- Beshear is confirmed victor in Kentucky gubernatorial race; Democrats win unified control of state government in Virginia
- Congress is set to pass a short-term spending bill, extending government funding through December 20th
- States turn to administrative hurdles to limit Medicaid and SNAP enrollment
releases employment data for the region, highlights trends
State elections took place two weeks ago in two states within our region. In Kentucky’s gubernatorial race, Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat, was the winner. Once sworn in, he can change some executive policies, but he will need to work with Republican majorities in the state legislature on budgets and major bills. Further, all of the other five statewide elections in the state went to Republicans. Whether this partnership will be productive or bring major legislation to a halt remains to be seen. In Virginia, Democrats won a narrow majority in the State Senate and secured a comfortable majority in the House of Delegates. Democrats already hold the Virginia Governor’s Mansion, so these results will allow Democrats to make major changes to state policy. New and returning officeholders are already making plans for the next few years, and community leaders who reach out early can play a role in shaping any new policy. Reaching out early can put the needs of Appalachia on the agenda for state governments over the next few years.
Congress is expected to vote this week on a bill to extend government funding at current levels through December 20th. With impeachment proceedings and a possible trial taking up much of the political energy, this bill gives Congress time to work out a regular spending deal. While some sticking points remain, most members were optimistic last week about averting a shutdown. We have previously reported that both the House and Senate have passed versions of a “minibus” funding bill, covering the areas of Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation, and Housing (and related areas). Negotiations on bringing those two different versions to a unified package have stalled, and congressional observes have no timeline for final passage.
NPR recently examined one way states are limiting access to public assistance programs: procedural denials. Facing backlogs of applicants for Medicaid, food stamps, and other programs with income thresholds, a number of states have lowered the bar for canceling benefits when they can’t reach recipients. In Colorado, for example, Medicaid benefits can be canceled if a single letter from the state to a Medicaid recipient is returned to sender. People who are eligible for the benefits can have them reinstated, but this temporary gap in medical care and other benefits can have serious impacts on individuals’ health and financial wellbeing. Advocates interested in the effectiveness of federal anti-poverty programs can also focus their work locally, in order to ensure that those programs are reaching the intended recipients, and are not stymied by administrative roadblocks.
An in-depth study by the Appalachian Regional Commission has shed light on trends that many of us already saw: our region is lagging behind the rest of the nation in its recovery from the Great Recession, and in that recovery, our employment patterns have shifted. The employment rate in some of our counties continued to decline even well after the end of the Great Recession; the period from 2012-2017 saw job losses in Appalachian Kentucky and Appalachian Virginia. In the areas where new jobs were created, the sectors those jobs are in has changed to a new focus on health & social services, professional & technical services, and tourism-related jobs. The in depth report breaks down these changes by area, sector, and earning power. Advocates may find this data to be valuable for their conversations with elected officials and the public, and grant writers may also find use for the data.