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Joint Center Annual Report 2022

October 20, 2023

Thanks to the dedication of our staff, the commitment of our Board of Governors, and your continued support, 2022 was another pivotal and impactful year. The Joint Center conducted critical research, provided in-depth analysis, shared policy recommendations, and convened with lawmakers, policy experts, and other stakeholders to advance Black Americans' political and economic needs. Our clear and intentional focus on the needs and concerns of Black Americans centers Black communities in policy debates, furthering our mission of creating more equitable and just economic and political outcomes for African Americans across the country. We have made great strides in each of our major program areas — Tech Policy, Workforce Policy, Economic Policy, Hill Diversity, and the Black Talent Initiative — which we are excited to share with you in this 2022 impact report.

Race Counts 2023 Annual Report

October 1, 2023

RACE COUNTS is a groundbreaking initiative that shines a spotlight on the harsh realities faced by communities of color in California, across critical areas such as housing, education, economic opportunities, and incarceration. The 2023 annual report unveils the data, the challenges, and most importantly, the opportunities for change. In addition, the report also uplifts stories of organizations working on the ground to advance racial equity and offers policy recommendations for reducing racial disparities.The data reveals that not all counties are created equal. Mono County tops the list as the most racially disparate county in California, with Plumas County closely following. Surprisingly, Marin County, which used to be second, now ranks third in disparities. The Northern/Sierra region counties grapple with worse outcomes and higher disparities compared to other counties. In the Bay Area, despite its prosperity, communities of color do not share in this success. On the bright side, San Diego and Orange County are among the five counties with the lowest disparities, while Placer and El Dorado in the Sacramento area rank among the highest in outcomes. The San Joaquin Valley stands out as the only region where all counties within the region have lower-than-average overall outcomes. In Los Angeles, the largest county in California, disparities exist but are not as pronounced, with notable exceptions like chronic absenteeism rates for Black students.

The MassHealth Demonstration Extension 2022–2027: Building on Success, Focusing on Equity

June 27, 2023

Massachusetts administers much of MassHealth through an 1115 Demonstration waiver, approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which it has extended several times since it was originally approved in 1995. On September 28, 2022, CMS approved Massachusetts' request for a five-year extension of its Demonstration, which is in effect from October 1, 2022 through December 31, 2027. While the latest approved Demonstration largely aims to continue and improve upon the programs and initiatives that were part of the previous Demonstration, an area of specific focus within this extension is advancing health equity within the MassHealth program. As part of this, MassHealth seeks to promote health equity by both building on current program elements and introducing new strategies such as investing in certain populations that experience persistent health disparities and creating incentives for ACOs and hospitals to measure and reduce health disparities.This report and accompanying infographic describe the approved MassHealth Demonstration extension, what it means for MassHealth coverage moving forward, and implications for members, providers, and Massachusetts.

The Conservative Case for Public School Open Enrollment

June 15, 2023

Key PointsAmerica's school choice moment has finally arrived. More states are adopting private school choice programs that provide universal access to education savings accounts. But the traditional public system serves the vast majority of students and will for the foreseeable future; those students deserve more choice as well.Public school choice, which allows students to transfer to schools outside their zoned district, has shown great promise in increasing access to educational opportunities and spurring improvements across school districts.Few states, however, have implemented effective public school choice programs. Policymakers would be wise to learn lessons from the nation's most successful public school choice program—in Wisconsin.

Power in partnership: How government agencies and community partners are joining forces to fight wage theft

June 8, 2023

In the face of widespread wage violations and limited resources, some labor enforcement agencies have created community enforcement programs to bolster their reach and improve effectiveness. Such programs have been implemented at the federal, state, and local levels. In these programs, worker and community-based organizations (CBOs) receive public funding to assist labor agencies in a range of functions, including most often providing education and outreach to marginalized worker communities and referring cases to enforcement agencies.This report:Explains the concept of community enforcement programsReviews the policy rationales for such programs, both for government enforcement agencies and for worker organizations/workersExplores existing and potential roles that community organizations can play in relation to labor standards enforcementIdentifies decision points for designing publicly funded community enforcement programsExplores additional methods to ensure worker input into enforcement operations and policymakingIdentifies potential public funding sources for community enforcement programsIdentifies areas for further researchProvides snapshots of a number of existing programs (Appendix A)Provides links to sample Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and other program materials from various jurisdictions (Appendix B)

Achieving Behavioral Health Care Integration in Rural America

May 25, 2023

Integrating primary care services and treatment for mental health and substance use conditions not only enhances patients' access to needed care but also improves health outcomes in a cost-effective way. Yet the barriers to integrated care are substantial, and it is even more difficult to achieve in rural and frontier communities, which are home to 1 in 7 Americans.Our current work focuses on breaking down the barriers to integration in rural America, where the health care infrastructure and provider composition vary in distinct ways from urban and suburban areas. Americans in rural areas face significant shortages of psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, and other behavioral health specialists. More than 60% of nonmetropolitan counties lack a psychiatrist, and almost half of nonmetropolitan counties do not have a psychologist, compared with 27% and 19% of urban counties, respectively. These gaps in specialty care force rural residents to rely heavily on primary providers for much of their care.

Closing the Coverage Gaps: Reducing Health Insurance Disparities in Massachusetts

April 27, 2023

Massachusetts has been exemplary in developing health insurance coverage policies to cover its residents. By 2019, the state's uninsurance rate was 3.0 percent, the lowest rate in the nation, representing about 204,000 uninsured residents. While the state's overall uninsured rate at a given point in time is low, more than twice as many people - 503,000, or 7.3 percent of the population - experienced a gap in coverage over the previous twelve months. And importantly, not all groups benefit equally. People who are Black or Hispanic, or who have lower incomes, experience significantly higher rates of uninsurance than the state population overall. As a result, these groups are more likely to face access barriers and financial insecurity associated with being uninsured.The purpose of this report is to begin charting a course toward closing the coverage gaps in Massachusetts, with a particular focus on creating a more racially and ethnically equitable system of coverage. The report and accompanying infographics describe the people in Massachusetts without health insurance and the barriers to coverage they face, including affordability, administrative complexity, and immigration, language, and cultural barriers. It then proposes a menu of policy options that address the specific circumstances in Massachusetts. The proposed options are meant to inform a statewide conversation about the best approaches to closing the remaining coverage gaps in Massachusetts and removing structural barriers that result in racial and ethnic disparities in health insurance coverage.

Afterward: When Violence Occurs in Alabama, the State's Concept of Justice Leaves Out the Voices of Many Victims, Survivors, and Their Communities

April 24, 2023

Crime and punishment drive Alabama politics. Every time a major story about crime or violence or prisons breaks in the news, there is backlash from Alabama law enforcement and lawmakers calling for even more punitive measures in response. That backlash often provokes passionate responses from advocacy groups who point toward existing failures in our system of mass incarceration and raise concerns about the likely effects of making our justice system even harsher.A few survivors' voices occasionally rise to the surface. But the people who have the most power to create or change laws and policies in the wake of violence bear little resemblance to the people who are most harmed by it. Meanwhile, the cycle continues. Afterward is an effort to broaden the discourse and bring unheard voices into the conversation where they belong.

Why the federal government needs to change how it collects data on Native Americans

March 30, 2023

This January, the White House released proposals for reclassifying racial data collection in the 2030 census. Most notably, the proposals include combining race and ethnicity into a single question, as well as creating a new racial category for Middle Eastern and North African people.While these changes are welcome and will go a long way toward helping create a more accurate picture of demographic identity in the U.S., they don't improve data representation for a group that has long been misrepresented: American Indians and Alaska Natives (here collectively referred to as "Native Americans"). In particular, the way the U.S. government currently collects, aggregates, and publishes race and ethnicity data can lead to the exclusion of more than three-quarters of Native Americans from some official data sets. These practices may bias research, contribute to negative policy impacts, and perpetuate long-standing misunderstandings about Native American populations.

Climate Change Security Risks and Opportunities

March 7, 2023

October 2022 saw record low water levels on the Mississippi River and the Lake Mead Reservoir of the Colorado River. In the previous month, Hurricane Ian became the third costliest natural disaster in our nation's history. As we face the reality of climate change, we will have to contend with the increasing and cascading impacts on the nation's food, water, energy, and infrastructure, creating security implications within the country and beyond its borders.The Human and National Security Working Group of the Commission on Accelerating Climate Action considered how climate action is impeded by ineffective communication, unmanaged risks, and lack of integration with frontline communities. Using the Colorado River Basin and the Gulf Coast as case studies, the two publications of this working group feature analysis of key problems preventing effective action and suggest paths forward for managing the security risks caused by a changing climate.

License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing 3rd edition

November 29, 2022

For millions of lower-income Americans, state licensing laws make finding work or opening a small business harder and more expensive—if not outright impossible. These laws force would-be workers in fields like barbering, landscaping, interior design and many more to get a government permission slip—an occupational license—before they can legally work. To do so, they often must complete costly training, pass exams, pay fees and more.This third edition of License to Work finds licensing laws like these are widespread: In all, we identified more than 2,700 licenses across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. We found the burdens these licenses impose are steep: nearly a year of required education and experience, at least one exam, and $295 in fees, on average. Licensing laws might be worth it if they improved services or made the public safer, but evidence suggests they often don't. But we also found some good news: Since 2017, states have eliminated more licenses than they have created, and nearly 20% of licenses have become less burdensome. Policymakers can open jobs to more Americans and support new businesses by continuing reforms like these.

Unsustainable: Alabama's Increasing Trend of Keeping the Elderly Behind Bars

November 4, 2022

Alabama's reliance on life imprisonment for a wide range of offenses has resulted in soaring numbers of older, incarcerated people trapped in prison until death. The costs are enormous, simultaneously draining state resources and impacting the ability of the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) to effectively manage prisons. The sheer increase in the numbers of older, incarcerated people is stunning: In 1972, there were 181 individuals over the age of 50 in Alabama's prisons. That number now exceeds 6,750.This report seeks to determine just how much Alabama's rapidly aging prison population correlates with increases in the Department of Correction's financial burdens and systemic strain. Understanding the unsustainable nature of Alabama's aging prison population—and how the situation has reached a boiling point— exposes the necessity of comprehensive short and long term reform. Without reform, current trends indicate the uncontrollable expense of punishing thousands of people until they die will have severe consequences both for state budgets and prison safety.

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