15-14-intern-f1

Marco Guzman graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Human Communication. He lives in DC and is in the second year of a Masters of Public Policy program at George Mason University. There, he is focusing on U.S. economic policy and also enjoys following fiscal and housing policy issues. Marco recently interned on Capitol Hill for Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter.

9-15-14-intern-f2Sean Reilly Wood hails from the scenic mountain valley of Brunswick, Maryland. A senior at American University, Sean is majoring in Economics with minors in Sociology and Arabic Language. Previously, he worked for UNITE HERE! as a research intern and Public Citizen as a communications intern. Sean has studied abroad in Irbid, Jordan where he participated in an intensive Arabic language program. Between school and interning with DCFPI, Sean finds time to support social justice student organizing on campus. 

 

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Better School Meals Are Reaching More DC Students

September 11th, 2014 | by Guest Blog: Alexandra Ashbrook, D.C. Hunger Solutions
Source: D.C. Hunger Solutions

Source: D.C. Hunger Solutions

DC is taking important steps to make sure students don’t come to school hungry and that they get healthy breakfasts and lunches during the school day. Connecting students to school meals is a “magic bullet” that reduces hunger, improves nutrition, and boosts academic achievement all at the same time.

The benefits of school meals go beyond filling a hungry child’s belly, which is why it is great that the District is trying to get as many students as possible participating in school breakfast and lunch programs. These programs have the added advantage of being paid for largely with federal funds.   

Children who eat school meals have increased concentration, fewer behavior problems, and improved academic achievement than their peers who skip meals. Children who eat healthy breakfast at school—closer to test-taking time—perform better on standardized tests than those who skip breakfast or eat breakfast at home. 

At a time when schools are under tremendous pressure to raise students’ academic performance, the positive outcomes associated with participation in school meal programs cannot be overlooked, especially when more than 75 percent of students across DC qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

The nation’s capital deserves praise for two initiatives that are connecting more students to healthy school meals:  

  • Free breakfast for everyone:  The D.C. Healthy Schools Act of 2010 (HSA) makes breakfast free across the city. This continues to fuel the number of children eating school breakfast, and it has led to improvements in food quality: more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and local produce. Click here for school breakfast participation rates at D.C. Public Schools. School year 2013-2014 rates are listed under our Making Breakfast Work report.
  • More schools offering free lunch to all students:  DC is taking widespread advantage of a federal option, known as “community eligibility,” to provide free meals to all students in eligible high-poverty schools, without making families fill out paperwork. DC has made all meals free at 77 D.C. Public Schools and 45 public charter schools. Click here for a list of schools taking advantage of this provision in the District.

Children are the District’s greatest resource, and ensuring access to nutritious meals by increasing participation in school meal programs is one of the best investments we can make in their future and ours. For information on how you can support efforts to connect kids to healthy school meals, contact Alexandra Ashbrook, D.C. Hunger Solutions at aashbrook@dchunger.org

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DC’s Winter Plan: A Step Forward, But Much More Work to Be Done

September 5th, 2014 | by Jenny Reed

DC should expect an increase in family homelessness this winter, according to a plan passed this week by the city’s Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH). That may not seem especially surprising, but it’s actually very important.

9-5-14-winter-plan-blog-f1

That’s because last year’s plan failed to acknowledge the scope of the problem, with disastrous results: District officials, facing an unplanned-for surge in homelessness, chose to place families in recreation centers – which courts later ruled illegal – and to put families out of shelter any winter day that didn’t fall below 32 degrees, even if they had no safe place to go. 

By better predicting the scope of the problem, this year’s ICH plan includes several recommendations to make sure the city is better prepared when winter comes.  The ICH – made up of government officials, advocates, homeless services providers and residents who are or have been homeless – produces a winter shelter plan each year. (DCFPI’s Kate Coventry is a member.) 

Some key highlights of the plan:

  • A realistic estimate of the expected need: The plan projects 840 families will seek shelter this winter, an increase of more than 100 from last year. This projection was prompted in part by a large increase in the number of families seeking help this summer. 
  • Acknowledgement that DC will need overflow shelter:  The District has 409 shelter units for families, fewer than half the number needed this winter, and they probably will be full at the start of hypothermia season. The ICH plan calls on DC’s Department of General Services to identify options to pursue now for meeting this challenge, from using DC-owned buildings to short-term apartment leases to motels. DC will need to act quickly on this recommendation if the units are going to be available this winter and make additional resources available to operate them.
  • A call for system improvements:  Many families stay in shelter for too long, exacerbating their problems and making it hard to serve newly homeless families. The ICH recommends that the officials who run the city’s homeless services programs, like Permanent Supportive Housing, take steps to make sure those programs can be used throughout winter. Last year, PSH and other programs could not be fully used, despite available funding, due to administrative problems. 

These recommendations, if followed, will help ensure DC’s homeless services work better. In particular, the District should focus on moving families more quickly out of shelter into appropriate housing, while allowing families to stay in shelter until such housing is identified. 

The winter plan doesn’t address the larger issues of the family shelter system, and in many ways leaves us with the same system as last year. It is not a long-term solution to family homelessness.

But the ICH will complete a new strategic plan over the next year, which will identify the changes needed for a long-term fix. It will then be up to a new mayor and Council to act assertively to implement the reforms and make them a reality. 

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