07-09-2020  7:45 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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NORTHWEST NEWS

Oregon DOJ to Hold Listening Sessions on Institutional Racism; Leaders Wary

DOJ will hold 11 virtual listening sessions for underserved Oregonians.

Portland Black Community Frustrated as Violence Mars Protests

Black leaders condemn violence from small group of mostly-white activists as Rose City Justice suspends nightly marches

Protester Dies After Car Hits Two on Closed Freeway

Summer Taylor, 24, of Seattle died and Taylor and Diaz Love of Portland were injured. The driver, Dawit Kelete has been arrested

Police Union Contract Extended, Bargaining to Continue

Negotiations will resume in January 2021.

NEWS BRIEFS

Portland Art Museum and Northwest Film Center Announce Artist Fund

The fund will help support artists during COVID crisis and beyond ...

The OHS Museum Reopens Saturday, July 11

The Oregon Historical Society museum will reopen with new hours and new safety protocols ...

Meyer Memorial Trust Announces New Trustee

Amy C. Tykeson of Bend, will oversee management of the 38-year-old Oregon-serving foundation. ...

African American Alliance for Home Ownership Announces New Board Member

AAAH has announced the appointment of Carl Anderson, M.D., a staff physician specializing in occupational medicine with Northwest...

Ploughshares Fund announces over $1 million in Grants to Stop Nuclear Threats

The global security foundation’s board of directors awards grants to 15 organizations working on nuclear weapons issues ...

Virus causes uncertainty for state lotteries

Boston (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic has been a rollercoaster for state lotteries across the country, with some getting a boost from the economic downturn and others scrambling to make up for revenue shortfalls.Since March, Texas, Arkansas and Montana and several other states have seen an...

Oregon Appeals Court affirms Portland renter relocation law

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Court of Appeals on Wednesday affirmed a Portland ordinance requiring landlords to pay tenants’ relocation fees if their rent is increased by at least 10% or if they’re evicted without cause.Presiding Judge Darleen Ortega said she agreed with a...

Iowa defensive back Jack Koerner hurt in jet ski accident

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa defensive back Jack Koerner sustained serious injuries when he and a passenger on a jet ski collided with a boat on the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.According to a police report, Koerner and Cole Coffin were hurt at about 6:30 p.m. Friday when their watercraft...

Missouri football program pushes again for racial justice

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Ryan Walters had just arrived at the University of Missouri to coach safeties for the football program when a series of protests related to racial injustice led to the resignations of the system president and the chancellor of its flagship campus.The student-led movement...

OPINION

Recent Protests Show Need For More Government Collective Bargaining Transparency

Since taxpayers are ultimately responsible for funding government union contract agreements, they should be allowed to monitor the negotiation process ...

The Language of Vote Suppression

A specific kind of narrative framing is used to justify voter suppression methods and to cover up the racism that motivates their use. ...

Letter to the Community From Eckhart Tolle Foundation

The Eckhart Tolle Foundation is donating more than 250,000 dollars to organizations that are fighting racism ...

Editorial From the Publisher: Vote as Your Life Depends on It

The Republican-controlled Senate won’t pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, no matter how hard Oregon’s senators and others work to push for change. ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Asian American girls saw pivotal icon in 'Baby-Sitters Club'

Author Ann M. Martin had no master plan when she decided to make one of the core members of “The Baby-Sitters Club” a Japanese American girl named Claudia.Claudia Kishi happened to be everything the “model minority” stereotype wasn't. She got bad grades. She thrived in...

Black Players for Change lead protest at MLS is Back tourney

Now that Major League Soccer has re-started, a group of Black Major League Soccer players is using the moment to call attention to systemic racism across sports and society. Black Players for Change was formerly the Black Players Coalition of MLS, but changed its name this week while joining forces...

Latino group launches M campaign to boost voter turnout

PHOENIX (AP) — A national organization is announcing a million campaign to turn out Hispanic voters in several of this year's battleground states.Mi Familia Vota, based in Phoenix, said it will spend million on get-out-the-vote measures and an additional million on digital and...

ENTERTAINMENT

With a satirical fictional memoir, Jim Carrey gets real

NEW YORK (AP) — When Jim Carrey and Dana Vachon handed in the book they had toiled on for eight years — a satirical “anti-memoir” about Carrey’s life but with increasingly extreme flights of absurdity — to Sonny Mehta, the late Knopf publisher said he would...

Country band Lady A files suit against singer with same name

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country group Lady A, which dropped the word “Antebellum,” from their name because of the word's ties to slavery, has filed a lawsuit against a Black singer who has performed as Lady A for years.The Grammy-winning vocal group filed the lawsuit on...

MSNBC appoints Joy Reid as Chris Matthews' replacement

NEW YORK (AP) — MSNBC says Joy Reid will move into the early evening time slot vacated in March by former “Hardball” host Chris Matthew's retirement in March.Reid, who has been a weekend anchor at the cable news network and lately has subbed in the 7 p.m. Eastern time slot, now...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Is it safe to visit the dentist during the pandemic?

Is it safe to visit the dentist during the COVID-19 pandemic?Dentists can’t eliminate all risk, but they...

Parades, close-ups with Mickey out as Disney World reopens

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Forget about up-close “meet-and-greet" sessions with Mickey Mouse or Donald...

Bolsonaro now 'poster boy' for dubious COVID-19 treatment

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — After months of touting an unproven anti-malaria drug as a treatment for the new...

Morocco to start reopening borders after strict lockdown

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Morocco will start gradually reopening its air and maritime borders next week after...

VIRUS DIARY: In Saudi Arabia, a photographer finds new focus

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — I moved to Saudi Arabia from Egypt last year, eager to photograph a national...

COVID-19 pandemic in Africa is now reaching 'full speed'

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The COVID-19 pandemic in Africa is reaching “full speed,” the Africa...

McMenamins
Marjorie Valbrun Special to the NNPA from America

Washington — When the landmark welfare reform law was enacted in 1996, the political rallying cry was "ending welfare as we know it."   Today, a move is underway to rescind some of the law's punitive measures, such as provisions that permit states to deny welfare benefits and food stamps to people convicted of felony drug crimes.

These provisions were intended to prevent selling or trading food stamps for drugs, but widespread budget deficits and steep recidivism rates are prompting state governments that enforce the benefit bans to rethink the policy amid high unemployment and escalating prison costs.  New Jersey and South Dakota are the latest states to reverse course and allow drug felons to receive public assistance.

Advocates for former felons are seizing the moment to make the case that the restrictions are counterproductive in tough economic times, and they are urging state and congressional lawmakers to remove the benefits ban.  Convicted felons have difficulty getting jobs even in good economic times, and public assistance and food stamps are critical income supports during the transition from prison, the advocates say.

"When individuals with drug convictions are denied food stamps and cash benefits, establishing economic stability upon reentry becomes more difficult, and it becomes more likely that they may return to criminal activity and drug use instead of maintaining sobriety and obtaining gainful employment," says Elizabeth Farid, deputy director of the Legal Action Center's National H.I.R.E. Network.

The network seeks to increase job opportunities for those with criminal records, advocating for ending public policies and employment practices that further penalize felons who have served their time.

Opponents of the restrictions say the ban has disproportionately affected women and people of color, who are more likely than Whites to be charged and convicted for drug crimes.

Many states have opted out of the law banning drug felons from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as the food stamp program is now called, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the welfare program.  Other states have modified the bans and made them less punitive.  Because the federal government fully funds food stamps, allowing felons to receive them does not burden state budgets.

Ten states still have the food stamp ban.  Lawmakers in three of them—West Virginia, Missouri, and Delaware—have proposed legislation that would remove the ban.  Eleven states maintain the TANF ban.

In Georgia, where the 67 percent recidivism rate is one of the highest in the country and where more than 50,000 people are in its state prison facilities, lawmakers have maintained the ban.

Democratic State Sen. Emanuel Jones, chairman of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, introduced a bill during the last session that proposed restoring eligibility for food stamp and welfare benefits for drug felons who had served their time.  "It didn't get any traction at all," he says, adding that he plans to introduce a measure this year proposing restoration just of food stamp benefits. Regarding its prospects, however, Jones says, "I think the chances are very slim." "We lock up a lot of people here, and we apparently want to keep them there," he says, referring to the high recidivism rate.

Henrie Treadwell, director of Community Voices and Men's Health Initiative at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, is optimistic that the benefits will eventually be restored for former felons. Her program works to improve access to health care and other services for those transitioning from prison.

"I serve on the Georgia Board of Corrections, and everything that I see and hear says we are moving in that direction," says Treadwell, who is also a research professor at Morehouse's Department of Community Health & Preventive Medicine.  "Our new governor has made reduction of recidivism one of his priorities.  Now, the question becomes how far we will go."

On the national front, proponents of sentencing reforms are actively lobbying Congress to repeal the bans.  Two pieces of legislation to do that have been introduced in Congress but have not moved.  Rep. Barbara Lee ( D-CA) introduced H.R. 329, which has eight co-sponsors and would repeal the food stamp ban, and Rep. André Carson (D-IN) introduced H.R. 3053, which would repeal the TANF ban and has 19 co-sponsors.

"What we see all too often are restrictions that fail to promote public safety, that frequently run counter to integrating formerly incarcerated people into the community and that are based on political posturing rather than behaviorally based analysis," Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, told a House Judiciary subcommittee last June.

He also noted that the ban does not apply to people convicted of murder, armed robbery, rape or child abuse.

"This ban disproportionately affects women and children, by far the overwhelming proportion of recipients of such benefits," Mauer said at the hearing.  "The impact of the ban means that a woman returning home from prison who may gain temporary employment but is then laid off during a recession is left with no safety net.  And further, children are essentially punished for the acts of their parents."

Although children of felons remain eligible to receive public assistance, restrictions for felons mean that benefits decline for an entire household.

"It's unrealistic to think that the restriction will only reduce the quality of life of the parent while maintaining the rest of the family's overall level of comfort," Farid says.

Celia Cole, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, Texas, has been working on this issue since 1999.  During that time, six bills proposing that food stamp benefits be provided to ex-felons were introduced and died in the state legislature.

With state reintegration programs for former inmates being cut for budgetary reasons, Cole said she hopes that budget-conscious lawmakers will give new legislation a better reception.

"Our position has always been that food assistance is critical to successful re-integration into society," she says.  "We see being able to feed themselves as way to being able to rebuild their lives."

But Texas lawmakers, and those in other politically conservative states that support the restrictions, tend to take a dim view of entitlement programs and an even dimmer view of criminals.

"We're a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstrap state, so there's limited support for food stamps to begin with," Cole says.  "There's also this knee-jerk reaction to people with felony drug convictions.  Lawmakers don't want to appear soft on crime."

Outraged lawmakers originally pushed for the lifetime ban because some food stamp recipients, though not the majority, traded stamps for drugs or sold them to obtain money for drugs.  But, food stamp benefits are now distributed electronically and accessed with a debit card that makes selling or trading benefits more difficult.

Unlike old food stamp coupon books, the electronic cards can be traced, leading to substantially less fraud and abuse nationally.  In 2008, for example, Texas reported no instances of food stamp fraud, Cole says.

"Who are we to say, 'You made a mistake.  You paid your debt to society.  We're letting you re-enter society, but you can't eat'?" she adds.  "It doesn't make sense."

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