Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Catching up with the executive branch in Texas

- Workforce Commission: Houston area adding about 700,000 jobs, 2014 to 2024.

The Texas Workforce Commission has released its occupation forecast for the Houston area. The agency found that between 2014 and 2024, this metro will add roughly 700,000 jobs.

"Now, that number is probably high given... their base year was a year of really strong job growth," Patrick Jankowski, regional economist with the Greater Houston Partnership, told Houston Public Media. "It'll probably be somewhat less than that. But it still shows that Houston, in spite of the current downturn, is going to have some significant job growth over the long term."
The sectors that are predicted to see the most growth are restaurants, hotels, education, healthcare and professional services.

Feds Force States to Follow Medicaid Agenda by Holding Funds Hostage.

A federal agency may be punishing states that refuse to expand Medicaid or adopt new program rules by withholding funds meant to help uninsured individuals.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has allegedly threatened several states for not expanding the program. States have also been penalized for not adopting new program regulations and rules. Cato Institute Scholar Michael Cannon notes the agency has a history of pressuring states into doing its bidding.
“It is problematic, of course, that CMS might be using funds to leverage or coerce states,” Cannon told InsideSources. “There’s a history of the federal government trying to coerce states into doing its bidding and there is a history of CMS trying to bend the law to get states to do its bidding.”
The Texas Health And Human Services Commission (HHSC) recently was disallowed roughly $27 million in funding Sept. 1 meant to help residents in the state without insurance. The notice came after the agency already assured the state last year that funds could continue on through 2017, reported The Texas Tribune.

- North Texas Hospitals Face $27 Million Penalty in Medicaid Dispute.

Hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth region were overpaid by $27 million in federal funds to provide health care for the uninsured, according to a new order from the Obama administration, which is threatening to take the money back.
Federal health officials allege that Texas has allowed private hospitals to leverage donations to local governments in order to improperly draw matching federal funds. Texas officials say they will challenge the decision, which appears to contradict an earlier directive by the Obama administration.

It’s the latest development in a protracted tug-of-war over a multibillion-dollar pot of mostly federal Medicaid funding known as the 1115 waiver, which Texas has come to rely on when footing the bill for its uniquely large population without health insurance. In May, Texas and the federal government agreed to a 15-month renewal of the funding stream, despite the Obama administration's preference that some of the money be used to buy health insurance for low-income Texans under the Affordable Care Act. Nearly one in five Texans is uninsured, according to the federal government, the highest rate of any state.

- CPS crisis continues, with more endangered children going unseen across Texas.

As the state's child welfare system reels from an exodus of child abuse investigators, tens of thousands of potentially endangered children are going unseen for weeks and months, and the dangerous trend shows no sign of abating.
A new release of data by Child Protective Services indicates no region is more precarious than Harris County, which aDallas Morning News investigation in May showed was headed for trouble due to enormous backlogs of child abuse cases.
Across Texas, as of Sept. 12, more than 4,700 children at risk of physical or sexual abuse or severe neglect should have already had face-to-face contact with a child abuse investigator but haven't, the data show.

When children are seen, CPS investigators across the state are failing about 31 percent of the time to make initial contacts with families within required deadlines.
"Imagine if you had 31 percent of your 911 dispatch calls going unanswered by the police — that's what this is the equivalent of," said Scott McCown, a law professor and director of the Children's Rights Clinic at UT-Austin.

- TDCJ to consider layoffs, prison closures to offset budget cuts.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials, warning that a $214 million cut in their proposed budget could force the layoffs of up to 1,200 guards and reduce key services, confirmed Thursday that they may consider closing additional prisons.
The acknowledgment came as the agency's governing board approved the shutdown of the 450-bed South Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility, a lockup for parole violators across from Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston, as a way to help make up for a 4-percent budget reduction mandated by state leaders.
Bryan Collier, executive director of the corrections system, said that if legislative leaders cannot be convinced to exempt his agency from the mandate, then layoffs of guards remain a possibility, along with reductions in convict health care, meals, as well as prison and parole operations. The agency currently has just over 2,000 vacancies among its 25,000-plus correctional officer positions.

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