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2010 November - December

Congress Secures Private Right of Action for Low-Income Households Seeking Food Assistance

By David A. Super

Although suits by applicants for and recipients of food stamps long have been integral in the administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), two court decisions had restricted low-income households' ability to seek judicial enforcement of the Food Stamp Act--renamed the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008--and its implementing regulations. Congress overturned these decisions through provisions of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, establishing once and for all that both the Food and Nutrition Act and SNAP regulations remain judicially enforceable.

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Health Care Reform for Native Americans

The Long-Awaited Permanent Reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act

By Sarah Somers

Native Americans and their allies finally achieved the goal of permanent reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act with the passage of health care reform legislation in 2010. The breadth and scope of the Act inspire hope that the persistent problem of Indian health disparities will be alleviated. Yet much work remains in improving the lives of Native Americans.

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The Affordable Care Act

A Giant Step Toward Insurance Coverage for All Americans

By Sarah Somers & Jane Perkins

The Affordable Care Act, the health care reform legislation signed into law last spring, will change nearly all aspects of the U.S. health care system. The law’s reforms will make health insurance coverage much more accessible and expand public programs, especially Medicaid. While everyone will be required to have coverage, low- and moderate-income families will receive tax credits to help them pay insurance premiums. However, many details of the law’s implementation are yet to be determined, and opponents are already challenging the law in federal court.

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Social Security at 75

A Celebration and a Caution

By Barbara Samuels

The Social Security Act's seventy-fifth anniversary in 2010 is a time for some reflection on how the Social Security Act came about, what social security has meant to this nation, to supporters and cynics alike, and why we should be glad and proud that the system was created and continues to exist. However, this social program, the greatest our country has ever enacted, must be safeguarded for future generations.

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The U.S. Supreme Court's 2009 Term

Justice Stevens's Last Round in the Access Battle

By Gary F. Smith, Jane Perkins & Gill Deford

The enforcement of mandatory arbitration agreements, civil rights, attorney fees, and sovereign immunity were among the court-access issues subject last Term to the U.S. Supreme Court’s scrutiny. In an employment discrimination case the Court held that a challenge to Chicago’s hiring practice was not barred by the statute of limitations: each time the city relied on the hiring practice it violated Title VII anew. Results in two fo the Court’s decisions on attorney fees were contrary to the interests of lower-income people and their counsel: fees awarded under the Equal Access to Justice Act are payable to the plaintiff, not to the attorney, and fee enhancements are inappropriate in almost all cases. Justice Sonia Sotomayor's first opinion concerned interlocutory appeals. As a counterpoint, this was Justice John Paul Stevens's last term. He will be missed.

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Alternative Credit Data

To Report or Not to Report, That Is the Question

By Karen K. Harris & Susan Ritacca

Advocates agree that the credit reporting system is flawed and discriminatory against low-income families. Establishing credit, however, is a form of asset building that opens up opportunities and access to mainstream credit. Some propose that full reporting of alternative data will help individuals establish good credit. The National Consumer Law Center urges that the credit reporting system itself be reformed first before deciding to add any data to a structurally deficient system. Reform needs to ensure that Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program recipients do not lose their benefits as a result of late payments.

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Six Areas of Opportunity for Us

By Peter Edelman

Nearly two years after the election in 2008, questions abound whether enough change has occurred and what the advocacy agenda should be. The passage of the historic health care reform law, financial regulation law, and the effects of the stimulus law should be celebrated. However, in this economy that is slow to recover and a time of deficit reduction, we must stay focused on the big picture of ending poverty. We must work on low-wage jobs, extreme poverty and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, public education, high-risk youth, concentrated poverty, and the implementation of the health care law.

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Enforcing the Home Affordable Modification Program Through the Courts

By Rebekah Cook-Mack & Sarah Parady

The Home Affordability Modification Program (HAMP), nearly two years after its creation, has failed to live up to its promise of helping large numbers of homeowners facing foreclosure. However, in defending foreclosure proceedings, homeowners can point to violations of HAMP procedures. Homeowners can also raise program violations affirmatively in suing loan servicers, most commonly as third-party beneficiaries of contracts between the servicers and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

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