Report from the Legislature – # 39September 3rd, 2012 by Sheilla Lampkin
Greetings from the Arkansas Legislature! The diversity of issues the legislature must investigate in such a short time span is mindboggling! Yet there is still so much to accomplish!
This reporting period we received an interesting and yet disheartening report about hunger and its effect on our school population. According to the report, seven out of ten Arkansas teachers (73%) say too many school-age children come to school hungry regularly because they aren’t getting enough food to eat at home, regardless of the cause. Kids are the innocent “victims” here.
In Arkansas, teachers credit eating breakfast with: (1) increased concentration (95%), (2) better academic performance (89%) and (3) better behavior in the classroom (82%). When kids are hungry (like adults), they have trouble learning and concentrating; “act up more”; and suffer from headaches, stomach aches and lethargy. (Aren’t we all somewhat like that too?) When children get the healthy foods they need, they feel better, learn more and grow up stronger.
In our Sunday School we have been talking about “apathy” and the attitude of many that “This isn’t my problem”. It’s everyone’s problem because these kids are THE future of all of us. We want a healthy, happy future for all Americans.
I only mentioned statistics from Arkansas. If you are interested in the rest of the report, it can be found at NoKidHungry.org/Teachers. If you want to be an advocate for the No Kid Hungry Breakfast program in Arkansas, contact the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, 1400 W. Markham, Suite 304, Little Rock, AR, 72201.
I want to now salute and say thank you to all the food banks in our area and the Feed the Kids program through First Presbyterian Church for a job well done. If I have slighted any similar group, please forgive me.
I have also heard/learned more from the Arkansas Hospital Association about Arkansas hospitals and their economic impact on Arkansas aside from their lifesaving health services. For example, did you know that Arkansas hospitals contribute more than $10+ billion dollars directly and indirectly to our state’s economy? They also provide 75,000 (75 thousand) jobs for Arkansans.
We all acknowledge their willingness to provide health care for our families and communities, but hospitals are often overlooked as important business contributors and job creators in our economy too. Hospitals and health systems represent 19% of Arkansas’ top 70 employers. They are also among the top 10 employers in 42 of our 53 counties that have a hospital and rank among the top 5 employers in 32 of those counties. Hospitals are THE major employer in 20 counties, most of which are small and rural.
There are actually 97 hospitals of all types in Arkansas. In 2010, 14,744 Arkansans were treated each day in an Arkansas hospital. 36, 913 newborns were delivered statewide. These 97 hospitals also spent $188 million in 2010 providing care for patients without any health insurance.
To attract families and jobs to Arkansas, it is critical that our state continue to provide high quality healthcare providers and services and maintain the financial viability of Arkansas’ hospitals. The Arkansas Hospital Association supports the Medicaid expansion as one way to increase their financial stability by receiving payment for much of their uncompensated debts incurred by those 25% of the working poor who do not have insurance.
Another interesting “healthcare” statistic has been released that says while 20.6% of Arkansans under 65 are uninsured, the counties with the highest percentage of uninsured are predominantly in western Arkansas rather than in eastern Arkansas, which includes the historically poor Delta. Drew County was on the lower end of the uninsured with only 16.4 to 19.4% of those under 65 uninsured, while neighboring Lincoln, Cleveland and Ashley counties had 19.5 – 22.5 uninsured and Bradley had 25.7 – 28.7 uninsured. Benton, Carroll, Washington, Crawford, Madison, Scott, Yell, Polk, Sevier and several others had much higher percentages of persons under 65 without insurance. Hummmm. That was surprising!
Another topic heavily discussed at the most recent Public Health subcommittee meeting on Labor issues was the subject of increasing “wage theft” in Arkansas. This subject relates to unscrupulous employers who fail to pay their employees their full wages in a timely manner. Examples of this include; paychecks repeatedly delayed (while bills are not), final paychecks never paid and wages reduced through unfair fees or deductions.
Being paid a decent stated wage for an honest day’s work is a basic American right. Not being paid can wreak havoc on workers’ families and to those who payments are owed. Some even argue that unpaid wages equal unpaid taxes. This seems to be a rising problem in many industries and many areas across our state and will likely be addressed in the next session.
This concludes by report for this period. Budget hearings start soon at the legislature. Thank you for the privilege of serving you. Have a great fall and football season!