Here’s a thought: asset building for low-income individuals.
Meaning, let’s give people with low incomes the opportunities, incentives and education to encourage saving and investing for the future.
I’m going to a Medicaid expansion rally in Missouri’s capital, to lobby for legislators to pass Medicaid expansion in Missouri, so that people with low incomes in Missouri can purchase insurance, hospitals will continue to receive funding to cover the cost of mandatory treatment of those who are uninsured in emergency rooms (doctors are required to treat people in emergency rooms in cases when it will prevent death, regardless of ability to pay; those who are uninsured are not limited to those who are undocumented, but also those who have been documented immigrants for less than five years and those who have elected to pay a fine rather than purchase insurance) and funding that pays for education of future doctors through residency programs and medical school tuition assistance. Medicaid expansion also has ramifications for the Missouri economy, because it pays for a significant amount of treatment and pharmaceuticals that could not be purchased otherwise, not to mention that it is the primary payer of long-term care, which is not covered by Medicare, and is rarely covered by private insurance. It is common for people in the middle class to spend down their assets to meet the requirements for Medicaid, in order to pay for long-term care, because they do not have enough money to pay for long-term care themselves. Furthermore, Medicaid expansion will help hospitals stay open, especially in rural areas, where the cost of treating those who are uninsured will hit the hardest and where hospitals receive less funding in the first place.
Want to know more about Medicaid expansion? Or want to know what Medicaid and Medicare are, and how they are being affected by the Affordable Care Act? Watch this video by Ryan Barker, policy analyst at the Missouri Foundation for Health:
Because I’m going to a Medicaid rally tomorrow, I don’t have the time or energy to write much original content for my Unbalanced Wealth series. But here are some resources on asset-building for low-income individuals.
Dr. Michael Sherraden was named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people in 2010 for his research on asset-building for low-income individuals.
Sherraden began his direction toward social work as an undergraduate at Harvard University, where he majored in social relations, specializing in both sociology and psychology. After college, Sherraden met his wife, who came from a long family line of social workers.
Having worked in Arkansas directing a residential center for troubled teenagers, Sherraden fell in love with the field and chose to continue his studies at the University of Michigan, where he earned a Ph.D. in social work and psychology.
Although Sherraden’s pursuit of social work was partly influenced by his wife, he attributes much of his interest in the field to his parents and upbringing. Sherraden grew up in a small town in rural Kansas, where his parents ran a grocery store.
“My parents were always doing things for people through the church, from organizing visits to the elderly to driving people to medical appointments,” he said. “They didn’t talk about it much, but they were always doing it. I think it had a big impact on me. Not right away, but I grew up in this mentality.”
A March/April 2000 essay entitled “Building Assets to Fight Poverty.”
At the federal level, IDA legislation also has bipartisan support. Two important IDA provisions were included as state options in the federal “welfare reform” act of 1996. First, states can use Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funds to match savings in IDAs. Second, assets accumulated in an IDA are exempt from asset limits for all federal means-tested programs – in other words, in IDAs the welfare poor can save without penalty. Another federal IDA initiative, the Assets for Independence Act of 1998, provides $125 million for IDA demonstrations over five years. At this writing, the Savings for Working Families Act of 2000 has been introduced in the House and Senate; it would create over one billion dollars in tax credits to financial institutions and others who support IDAs.
This legislative interest in IDAs appears to be warranted. A large demonstration project on IDAs, funded by eleven foundations, finds that participants are saving an average of $33 per month, matched at an average of 2:1 for accumulations of about $100 per month. Interestingly, very low-income households are saving almost as much as households who are not as poor, and saving a larger proportion of their incomes.
IDAs have demonstrated that low-income, low-wealth households can save and accumulate assets if they have similar opportunities and incentives to the non-poor. This can lay the groundwork for inclusive, progressive asset-based policies now emerging.
Also, some resources for those looking for people affected by the Boston marathon explosions, hoping to inform people that they are alright after the incident, offering a place to stay and looking for a place to stay in Boston.
Lastly, a pug boat: