Access to healthcare a lifesaver for halfway house residents

logo_dhhs_lrgOn April 29th the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a shift in policy that will for the first time allow released prisoners residing in “halfway houses” to take advantage of the services made available through the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid Expansion.  The change will provide much-needed medical and rehabilitative services to countless former inmates that would not otherwise have access to essential healthcare resources.  It may seem like a minor change but as a practical matter it is likely to do more to encourage successful reentry than any other single policy decision in recent years.

Until now, halfway house residents have been excluded from coverage because of an interpretation of the Medicaid statute that considered halfway house residents to be “inmates of public institutions” – a category of persons that are statutorily ineligible for Medicaid coverage.  The new DHHS guidance removes those in halfway houses from that category so long as they have “freedom of movement and association while residing in the facility.”  It also clarifies that individuals on parole and probation are not “inmates” and are eligible for coverage.

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Medicare Employment Exclusions and Criminal Records: Good and Bad News

Yvelisse Pelotte, a staff attorney at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, has drafted a survey and analysis of the barriers to employment in Medicare-funded programs and facilities for people with a criminal record, which is posted below.  While some of these exclusions are short-term and others can be waived by the Secretary of HHS, the statute gives HHS a great deal of latitude in extending exclusions for a lengthy period of time.

The applicable federal statute also contains a very broad definition of disqualifying conviction, specifically extending to expunged convictions and guilty pleas not resulting in conviction.  This means that federal law effectively puts off limits a very large segment of health care jobs, at least temporarily, for people with criminal records the state no longer regards as serious, if it ever did.

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SBA relaxes rule against business loans to probationers, while other federal agencies keep collateral consequences unchanged

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) last week published a final rule for its federal Microloan Program that will for the first time allow microloans to small businesses owned by someone currently on probation or parole. In its announcement, the SBA noted that this will “aid[] individuals with the highest barriers to traditional employment to reenter the workforce.”  The change was evidently prompted by a review of agency regulations requested by the Cabinet-level Federal Reentry Council established in 2010 by former Attorney General Eric Holder.

While the change is welcome, it leaves in place substantial restrictions for people under sentence in other SBA loan programs, discussed at length in a post on this site last December.

It is also striking for being the only relaxation of federal collateral consequences since the Reentry Council was established five years ago.  As reported on this site, federal agencies are said to be “mostly satisfied” with their the way their regulations address the situation of people with a criminal record.

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SBA to relax rules on loans to people under supervision

600px-US-SmallBusinessAdmin-Seal.svgIn December 2014, Amy Solomon, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs in the Justice Department, testified before the U.S. Senate Addiction Forum about the review of collateral consequences federal agencies had been conducting under the auspices of the Federal Reentry Council.  She reported that most of the agencies participating in the review had concluded their collateral consequences were “appropriately tailored for their purposes.”  However, she also reported that Small Business Administration (SBA) had proposed amendments to its regulations to allow people on probation or parole to qualify for loans from its microloan program.  (The change, proposed almost a year ago, has still not become final.)

We decided to take a look at the SBA’s proposed rule change, and at the SBA regulatory scheme more generally, to see how having a criminal record affects small business eligibility for government-backed loans. Read more

International travel restrictions based on criminal record

Collat_ConsequencesBelow is another excerpt from the second edition of Love, Roberts & Klingele, Collateral Consequences of Criminal Conviction: Law, Policy & Practice (West/NACDL, 2d ed. 2015)(forthcoming), this one about restrictions on international travel based on criminal record.  The first section discusses the subject in general terms, while the second section describes restrictions on travel to Canada for individuals with a foreign conviction, and the methods of overcoming these restrictions.  (An earlier post described methods of neutralizing Canadian convictions for purposes of travel to the U.S.)

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Federal agencies reportedly (mostly) satisfied with their collateral consequences

In 2013, the Justice Department launched its Smart on Crime Initiative, which included a call for federal agencies to review collateral consequences in their own rules and policies, to determine which could be narrowed or amended without jeopardizing public safety. According to an NPR report, the results of that long-anticipated review are now in:

Amy Solomon was appointed by Attorney General Holder to oversee the twenty federal agencies charged with reviewing their regulations and policies for potential changes. She reports that hundreds of regulations were reviewed, but the vast majority were deemed “appropriately tailored for their purposes,” including HUD’s discretionary housing policies. So far, only three agencies have submitted changes.

In assessing the “appropriately tailored” conclusion in the context of HUD housing policies, NPR reporter Monica Haywood tells the story of Maurice Alexander, a 67-year-old man who was turned away from subsidized housing in the District of Columbia based on a six-year-old misdemeanor threat conviction, despite guidance from HUD encouraging property owners and agents “to develop policies and procedures that allow ex-offenders to rejoin the community.” The HUD guidance urges property owners to consider all relevant information when reviewing applications from people with a criminal record, including evidence of rehabilitation and “probability of favorable future conduct.”

Haywood concludes that, “If Alexander’s case is any indication, owners may not be taking HUD’s advice.” Read more