States with Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Card Restrictions

. July 6, 2015

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has compiled a table showing how states are imposing a federal restriction on where certain EBT transactions can take place. The restriction is part of a 2012 federal law that requires states to maintain policies or practices that prevent EBT transactions funded through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grants from taking place at (1) liquor stores, (2) casinos or gambling establishments, and (3) any retail establishments that provide adult-oriented entertainment (PL 112-96). The NCSL table only includes those states that have addressed the issue in statute.

Last year, Connecticut’s Department of Social Services adopted regulations to implement the restriction. The regulations prohibit recipients of cash assistance under the Connecticut’s TANF-funded cash assistance program (i.e., Temporary Family Assistance) from conducting EBT transactions in prohibited locations and impose penalties for violations. The penalties are as follows:

  • first violation: a warning
  • second violation: a penalty in the amount of the EBT transaction
  • third violation: a one-month suspension and a penalty in the amount of the EBT transaction
  • fourth violation: at DSS’s discretion, benefit suspension for any length of time or termination.

A Review of the Federally Mandated Congestion Charge (FMCC) Component of Electricity Bills

. July 3, 2015

OLR Report 2015-R-0105 describes the federally mandated congestion charge (FMCC) component of electricity bills. It also explains how funds collected through this charge are spent.

Residential electricity customers pay FMCCs in both the distribution and generation portions of their bills. For the average residential Eversource customer using 700 kwh per month, the FMCC is approximately 2% of the bill.

By law, FMCCs are collected on electricity bills to cover certain costs the Federal Regulatory Authority (FERC) approves and various costs the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) approves (CGS § 16-1(35)).

The report describes many of the components of FMCCs and the proportion of funds allocated to each component based on the publicly available information in the electric companies’ filings in the most recent PURA docket currently under review. FMCCs include (1) nonbypassable charges – charges that customers must pay regardless of retail energy supplier and (2) bypassable charges – charges that customers may avoid by selecting a retail energy supplier rather than receiving service through the electric companies’ standard service rates.

For more information, click here to read the full report.

"Significant Increase" In Adolescent ED Visits for Self-Inflicted Injuries

. July 2, 2015

According to a recent article in Pediatrics, from 2009 to 2013, research found a “significant increase” in the number of self-inflicted injuries (SII) by adolescents that resulted in trips to the emergency department (ED). Researchers reviewed 286,678 adolescent trauma victims during that time, and found that the number who visited the ED for SII increased from 1.1% in 2009 to 1.6% in 2012. Of that population, they found that SII due to firearms decreased (from 27.3% to 21.9%), though it was still the most common method of SII among males (34.4%). Among females, the most common methods of SII were cutting or piercing (48.0%).

Researchers also found that the chances of SII were higher among (1) females, (2) older adolescents (i.e., age 15 or older), (3) adolescents with comorbid conditions (e.g., substance abuse or mental health disorder), and (4) Asian American adolescents and lower among African American adolescents. The chances of adolescents admitted to the ED dying were higher for those with SII than for those with other injuries.

Click here to read the full article and here for additional information and resources on SII from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Homelessness Has Significant Impact on Young Children’s Health

. July 1, 2015

The Center for Housing Policy, the research division of the nonprofit advocacy organization National Housing Conference, recently released a brief describing research on the health impacts of homelessness on children.  The research shows that pre- or post-natal homelessness can have lifelong health effects, and the younger and longer a child is homeless, the poorer the child’s health outcome. 

The brief notes that the timing of homelessness is important, and being homeless both before and after birth is associated with significantly worse health outcomes than being homeless before or after birth alone, as shown in the chart below.

Image Source:  Children’s Health Watch Data via Center for Housing Policy brief

Additionally, the brief notes that the duration of homelessness affects health outcomes: young children who are homeless for more than six months fair more poorly than children who were never homeless or homeless for fewer than six months.  Further, being homeless for at least six months is especially harmful to infants as compared with toddlers, as shown in the below chart.

Image Source:  Children’s Health Watch Data via Center for Housing Policy brief

Firearm Background Checks Show a Slight Decrease In 2014

. June 30, 2015

National firearm background checks dipped slightly in 2014 after year-over-year increases for over a decade, according to a recent Governing article that reviewed National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) data.  Mike Maciag, the magazine’s data editor, speculated that  the  “lower tallies last year likely resulted from an unusually high total in 2013, particularly in the months following the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.,” when lawmakers debated new firearm legislation.

But the trend may be reversing. A look at recent 2015 data suggests that “about half of the states are on pace to exceed 2014 totals,” with Indiana experiencing a “particularly steep increase in firearm checks over the past few months,” the article observed.

Historical data suggests that background checks often spike before a new law imposing additional requirements takes effect. They also tend to spike during a holiday season or after a tragic incident.  For example, “the FBI reported a record of 2.8 million checks in December 2012, the month the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took place,” the article noted.

Although NICS background check data is used to predict sales, it does not reflect actual sales. For example, a person purchasing many firearms at the same time may need only one background check. Furthermore, states occasionally re-run checks for various reasons. 
Survey research also raises questions about the connection between background checks and firearm ownership. Although firearm background checks have steadily increased, the share of households that report owning guns has dropped from nearly half in the 1970s and early 80s to one-third today, according to the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

For additional information, click here to read the full article.