02-08-2023  12:23 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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NORTHWEST NEWS

Arrest Made in Stolen Yacht Rescue, 'Goonies' Fish Incident

Oregon police called it a series of “really odd” events along the Pacific Northwest coast spanning 48 hours that concluded Friday night with the arrest of a Canadian man.

Portland Cop Fired for Leaking False Allegations Against City Commissioner Reinstated

Mayor Ted Wheeler fired Brian Hunzeker after he leaked a false complaint saying city Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty had been involved in a hit-and-run crash.

Hundreds of Portland City Workers on Strike for Better Pay

Workers represented by the union Laborers’ Local 483 have been without a contract since June. Negotiations over a new four-year deal broke down in December

Washington State Gov. Inslee Tests Positive for COVID-19

He plans to continue working. Trudi Inslee, the first spouse, has tested negative.

NEWS BRIEFS

Washington State Arts Commission and Department of Veteran Affairs Partner to Support Veterans Through the Arts

0,000 in grants will support arts programming across four Veteran Homes ...

The Black Business Association of Oregon Hires its First Communications Director

Previously, Sommer Martin was director of downtown marketing for the Portland Business Alliance ...

Allen Temple C.M.E. Church Announces Annual Unsung Heroes & Heroines Award Luncheon

The purpose of the award is to acknowledge and honor individuals and/or organizations who are unsung heroes/heroines who make a...

Bonamici Invites Portland Community College President to 2023 State of the Union

PCC recently received 0K to advance semiconductor, advanced manufacturing training ...

Market Features Work of Local Black-Owned Businesses for Black History Month

MESO Makers Market in Portland to feature the work of 40 local, Black-owned small businesses to celebrate Black History Month in...

Famed Portland goats let loose in protest of homeless sweep

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A herd of city goats well-known in Portland, Oregon, were temporarily set free Tuesday morning in what appeared to be an act of protest against a planned sweep of a nearby homeless encampment. The fence of the goats' enclosure in north Portland was cut,...

Nevada lithium mine wins ruling; green energy fights rage on

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A U.S. judge has ordered the government to revisit part of its environmental review of a lithium mine planned in Nevada, but denied opponents’ efforts to block it in a ruling the developer says clears the way for construction at the nation's largest known deposit of the rare...

Missouri has 4 in double figures, beats South Carolina 83-74

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Kobe Brown scored 19 points to lead four in double figures as Missouri rolled past South Carolina 83-74 on Tuesday night. Missouri (18-6, 6-5 SEC), which rebounded from a 63-52 loss at Mississippi State, has won four of its last five games while South Carolina...

DeVries scores 32 as Drake downs Murray State 92-68

MURRAY, Ky. (AP) — Tucker DeVries' 32 points led Drake over Murray State 92-68 on Tuesday night. DeVries also contributed six rebounds for the Bulldogs (20-6, 11-4 Missouri Valley Conference). Roman Penn scored 18 points while going 7 of 12 and 4 of 5 from the free throw line, and...

OPINION

Updates That May Affect Your Tax Season

The IRS released a statement that taxpayers should brace themselves for small tax refunds due to no economic impact payments ...

Unaffordable Rental Costs Now Plague 44 Million People in Every State Economic Inequality Places Most Risk of Eviction on Blacks and the Poor

For the first time in more than two decades of research, every state now has renters who are nearing a financial breaking point in housing affordability. ...

The Beating and Murder of Mr. Tyre Nichols, A Black Man

Time to Abolish the Criminal Injustice System ...

It's Time to Irrigate the Fallow Ground of Minority Media Ownership

In 2023, one aspect of civil rights and racial justice that barely remains addressed is racial inclusion in media ownership. ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Stella Jean quits Milan Fashion Week over lack of inclusion

MILAN (AP) — The only Black designer belonging to Italy’s fashion chamber withdrew Wednesday from this month’s Milan Fashion Week, alleging a lack of support for diversity and inclusion after the chamber “abandoned” a project to promote young designers of color working in Italy. ...

Arkansas Gov. Sanders slams Biden for 'woke fantasies'

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders painted a dystopian portrait of the country in her rebuttal to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, leaning heavily into Republican culture war issues and accusing Biden of pursuing “woke fantasies.” ...

Douglas Emmett: Q4 Earnings Snapshot

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — Douglas Emmett Inc. (DEI) on Tuesday reported a key measure of profitability in its fourth quarter. The results did not meet Wall Street expectations. The Santa Monica, California-based real estate investment trust said it...

ENTERTAINMENT

Review: Digital tech advances, AI spur hacking of society

“A Hacker’s Mind: How the Powerful Bend Society’s Rules, and How to Bend Them Back” by Bruce Schneier (W.W. Norton & Company) Hacking is universally understood as the exploitation of a software vulnerability by a malicious actor. But hacking encompasses oh,...

At last: Streisand memoir 'My Name is Barbra' coming Nov. 7

NEW YORK (AP) — Barbra Streisand's very long and very long-awaited memoir, a project she has talked about for years, is coming out this fall. Viking, a Penguin Random House imprint, will release “My Name is Barbra” on Nov. 7. Her memoir, fitting for a superstar of the grandest...

After ticket flap, Springsteen's fan magazine shutting down

NEW YORK (AP) — A magazine and website that has served Bruce Springsteen's fans for 43 years is shutting down, with its publisher writing that he's been disillusioned by the debate over ticket prices for their hero's current tour. Backstreets had been an unusually robust publication...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Stella Jean quits Milan Fashion Week over lack of inclusion

MILAN (AP) — The only Black designer belonging to Italy’s fashion chamber withdrew Wednesday from this...

Israel steps up Jerusalem home demolitions as violence rises

JERUSALEM (AP) — Ratib Matar’s family was growing. They needed more space. Before his...

Microsoft's Activision deal hurts gamers, UK watchdog says

LONDON (AP) — Microsoft’s stalled .7 billion deal to buy video game company Activision Blizzard has hit a...

China says it was smeared in Biden State of the Union speech

BEIJING (AP) — China says it was smeared in U.S. President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address that...

Visitors can see famed Florence baptistry's mosaics up close

FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Visitors to one of Florence’s most iconic monuments — the Baptistry of San Giovanni,...

Danish queen to undergo 'major back surgery'

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II, whose half-century reign makes her Europe’s...

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."

MLK Breakfast 2023

Photos from The Skanner Foundation's 37th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast.